Here marks my first post at All Habs, as I’ve been hiding behind the curtain for a few weeks now and it’s high time to come out. I’m Kathy, alias czechtacular, and I’ll be looking to provide you with some QMJHL content this season as this league happens to be one of the things I burden many of my friends and followers with on a daily basis, whether they’re hockey fans or not!
(cet article est aussi disponible en version française : Les joueurs à surveiller dans la LHJMQ cette année)
MONTREAL, QC. — Today more or less (because Bathurst and Moncton cheated by having a game last night) officially marks the launch of the 42nd QMJHL season. Here are some of the players you might want to keep an eye on over the following months, as per my humble opinion:
Acadie-Bathurst Titan: Starting with Atlantic teams when you see them a grand total of once per year (if that) is always a challenge, especially as I even forgot that Olivier Roy was traded there, so shame on me. The 19 year old Edmonton Oilers’ draft pick has been garnering a lot of attention since his days in Cape Breton and should do so once again this year, especially if he beats out fellow Canadian netminders for top spot at the World Juniors.
Honourable mention: Another Olivier…Hotte. Don’t be fooled by the baby face, this guy can and most likely will crush you. An unfortunate departure of Drummondville’s 20 year old crew, he will definitely get the chance to make a name for himself in the Atlantic division with his solid play and bone-crushing hits. Not to mention playoff experience.
Baie-Comeau Drakkar: Marc-Olivier Mimar was one of the leaders last year on a struggling squad who lost many of its players via trades over the course of the season. The right-winger from Rosemere put up 64 points in 68 games and still has two solid seasons ahead of him.
Honourable mention: Raphaël Bussières was a key acquisition last season and will look to prove his worth after showing just a taste of his abilities in a combined year with Moncton and Baie-Comeau.
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles: This is most obvious to Habs’ fans, but defenseman Morgan Ellis is a guy that everyone will want to know more about. The Canadiens’ fourth rounder became the Cape Breton captain over the summer and will be one of (if not the) main keys of their blueline.
Honourable mention: Swedish right-winger Viktor Hertzberg introduced himself rather successfully to the Eagles’ brass last season, recording 56 points in his rookie campaign. Modeling himself after Ville Leino, he loves the two-way game and will aim to add to his proficiency on both sides of the ice this season.
Chicoutimi Saguenéens: Guillaume Asselin is the forgotten other half of the Louis Leblanc trade, a label he will no doubt want to shed as quickly as possible. The right winger has proven himself as an offensive threat as early as two seasons ago when he was only sixteen years old, and on a young team like the Saguenéens he has all the tools to emerge as one of their leaders.
Honourable mention: The competition in goal between Robin Gusse/Christopher Gibson should be an interesting one. Both goaltenders are proven veterans, have international experience, and will share the load this season in Chicoutimi.
Drummondville Voltigeurs: With all eyes on potential number one pick Couturier, I’m going to deviate a little here since you’ll hear much about him that doesn’t necessarily have to come from me (though I can happily oblige if asked). Captain Marc-Olivier Vachon has been a leader since he was seventeen. His experience includes a gritty push into the second round of the playoffs in 2006-07 (a first that decade for the Volts), a nightmarish bottom-of-the-bin season in 2007-08, top honours and glory in 2008-09, and just a round and a bit short of a repeat in 2009-10. His defensive style of play puts him a bit below the radar on the scoresheet but make no mistake, this guy knows where the net is. With another young bunch behind him he’s sure to thrive in the role he’s known since the start of his QMJHL career.
Honourable mention: Defenseman Remi Blanchard was acquired from the Titan as an eventual replacement for the overage Marc-Antoine Desnoyers. His steady presence and vision of the play will enable him to head up the man advantage and add a myriad of other responsibilities to his resume this season.
Gatineau Olympiques: With captain Hubert Labrie out for most of the year, Slovakian native Adam Janosik will be looked to as one of the guys shouldering the load on defense. The Tampa Bay draft pick will join equally experienced blueliners Nicolas Deslauriers and Hugo Laporte as one of the more stable D-corps leaguewide.
Honourable mention: Overage left-winger Samuel Morneau’s 1.13 point per game average last year with the Foreurs will be counted on to bolster an offense that will be in need of his help this season. With his experience playing in different corners of the league, the Hurricanes’ draft pick will lend much knowledge (and many assists) to any and all linemates.
Halifax Mooseheads: A ‘star’-studded lineup (* = rookie in terms of the Q website…or at least the old one) is headed by Luca Ciampini, who at just sixteen years of age has been labeled as an offensive juggernaut. Good thing for the Mooseheads, who scored the least amount of goals last season and are in bad need of offense. Ciampini’s development will be an interesting thing to watch, with his name already appearing in The Hockey News and words like “superstar” and “top prospect” being thrown around.
Honourable mention: Martin Frk. The transfer-or-no-transfer rollercoaster has finally landed on the Halifax side of things and now fans can see what all the fuss is about. The sixteen year old has compiled 169 points in 134 games with HC Karlovy Vary (at the U18 and U20 levels) and is also one to watch in terms of development.
Lewiston MAINEiacs: Nicolas Champion was arguably one of the few bright spots in an otherwise topsy-turvy season for Bathurst. Lewiston’s even mix of rookies and veterans should provide him a little more stability to work with this season. He is also one of two Q goaltenders invited to Canadiens’ training camp.
Honourable mention: Center Michael Chaput (brother of Stefan) was second in team scoring as a 17 year old and should repeat if not better that performance this season. Like the rest of the MAINEiacs, he will need to contribute on the defensive side of things as well in order to help out Champion.
Moncton Wildcats: If he returns to the Cats which seems altogether likely, Brandon Gormley will round out his QMJHL experience by acting as primary leader on the defending President’s Cup champions. Being a draft-time “free-faller” won’t affect him too negatively, rather, it will only serve to add to his already-solid character.
Honourable mention: Of all the times to be thrown into the heat of the action, Shane Owen had to do so in the most crucial of times—the Memorial Cup. While the result was an overtime loss, it’s worth noting that a) it was against Windsor b) he was pelted with 52 shots. In 2010-11 his resume (which also includes a 14-3 record, 2.12 GAA, .925 save percentage and three shutouts) should be pretty clear to opponents in terms of where he stands on the goaltenders’ leaderboard.
Montreal Juniors: I’m not going to say who you probably think I should say, as there are several less-known diamonds in the rough with the Juniors this season. Trevor Parkes is one of these. He headed up a number of columns on the offensive side of things in his rookie season and despite being undrafted in Los Angeles he was immediately invited to Detroit Red Wings camp where he will join Juniors’ teammate Louis-Marc Aubry. Such an experience will no doubt give him a boost heading into this season.
Honourable mention: There should be all 21 other names here but I will go with Charles Landry. His on-ice vision has always been something he’s excelled at but judging by his preseason play he seems equally poised to put his name on the scoresheet this year.
P.E.I. Rocket: Philippe Paradis has been part of six organizations in his brief career. More of these are pro than junior. It should be interesting to see how he adjusts to the Atlantic Division after spending his Q playing time with the Cataractes.
Honourable mention: Travis McIsaac returns home in his overage year after playing three years with the Tigres. Last year he made his mark with 57 points in 68 games, plus 13 points in 16 games in the playoffs.
Quebec Remparts: Ryan Bourque lit up the preseason with 10 points in 4 games—look for a lot more of the same from him this year. His capacity to be an offensive threat is nicely complimented by his equal ability to be a leader in the dressing room. US National Junior experience can’t hurt, either.
Honourable mention: 6’3” netminder Louis Domingue was traded to the Remparts midseason and split the end of his year going 9-8 with a .910 save percentage. A quick-moving tall body in goal, the Phoenix Coyotes’ draft pick will aim to make a whole season of it before turning to the professional ranks.
Rimouski Oceanic: Jérôme Gauthier-Leduc is a long name which even regular followers of the Q might not know on the account of he played about 9 hours away from the 514 last year. He had 46 points in 68 games…as a defenseman on an only slightly-better-than-average team. This year he joins a better-rounded, more experienced Oceanic.
Honourable mention: Left wing Petr Straka filled out Columbus’ Czech-quota this past NHL Entry Draft, after putting up a near-30 goal season with Rimouski in his rookie CHL year. He should be eager to climb up the leaderboard as a sophomore.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies: Junior Harris played briefly for the Junior (such a nice fit namewise, you would think) before being traded to Rouyn where he scored twice in a losing cause against Kitchener. The impact of this acquisition has yet to fully be realized but it’s definitely in the “to watch” category.
Honourable mention: Newly-named captain Gabriel O’Connor had three assists in that same game. Having contributed more penalty minutes than points over the course of his career, his main task will be rallying all the fresh faces (emphasis on all, as in I recognize maybe three other names on their roster) on the Huskies.
Saint John Sea Dogs: Simon Després was arguably much more impressive in his rookie campaign than the one he’s just coming off of, but has the chance to really come into his own this season. His keen sense of maturity both on the ice and off will enable him to cap off his junior career in fine fashion.
Honourable mention: Stanislav Galiev already has hype around him in Washington. Fourth in Sea Dogs’ offensive contributors last season at only 17, the savvy winger will look to add to the more physical elements of his North-American game in order to complement his already-impressive puck control.
Shawinigan Cataractes: Benjamin Casavant, Galiev’s eventual NHL teammate who went the other way in the Paradis trade, will make a return to Quebec after three years in P.E.I. where he totaled 150 points in 158 games. He benefits more from his physical game which opens up the ice for his teammates and that should come into play once again this year.
Honourable mention: Netminder Gabriel Girard’s coming of age party was during the 2009 President’s Cup final against Drummondville. He played the bulk of Shawinigan’s games last year after having been on backup status the year before and while he struggled, he is still regarded as a notable in many circles leaguewide. This year will be a defining one in terms of what direction his career is headed towards.
Val D’Or Foreurs: Jonathan Hazen, like ex-teammate Morneau, managed to finish with over 1 point per game on average on a team that struggled to stay in the playoffs all year. This edition of Val D’Or won’t have an easy time of it either, but his experience will prove to be an asset.
Honourable mention: The next name in the offensive contributors’ category from last season who is sticking around this season belongs to now-17 year old Olivier Archambault. The former Q first-round pick’s production will be in high demand once again if the Foreurs want to be challengers in the already-competitive Telus West division.
Victoriaville Tigres: Brandon Hynes was a name shockingly left off the list in the most recent NHL Entry Draft, but with an invite to Tampa camp in hand he will start a crucial season in his development with the Tigres. Finishing 2nd behind Gabriel Dumont in shots on goal last season, look for more of those to be behind the goal line this time around.
Honourable mention: Judging by the persistence he’s demonstrated combined with the number of times his name has been heard in the last four years, notably the last one with 93 points in 68 games, I made the mistake in assuming Philip-Michael Devos had finished his career on the best note possible—but then I found out he’s only 20 THIS season and therefore still has much damage to do.
Your first glimpse at most of these names comes in roughly 15 hours. Now get on it and have a great season!