MONTREAL, QC. — The possibility of an NHL lockout looms heavily over the heads of hockey fans as September 15th approaches at a rapid pace. While the start of the regular season in the QMJHL is a ways away, most team rosters have been completed already, even with half a month of preseason left to go. This three-part series offers a look at an alternative, close-to-home fix for those looking to adopt a junior squad for the time being (or such as in the case of yours truly, perhaps even longer.)
Today, a look at the six teams in the Telus East Division:
2011-12: 29-31-1-4 (63 PTS, 6th in Telus East, eliminated in four games by the Saint John Sea Dogs—2nd round)
Offensive leaders: Carl Gélinas (25G, 36A, 61P in 63 GP), Jonathan Lessard (27G, 11A, 38P in 50 GP)
While the Drakkar was deprived from having truly won the Nathan MacKinnon sweepstakes, they did cause an upset against Victoriaville that shocked everyone in the playoffs. This season, with the addition of Memorial Cup-winning coach Éric Veilleux and the presence of steady veterans, they should be able to improve on their regular season standing and perhaps even shake it up again in the postseason.
Players to watch:
Raphaël Bussières (LW): 6’1”, 192 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 17G, 22A, 39P in 66 GP. Playoffs: 3G, 5A, 8P in 5 GP
A 46th overall pick by the Minnesota Wild this past NHL Entry Draft, Bussières was the first Quebec-born player selected despite a season in which he did not post the stats he wanted. Look for him to rebound this season.
Philippe Cadorette (G): 5’10”, 183 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 8W, 10L, 1SO, 3.05 GAA, 0.898 SV%. Playoffs: 4W, 4L, 4.60 GAA, 0.866 SV%
The young Cadorette, who was featured in all eight playoff games for the Drakkar, has a solid hold on the reins this season now that Jimmy Appleby is no longer in the running. The St-Hyacinthe born netminder also happens to be eligible for this year’s draft.
Félix Girard (C): 5’11”, 190 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 6G, 15A, 21P in 60 GP. Playoffs: 2G, 1A, 3P in 8 GP
A former participant of the U-18s, Girard was named the captain of the Drakkar at seventeen years old. He may not post big numbers, but his gritty, hard-working style has made him a fan favourite.
2011-12: (35-24-3-6, 79 PTS, 5th in Telus East, eliminated in 5 games by the Saint John Sea Dogs—3rd round)
Offensive leaders: Guillaume Asselin (33G, 42A, 75P in 68 GP)
Chicoutimi is another case of a team posting average results during the regular season and causing trouble for higher-ranked teams in the playoffs. They pushed the Sea Dogs off their win-streak (and off their stride) with a series that was much closer than its length illustrated. They also managed to break their streak of first-round exits along the way. This year, their goal is to find consistency throughout the regular season, and they should be able to accomplish this with an older, more experienced team.
Players to watch:
Charles Hudon (LW), 5’11”, 170 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 25G, 41A, 66P in 59 GP. Playoffs:6G, 5A, 11P in 18 GP
This one is obvious, he’s a Habs’ prospect. In a year we might be stuck without the Habs, keeping a lock on Chicoutimi games is probably a good idea to keep tabs on the future, especially a prospect that already started turning heads in the Canada-Russia Challenge this summer. Hudon has the potential to shine this season, building upwards of that momentum. However, he is currently out for about a month (or less), having sustained an ankle injury against Drummondville (at the mercy of fellow prospect Olivier Archambault.)
Guillaume Asselin (C), 5’11”, 194 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 33G, 42A, 75P in 68 GP. Playoffs: 6G, 11A, 17P in 18 GP
The other half of the deal that brought one Louis Leblanc to Montreal, back in the day, Asselin has posted some fine numbers since joining Chicoutimi. While his problem (like the team’s) remains consistency, he remains one of the bona-fide veterans on the team.
Christopher Gibson (G), 6’1”, 195 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 27W, 17L, 4OTL, 3 SO, 2.97 GAA, 0.893 SV%, and 5 assists! Playoffs: 9W, 5L, 4OTL, 1 SO, 3.12 GAA, 0.903 SV% in 18 GP
The Finnish-born goaltender of British descent is a prospect of the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings. He has returned to play in Chicoutimi this season and was a large part of their success last season. Because of this, he is widely considered to be a top goaltender in the league.
2011-12: 43-18-5-2 (93 PTS, 3rd in Telus East, eliminated in 7 games by the Halifax Mooseheads—2nd round)
Offensive leaders: Frédérick Roy (27G, 65A, 92P in 64 GP), Mikhail Grigorenko (40G, 45A, 85P in 59 GP)
The Remparts are the flip-side of the two cases above; they posted an excellent season at the top of the standings, one that kept up rather handily with the Cataractes, Sea Dogs and company. However, they were upset rather dramatically by the young, frenetic Halifax Mooseheads squad, losing four straight after having been up three games to none. This season, their team is again slated to be one of the contenders, with the strong prospect base they have made for themselves. They do have a European-related quandary however, as the potential return of Mikhail Grigorenko would result in either his trade or the trade of one of their top guns, Nick Sorensen or Nikita Kucherov.
Players to watch:
Adam Erne (RW): 6’1”, 198 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 28G, 27A, 55P in 64 GP. Playoffs: 2G, 4A, 6P in 11 GP
Quebec took what some might consider to be a gamble on the power forward, acquiring him from the Mooseheads last season in exchange for two first rounders and a second rounder, and Erne was only 16 at the time. So far, it’s been working out for them rather handily. Habs’ fans in particular might remember this hit on prospect Olivier Archambault last season that sidelined Archambault until the playoffs. Erne is available for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and will surely turn a lot more heads this year.
Anthony Duclair (LW): 5’11”, 179 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 31G, 35A, 66P in 63 GP. Playoffs: 3G, 5A, 8P in 11 GP
Another draft-eligible within the Remparts’ roster, the Pointe Claire native with Haitian bloodlines was third in team scoring behind Roy and Grigorenko last season, and has plenty of room to grow on those numbers. The shifty winger has a lot of speed and a solid shot that found the net over thirty times last season.
Nick Sorensen (RW): 6’1”, 175 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 5G, 4A, 9P in 8 GP
Unless he proves to be the victim of the Euro situation, Sorensen will look to be able to pick up where an injury-shortened season left off with Quebec. In a similar vein to Alex Galchenyuk, having seen only a sample of his talent that’s been put on hold for almost a whole season due to a major injury, he is going to be looked at even more closely with his draft year also on the horizon.
2011-12: 40-26-2-0 (82 PTS, 4th in Telus East, eliminated in 4 games by the Saint John Sea Dogs, league final)
Offensive leaders: Alex Belzile (22 G, 70A, 92P in 63 GP), Alexandre Mallet (34G, 47A, 81P in 68 GP)
Rimouski surprised everyone by making the league finals against the heavily favoured Saint John Sea Dogs. They brought in new head coach Serge Beausoleil as well as new general manager Philippe Boucher, and brought in veteran leadership in players such as Robbie DeFulviis, Pier-Luc Pelletier and Jean-Philippe Mathieu mid-season. This year, they have a young crop with a whopping seven NHL-eligible prospects that remains poised and still capable of causing a few surprises.
Players to watch:
Scott Oke (LW): 6’3”, 201 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 13G, 25A, 38P in 64 GP. Playoffs: 7G, 4A, 11P in 21 GP
A former member of the Saint John Sea Dogs, Oke was a playoff performer against his old squad last season. Originally from St-Lambert, Oke has gained confidence since joining the Oceanic, making great strides in his development, and has already collected five points in three preseason games so far.
Anthony DeLuca (LW): 5’9”, 196 lbs, age 17
A highly-touted Montreal-born rookie for the Oceanic, DeLuca was a star at the Midget AAA level with 48 goals and 80 points in only 43 games, plus three goals in 5 games at the U-17s. He already has 6 points in 3 games this preseason, an indication of things to come.
Jess Tanguy (C): 6’1”, 190 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 22G, 53A, 75P in 63 GP. Playoffs: 8G, 12A, 20P in 11 GP
Formerly of the Lewiston MAINEiacs and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Tanguy exploded for 75 points last year, plus 20 more in 11 playoff games. The Terrebonne native was brought in during the offseason for an offensive punch as well as his level of experience, something capable of helping out a young team such as the one that Rimouski currently has.
2011-12: 45-16-3-4 (97 PTS, 1st in Telus East, eliminated in 7 games by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens— 2nd round. Won Memorial Cup a month and a bit later…)
Offensive leaders: Anton Zlobin (40G, 36A, 76P in 66 GP)
After surprising everyone and winning it all as Memorial Cup hosts after having been eliminated in the 2nd round by Chicoutimi, #theshawi have a long year ahead of them this season as they press the restart button. The Bournivals, Ellises and Gormleys are unable to be counted on this year and they will struggle as a result. In even more unfortunate news, the so-called Sidney Crosby of Slovakia, Patrik Koys, was supposed to join the Cataractes this season, but injuries have made that prospect more of a dream.
Players to watch:
Marvin Cüpper (G): 5’11”, 180 lbs, age 18
The German netminder (uh oh, anyone smell a future San Jose Sharks’ pick?) is one of three rookie goaltenders listed on Shawinigan’s current lineup. He has a wealth of international experience as Germany’s go-to netminder under his belt which will serve him well in his first season in the QMJHL.
Jonathan Narbonne (D): 6’, 186 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 11G, 26A, 37P in 57 GP. Playoffs: 1G in 9 GP
Narbonne is not by any means a flashy defensive prospect, but he did post 11 goals last year. More importantly, he is a reliable steady presence on the back end that will be sure to see a lot of minutes this season. He might cause a few offensive surprises along the way and brings veteran leadership to an otherwise inexperienced squad.
Philippe Venne (LW): 5’9”, 182 lbs, age 17
The Mirabel native, whose father once played for #theshawi, was acquired very recently by the Cataractes from the Drummondville Voltigeurs for Ryan Labrie, a move that upset quite a few Volts’ fans that had already seen part of his promising development. He has already amassed three goals and two assists in four preseason games, most of which came since being traded.
2011-12: 40-26-2-0 (82 PTS, 4th in Telus East, eliminated in 4 games by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar—1st round)
Offensive leaders: Yanni Gourde (37G, 87A, 124P in 68 GP, led the league), Philippe Halley (43G, 36A, 79P in 66 GP)
Victoriaville, who spent all of last season among the top contenders and was originally supposed to be in Rimouski’s place in the league finals, were shockingly swept by the Drakkar in the first round. They will have a lot of explaining and making-up to do to their fans, who will be able to count on the return of a few veterans and freshly-drafted future NHLers as well as a few rising stars.
Players to watch:
Philip Danault (C): 6’, 187 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 18G, 53A, 71P in 62 GP. Playoffs: 3A in 4 GP
Danault is the go-to player for the Tigres, having been named captain of the team he has spent his whole QMJHL career with. Recently injured at the Canada-Russia challenge, he has yet to see preseason action, but is poised for a breakthrough season as he assumes his leadership role.
Brandon Whitney (G): 6’5”, 191 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 22W, 4L, 4OTL, 2 SO in Playoffs: 0W, 1L, 1OTL in 3 GP
Like Danault, Whitney is a Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect, and one that many consider to be a steal as he should have theoretically been drafted higher than 191st overall with the season he had last year. His large frame might be a concern for mobility, but does not impose heavily on his skill-set. Another bonus is likely won’t have to share his net as often as he did last season.
Tommy Veilleux (LW): 5’11”, 183 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 1G, 4A, 5P in 38 GP.
Your certified pain-in-the-ass player that also managed to attract Hockey Canada long enough to warrant his first chance to crack the U-18 lineups this season. Veilleux makes sure that every shift played against him is an unpleasant experience.
Check back next week for part two of our series previewing the QMJHL.