QMJHL Report – March 2020

Nicholas Kawka

2020-03-06

One Season Ends, Another Begins

 

The winter freeze is melting down and the action in the QMJHL is heating up as well.  With the change of the seasons comes the fast-approaching second season of junior hockey, the playoffs.  

 

The standings are beginning to be marked up with Xs and Ys as teams lockdown playoffs spots.  Sherbrooke has been on top of the Western Conference for the entire season. All bets are on them to shore up the number one seed and earn that Z beside their name in the standings as Regular Season Champion.  The race in the East is a little more enticing with Moncton and Chicoutimi battling it out. Entering the final few weeks of the season, it may as well already be playoff hockey.

 

 

The West 

 

Victoriaville Tigers

 

The Victoriaville Tigers have been fighting it all season in the bottom tier of the league standings.  With few offensive threats, the Tigers have been hard-pressed for goals. Defensively they are in the top third of the league and rightfully so.  If you can’t score, you better defend. The penalty-kill has been an achilles heel much of the year at only 75% and the team is trying to buck a three-game losing stretch at the most important time of the year.  They are in the thick of it to chase down a final playoff spot, but they will be in tough.

 

The lone wolf carrying the load offensively has been Mikhail Abramov.  The Toronto fourth-rounder in 2019 has had an outstanding post-draft season with 73 points in 60 games.  As the main target every night, Abramov has shown off his durability even only at 160 pounds. He boasts a balanced attack of slick playmaking and puck skills as well as a significantly improved wrist shot.  With 34 goals on the year, he has added another element to his arsenal. His shot totals have soared from 167 last season to 230 thus far in 2019-20 and his shot percentage has nearly doubled to 15%. Toronto has a real gem in their back pocket.

 

 

{source}<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Mikhail Abramov is having an outstanding sophomore campaign with Victoriaville.<br><br>45 games played<br>28 goals<br>24 assists<br>15.6 S%<br>52.9 NHLe<br><br>Let's look at some highlights. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/LeafsForever?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#LeafsForever</a> <a href=”https://t.co/K8KtrXxx8C”>pic.twitter.com/K8KtrXxx8C</a></p>&mdash; Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) <a href=”https://twitter.com/JoshTessler_/status/1220178452030070784?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 23, 2020</a></blockquote>{/source}

 

 

Stepping up to support Abramov on defence is veteran Jerome Gravel.  In his final QMJHL season, Gravel is closing out his term on a high note.  He has exploded offensively with 18 goals and 39 points, beating out his personal best seven-goal season a few years back.  The newfound offence has been a welcomed addition to his stout defensive play. Gravel may get attention in the off-season and see the ice on an NHL tryout basis come the fall. 

 

The Philadelphia Flyers selected Egor Serdyuk in the six-round in 2019, which was a real find, but Serdyuk has taken a hit this season.  Nagging injuries stunted his production early on this season. After a point per game season, Serdyuk is at about 0.80 points per game rate and his success is very much tied to the overall club.  The Russian born winger has a true scoring touch and plays with some edge, engaging in serious board play. Once he enters next season in full health and some added muscle, he will be ready to share the work upfront with Abramov.

 

(Egor Serdyuk, courtesy of RDS)

 

In net, Fabio Iacobo has taken over the reins.  The second-year goaltender became the starter after Tristan Cote Cazenave was traded to Quebec.  Clearly, Iacobo proved his worth early on this season and has shown he can handle the workload. He could be a late name called on draft day in 2020.

 

It has been much of the same this season from Victoriaville compared to 2018-19.  While the playoffs remain a possibility, the Tigers do not have that Cinderella feeling.  The focus is on next season where Abramov and Serdyuk should be a dynamic duo and a few hopeful breakout candidates emerge in 2020-21.  

 

 

The East

 

Similar to Victoriaville, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar are second season dreamers, but they are floundering a 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.  The Drakkar are a balanced group with a goals for and against in the middle of the league and are proving that special teams make all the difference.  They are in the top five in both penalty-killing and powerplay and that has kept them in the hunt.  

 

The force on the front lines is Nathan Legare.  The Pittsburgh Penguins have done a tremendous job drafting players outside the top two rounds and Legare appears to be another hit.  With 34 goals and 68 points in 57 games, Legare leads the Drakkar offensively. A true triggerman with size, his goal-scoring is ranked in the top 10 and he holds the crown for the most shots in the league with 325 shots.  Some may be shocked to note that his plus/minus has swung from plus 37 to minus 27 this season, but you need to consider the context. While the Drakkar roster has changed significantly, Legare has been thrust into heavier minutes and with a lesser supporting cast.  He is also an offensive-minded player and loves to think ‘score’ and will take more chances than the next. Take the good with the bad. He has been red hot coming off a 17 point month of February where he scored back to back hat tricks. 

 

(Nathan Legare, courtesy of RDS)

 

Raivis Kristians Ansons is a QMJHL rookie that has had a respectable season to date. The second round draftee from the 2019 CHL Import Draft is a feisty winger with good defensive awareness and is quick to turn to the offense with a great first stride.  He has been a solid depth piece and an edgier player chipping in with 41 PIMs. Kristians Ansons is in line for a bigger role in 2019-20.

 

Fellow rookie winger Valentin Demchenko is a talented scoring winger with a great release and strong puck skills.  He has decent speed and has seen his scoring production remain steady since the new year. His consistency is encouraging and he will surely improve on his 16 goals and 34 points next season.

 

Talk about a goaltending carousel.  After all the dust has settled, 20-year old Lucas Fitzpatrick is the main man.  Fitzpatrick in one of six goalies to work the crease at one point this season and the eventual stability has been a welcomed one.  Fitzpatrick has had a solid season starting in 41 games, a career-high. At six feet two and almost 200 pounds, Fitzpatrick stands tall and Baie-Comeau will need him to go on lockdown in the final few weeks to make that final push to the playoffs.

 

(Lucas Fitzpatrick, courtesy of Le Manic)

 

With a strong cohort out the door after last season, the Drakkar have taken a step back, but have the pieces to return to fine form as early as next season. 

 

 

2020 Draft Class

 

In one of our final installments looking at draft prospects, here are a few more 2020 first-year draft-eligible players to pencil down in your notes.

 

Simon Pinard

 

Ranked third among the Armada in scoring, Simon Pinard is a big contributor to the Blainville-Boisbriand attack.  At 27 goals this season, Pinard has shown he can be a reliable scoring option on the wing and his point totals have jumped from 28 to 45 since last year.  Combine that with a decent two-way game and you have a promising player in the making. While he has a scoring touch, he helps his cause by getting in on the forecheck and getting into scoring positions.  Looking forward, Pinard looks to be a dependable depth winger.

 

(Simon Pinard, courtesy of RDS)

 

Remi Poirier

 

At six foot two and 220 pounds, Remi Poirier is a towering figure in the net of the Gatineau Olympiques.  Earning Player of the Week honours in early January, Poirier is tied for the league lead in shutouts with four.  All the more impressive is that he is playing on a bottom tiered team that gives up a lot of shots. Technically, Poirier moves well laterally and does not overplay the shooter.  He plays his angles well and tracks the puck well through traffic. He has also shown to be very durable having played in 43 games thus far. Given the team infront of him, Poirier has a very promising trajectory and a healthy upside for the next level.

 

(Remi Poirier, courtesy of Le Droit)

 

Adam Raska

 

We introduced Raska earlier in the new year with his appearance on the Czech team at the World Juniors.  He had a strong showing at the tournament and he displayed his quickness and high octane playing style. Raska is a great energy type player and loves to make the big hit.  His ability to track players and anticipate the play speaks to his superior skating and awareness on the ice. With 13 goals and 21 points in 34 games, Raska has also shown he can chip in offensively on a deep Rimouski squad.  As he takes another step to refine his play for the North American game, Raska appears poised to develop into a great middle-six forward.

 

 

{source}<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/2020NHLdraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#2020NHLdraft</a> prospect Adam Raska with a big hit on Berggren. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldJuniors?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WorldJuniors</a> <a href=”https://t.co/jb9RFJzIbH”>pic.twitter.com/jb9RFJzIbH</a></p>&mdash; Czech Prospects (@CZprospects) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CZprospects/status/1212815759623229446?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 2, 2020</a></blockquote>{/source}

 

 

****************************

 

Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next month when we weigh in on our last team rundowns with a tripleheader that includes the Saint John Sea Dogs, Quebec Ramparts and Gatineau Olympiques.  We will also look at the QMJHL playoff bracket and share some playoff predictions

 

Nicholas Kawka – Nashville Predators and the QMJHL writer –  @KawkaPuck

 

 

 

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