Welcome to November in the QMJHL and the upcoming Canada/Russia Series. The QMJHL roster will be out to rebound from being swept in 2018 and are loaded with a star-studded cast. Congrats to the QMJHL players representing Russia: Egor Sokolov (Cape Breton), Alexander Khovanov (Moncton), Nikita Alexandrov (Charlottetown) and Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski).
Of the CHL leagues, the QMJHL will face off against Russia first on November 4th (Saint-John) and November 5th (Moncton). Put it on the phone. Get it in the calendar.
The West – Rouyn-Noranda
After reaching the pinnacle of junior hockey last season, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have a much steeper hill to climb this time around if they hope to repeat as CHL champs. Gone are cornerstone pieces in Memorial Cup MVP Joel Teasdale, Noah Dobson, Samuel Harvey, and Peter Abbandonato, but some veterans still remain and continue to keep the Huskies in contention.
Currently sitting in fifth in the Western Conference and second in what is seemingly the weakest division in the league, Rouyn-Noranda is a competitive group continuing to find balance within their lineup as they incorporate 11 rookies into the fold.
Leading the charge is Colorado Avalanche 2019 third-rounder Alex Beaucage. He is playing above a point per game pace and riffling shots at a wicked rate of 4.75 shots per game. At 6 foot 2 and a shade under 200 pounds, Beaucage continues to mature physically and engage oncoming defenders with a fierce response. While he does not wear a letter, Beaucage is setting an example.
(Alex Beaucage, courtesy www.lhebdojournal.com)
Goaltender Zachary Emond has been busy. He has hardly been sharing the crease with rookie Kevyn Brassard, one of 11 first-years on the Huskies this season. Emond has played in 15 of 19 games this season and has posted a respectable eight wins and a 0.911 save percentage. He has great mobility, but is slight in his frame and will be tested to see if he can endure a heavier slate of games this season.
Justin Bergeron is an interesting player to watch. An offensive-minded defenceman, Bergeron has been overlooked the past two NHL drafts and is hoping his third time is a charm in 2020. He was a big part of the championship squad last season scoring 20 points in 19 playoff games and he continues to post strong numbers this season with three goals and nine assists in 14 games. Some say that his defensive play is in question, but his puck possession and offensive instincts counteract skepticism.
All that being said, the Huskies are off to a competitive start given the roster turnover. With five players at or just under a point per game, Rouyn-Noranda is boasting a balanced attack upfront. Only time will tell if Emond can hold down the fort in net.
The East – Rimouski
In the October QMJHL report, we took a closer look at the top line for the Oceanic and they have continued to roll. Alexis Lafreniere has delivered as expected and continues to lead all QMJHL scorers producing at an incredible 2.44 points per game. Wingman Dmitry Zavgorodniy has progressed well as expected and Calgary Flames followers have taken note. The biggest surprise is centreman Cedric Pare who is looking to eclipse his best QMJHL season totals by the end of November. He has found his scoring touch and more.
Despite the success of the tremendous trio, Rimouski remains out of the top spot in the East and find themselves in tough with divisional rival Chicoutimi. In the entire league, the Oceanic are currently second in goals for, but sit sixth in goals against.
Goaltender Colten Ellis is doing his part to backstop Rimouski this season. Tied for the league lead in starts at 15 with Zachary Emond, Ellis has decent numbers with a 2.61 goals-against average and a 0.905 save percentage. The St. Louis Blues draftee has delivered for Rimouski in the past and this campaign should be no different. Look for Ellis to take a run at a personal best in wins (33) this season.
(Colton Ellis, courtesy Cape Breton Post)
Shoring up the defense is QMJHL rookie Isaac Belliveau. He leads all rookies with 21 points in 16 games and his 11 power-play points tell you all you need to know about his playmaking and vision. Don’t get too excited as Belliveau is only eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. All that being said, the 16-year old looks to be a real gem down the line.
This is a glorious pass from 2021 eligible defender Isaac Belliveau.
I don't even care that he may not have known Lafrenière was there. I can appreciate things, dangit!
Contributing in a physical way is 2020 draft-eligible Adam Raska. The Czech right-winger was a Rimouski selection in the 2019 Import Draft (#41) and is a feisty forechecker. He tracks the puck well and his quickness and agility help to close the gap on the opposition. Raska finishes every check, brings a strong work ethic to his game and has the mold of an effective energy player. His draft stock should increase as more eyes are drawn to Rimouski.
#U20: Big-time finish from high-energy RW Adam Raska (Ranked No. 22) as he times his move perfectly while falling down. Czechs tie it 4-4 in the 3rd. pic.twitter.com/BgHHYx1RIS
Even though Rimouski is currently on a three-game slide, rest assured they will be in contention all season long. Look for them to add a few more veteran scoring options to round out their secondary attack.
2020 Draft Class
To close out this month’s report, we check in with some notable names among the 2020 NHL draft class.
Currently resting in the top 10 of QMJHL scorers, centreman Dawson Mercer is projected to go in the first round in 2020. At 13 goals and 24 points in 16 games, Mercer can no doubt put the puck in the net and projects as a potential top-six option at the next level. He continues to develop other areas of his game but remains a serious prospect.
Senna Peeters, RW, Halifax
Moosehead centre/winger Senna Peeters was taken by Halifax in the 2019 Import Draft (#47). Peeters is a strong puck protector in the offensive zone and works the give and go sequence very well. He draws defenders in before he distributes to his linemates and will absorb a hit to make a play. As well, Senna drives the net well and is willing to stand in the crease area for the dirty goal. He has six goals in 16 games thus far and should see his productivity increase as he becomes more comfortable.
The Swiss-born Rochette was high up on many draft lists, but some may not recognize the name. Rochette had been sidelined for approximately a dozen games due to mononucleosis after only three games this season. The centreman is known to be a terrific pinpoint passer and very elusive with the puck. He is slight in size at 5 foot 10 and 161 pounds, but his agility helps him weave in and out of traffic unscathed. He posted 43 points in 50 games as a QMJHL rookie last season and at full health, he should start making some noise.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next month when we look at the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Moncton Wildcats as well as highlight more draft-eligibles on our way to the 2020 NHL Draft.
Nicholas Kawka – Nashville Predators and the QMJHL writer – @nicholaskawka