With Canada’s three major junior leagues in various stages of their preseason schedules, a few players have made their early marks. Here are several particularly noteworthy QMJHL efforts.
While we can debate the value of preseason statistics in any league, there’s no denying William Lagrange’s efforts in four contests have been impressive. At age 16, the 5-11, 150-pound Rouyn-Noranda rookie selected 212st overall by the Huskies in the most recent draft excelled in a late August run including back-to-back-to-back appearances in net, all victories, that helped bring his record to 4-0 with a .931 save percentage and 1.54 goals-against.
While relative vets Olivier Tremblay and Samuel Harvey will likely retain their hold on the team's top two spots in net once the regular season rolls around, especially after Rouyn-Noranda won their division last year with a 43-18-2-5 record and Lagrange likely returns to Quebec AAA Midget Hockey this fall, keep an eye on this newcomer as his career progresses.
Acadie-Bathurst’s Ethan Crossman has charged out to the scoring lead at this early juncture with two four-goal games in his first six preseason contests, the first of which occurred on the third night of consecutive games as his nine shots accentuated an 8-2 drubbing of Charlottetown. That’s not bad for the Maritime Hockey League stalwart (10 G, 16 A, and 36 PIM in 23 Woodstock Slammers contests last year) whose skills have yet to translate to success in the Q (one goal, three assists in 60 games over two Quebec and Moncton campaigns).
Crossman’s eight goals and four assists thus far narrowly outpace Russian rookie pivot Daniil Kuzmin who also averages two points per-game with four goals and six assists in five contests including 22 shots on goal. Kuzmin's Wildcat teammate Jakob Pelletier, third overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft, trails him by one point, good for fourth-best in the league. Pelletier’s 46.2% shot percentage can’t last, but sure is admirable as the 5-08, 154-pound, left-shot center has scored six goals on just 13 shots, dishing three assists as well. His highlight was registering a hat trick with an assist at home against Saint John as Kuzmin contributed two goals and two assists in their 7-1 victory. As a 2019 NHL Draft-eligible prospect his progress will likely be followed closely, and both could be key figures in re-invigorating last year’s cellar-dwelling Moncton squad.
First overall selection and left wing Alexis Lafrenière has likewise done quite well, particularly as a distributor totaling two goals and eight assists in four games with Rimouski, including back-to-back three-assist efforts in his most recent tilts defeating Shawinigan and Quebec.
Here's a small sample of what Lafrenière, who some hail as the next Sidney Crosby can do:
Standing 6-0 and 179-pounds at just 15 years of age, his Quebec AAA Midget Hockey stats (33 goals, 50 assists in 36 Saint-Eustache contests last year) have helped him soar to the top of scouts' watch lists for good reason. Lafrenière's last AAA campaign ranks only below those of Mario Lemieux, Pierre Turgeon and Alexandre Daigle in the circuit's history as highest-scoring. The 2020 NHL Draft-eligible prospect, is appropriately considered a front-runner for first pick three NHL Entry Drafts from now.