QMJHL Report – The Lafreniere Watch (September 2019)
Welcome to another season of QMJHL coverage at Dobber Prospects.
After another strong QMJHL representation at the 2019 Memorial Cup, the CHL championship bragging rights remain in the East. Congrats to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
Graduates of Note
The long-shot seventh-round selection of the San Jose Sharks made his mark in 2018-19 and finished second in QMJHL scoring. After signing late in the year with the AHL affiliate, Chekhovich showed well producing four points in five games. With the Sharks significant signings of Erik Karlsson, Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, the organization will soon be leaning heavily on cap-friendly prospect depth like Chekhovich. Look for Chekhovich to refine his game in the AHL this season.
Veleno will bring his non-stop motor to the AHL affiliate of the Motor City in 2019-20. The 2018 Detroit first-rounder had a terrific season and hit the century mark for points in 2018-19 with Drummondville. Detroit is loaded up front with young speedsters and Veleno will look to carve out his place within the organizational depth chart. Starting in Grand-Rapids this season, his two-way play will likely help him make a smooth transition to the pro game. As history tells us, Detroit plays the slow hand with its prospects and they will do the same with Veleno.
Peter Abbandonato (TB)
When you finish as the league’s top scorer, you turn some heads. The undrafted Abbandonato earned an AHL contract with Tampa Bay affiliate Syracuse Crunch and is following in the footsteps of former QMJHL alumni. Tampa Bay returned to the well after signing Alex Barre-Boulet last season. As well, the main roster is loaded with former QMJHL players such as Cedric Paquette, Yanni Gourde, Mathieu Joseph and Louis Domingue. At the rate the Lightning have been promoting talent out of Syracuse, Abbandonato is in a good situation and is a name worth tracking.
After two-consecutive point per game seasons, Beaudin signed his entry-level contract with Chicago this off-season. The offensive defenceman joins a deep group of talented defence prospects and will be given every opportunity to develop his game. His first pass is lethal and his transition game is exactly what the Blackhawks are looking for as they re-tool their main roster. Beaudin should play significant minutes for AHL affiliate Rockford in the 2019-20 season and continue to add more strength to his frame.
Coming off back to back Memorial Cup championship seasons, Dobson will look to try his hand at the pro game. He has his sights set on a top-six role with the New York Islanders, but it’s the Isles or bust scenario. Dobson is not yet eligible to play in the AHL, so the Isles will have a tough choice on their hands. Dobson has been a proven force at the junior ranks and is a key cog for the Isles defence core long -term. It will be interesting to see how the Islanders handle his situation to begin the season. The Islanders have a gem in Dobson and will be patient in his development.
Out with the old and in with the new to the Q. The 2019 CHL Import Draft saw a number of notable 2020 NHL Draft-eligible talent be selected that could hear their names called in the early rounds in June 2020.
Vasili Ponomaryov – C – Shawinigan
Ponomaryov was among the leaders on the Russian U17 squad last season with 20 points in 23 games and held his own as an MHL rookie with 29 points in 37 games. He has a superior shot and plenty of offensive instincts. He’ll be leaned on heavily to replicate his scoring totals for Shawinigan in 2019-20.
Noah Delemont – D – Acadie Bathurst
Defender Noah Delemont is a solid addition to Acadie Bathurst and will almost instantly be a focal point on the power play. He has tremendous poise with the puck and can draw in defenders to open up seems in the offensive zone. Delemont has great lateral movement, puck control and vision. He produced well in the U20-Elit in Switzerland scoring 19 points in 35 games. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the smaller ice surface, but his quick decision making and quickness should alleviate concerns.
Joona Lehmus – D – Saint John
Another defenceman of note is smooth skating and offensive-minded Joona Lehmus. The Finnish product has an offensive mind for the game and has the feet to play an up-tempo pace. He will be a welcomed boost to the Sea Dogs blue line attack.
2020 NHL Draft
Within only Samuel Poulin and Jakob Pelletier drafted in the first round in the 2019 NHL Draft, the QMJHL is looking to rebound in 2020. Early in the game, Dobber Prospects Cam Robinson has already penciled in six QMJHL skaters in the top 31 in the Dobber Preliminary 2020 NHL Draft Rankings.
All eyes will be on the Rimouski Oceanic standout Alexis Lafreniere. By all accounts, he is considered the outright favourite to be selected first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. Lafreniere is a tier above the rest of his peers at this point. An elite offensive weapon, Lafreniere is a winger that boasts the ability to score in a multitude of ways. Whether it be breakaway speed, outside net drive, x-ray passing or pinpoint shooting, Lafreniere can do it all. After raking up 105 points in 61 games last season, he is a beacon of limitless potential that will garner plenty of attention throughout the season. Start looking at your calendars and buying tickets for when Rimouski comes to town.
Referencing several lists, other QMJHL hopefuls with first-round NHL Draft potential are Hendrix Lapierre (Chicoutimi), Justin Barron (Halifax), Jeremie Poirier (Saint John), Vasili Ponomaryov (Shawinigan), Lukas Cormier (Charlottetown), Theo Rochette (Chicoutimi) and Mavrik Bourque (Shawinigan).
For questions, comments and QMJHL talk all season long, give me a follow @nicholaskawka