Antoine Morand is improving his odds at the NHL entry draft with his hot play in the later stages of the QMJHL season, including being named player of the week.
In this month's QMJHL Report, we're going to take a look at five players who have been making headlines heading into the final leg of the 2016-17 season.
They are four draft eligible studs who can't wait to finally have their names called on stage at the podium, and one who did not have to wait long when his day came one year ago.
* * *
Draft eligible forward Antoine Morand was recently named the Quebec Junior Major player of the week after scoring seven points in three games, including a hat trick against the Phoenix of Sherbrooke. It's a good time for eligibles to be hot, as scouts are getting their final looks in, and want to see how players are responding at crunch time. The diminutive Morand never backs down from a challenge, and that's what provides confidence in his future. Everyone knows how skilled he is; it's no fluke that he leads the third-highest scoring team in the league in assists. He chips in all over the ice and could be an ascending prospect as the draft rolls around and teams get a closer look at him.
* * *
Maxime Comtois had taken a serious nosedive down draft boards due to a slow start in the scoring department. I attribute the struggle to the immense pressure that he felt on his back after a stellar rookie season and standout Ivan Hlinka showing heading into this season. Finally, the powerforward has gotten his groove back with 29 points in his past 28 games dating back to Dec. 4. Comtois has always worked hard, it just seems to have been a matter of loosening the grip on his stick once he felt the confidence come back. His 20.15 shooting percentage in the new year has been refreshing, as he was gunning at just 10 per cent to that point, far off last season's 16.3 average. Things are starting to balance out for Comtois and he will climb the draft boards once again.
* * *
It may be Comtois' teammate Ivan Korosenkov who is the story of the year in the Q among draft-eligibles. A 19-year-old rookie import, Korosenkov has 60 points in 61 games, and has turned into a leader for his squad. He makes players around him better with the puck on his stick, and is committed to doing whatever it takes to help the team win. He has dynamic stick-handling and playmaking ability from the off-wing, but it's his desire to win that makes it all work. It may look like he is a pure shooter because of his goal versus assist ratio, but that's due to a league-leading 23.2 shooting percentage (among qualifying players). He will lead teammates to the open ice and put it on their tape in stride, and because he is such a passing threat (combined with his puck control) he gets himself into favourable looks against goaltenders that he eats up with his potent shot. Deadly on the power play with saucer setups or snipes from the circles using his wrist-shot or one-timer. He has gone from a potential late-round flyer to a potential early second-day pick in the span of just six months.
* * *
If you just look at the numbers, it looks like Pierre-Olivier Joseph cooled off since his 25-point pre-December production. But in fact, he has become one of the best defensemen in the entire league over that span. He has blossomed into a dominant defensive presence as evidenced by his plus-10 rating in his past nine games. But it goes much further than that; he uses his superior athleticism and anticipation to thwart the attack and transition the other way. He can shut you down and even take it all the way himself if the lane is there, and he does it consistently. Joseph has already started to take over games at the QMJHL level, and he is just 17. With his recent development you have to believe the ceiling is high.
* * *
With his recent torrid junior play, Pierre-Luc Dubois is reassuring the Blue Jackets about their decision to draft him third overall.
P.L. Dubois is back. The Armada star recorded 13 points over the first seven games of February after producing 16 points in 10 January contests, including a hat trick Jan. 20 against Shawinigan. I happened to be at that game, and that's the kind of game that thrust him into the third slot in last June's NHL Entry Draft. He can dominate up and down the middle of the ice with his impressive size, skill and skating combination. These performances are what Columbus management envisioned when they decided to groom him to be their franchise No. 1 center. I expect a big playoff from him, as do the Armada and Blue Jackets.
For Dobber Prospects, I'm Mike Barrett,
Follow me on Twitter for regular hockey and QMJHL updates @MikeBarrett_