Photo Courtesy of the New Jersey Devils Twitter
Although it is a new year we are still faced with the same challenges due to the pandemic. Hopefully, these challenges begin to disappear soon with COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more readily available. Unfortunately, until this happens the QMJHL will still be faced with hurdles to jump over to complete this season.
Both the WHL and the OHL have recently announced the delaying of their previously projected season’s start date due to province-wide shutdowns announced in Ontario and other regional restrictions. It is tough to see how many players are being affected by these restrictions and shutdowns heading into their draft-eligible year and how it will affect their future careers in sports.
The league has announced that they will extend their pause until January 22nd, 2021 instead of the originally scheduled date of January 3rd, 2021. This means all games scheduled up to the 22nd will be postponed as a result. Along with this announcement the league has also released that Chicoutimi, Drummondville, Rimouski, and Shawinigan will be hosts to two teams to play two games in three days from January 22nd to 24th.
These four teams will also host teams for games as part of the Protected Environment event that will take place between January 29th and February 6th. In this scenario, each of the four host arenas will host games each day in the hope of playing twelve games in a nine-game span which equates to six games per team.
These Protective Environment events should help limit the exposure to the virus and create a safer playing environment for the players. Unfortunately, the aforementioned scenarios will only include Quebec-based teams to participate due to Public Health Restrictions. While plans are in place for the Quebec-based teams the league still has work to do regarding the Maritimes-based teams and will have to comply with regional Health Officials in order to find a solution and get them back on the ice.
QMJHL Players at the World Juniors
With Junior hockey virtually at a standstill for the time being the good news is the 2021 World Junior Championship is underway! There are several players from the QMJHL that have been selected to represent their country at this event and with the stoppage to the QMJHL season will dive into some of these players and their roles on their respective teams.
Dawson Mercer (C) – Chicoutimi Saugeneens
The forward has been much better this time around for Team Canada than he was during last year’s World Junior Tournament where he went pointless through seven games played. This year Mercer finds himself in a bottom-six role on this stacked Canada lineup and has been the 13th forward for most of the games. He has flourished thus far with five points in his first two games and has been used largely on the penalty kill, with a shorthanded goal to show for it.
Jakob Pelletier (LW) – Val d’Or Foreurs
The Foreurs captain has been shuffled up and down the lineup thanks to injuries to Kirby Dach and Dylan Holloway. He has seen time in both a top-six and bottom-six role for Canada through the first two games as the coaches work to find the right fit with their forward group. He has a tonne of offensive ability with 13 points in nine games in the QMJHL this season to go along with a goal through the first two games of the World Junior Championships.
Jordan Spence (D) – Moncton Wildcats
The smooth-skating blueliner was thrust into Canada’s lineup for their second tournament game against Slovakia due to the suspension of defenseman Braden Schneider. After being scratched in their opener against Germany he took full advantage of the opportunity potting the games opening goal. Whether or not he sticks in the team’s starting lineup Spence is still a very skilled defenseman who will continue to put up points for Moncton once the QMJHL season returns.
Justin Barron (D) – Halifax Mooseheads
The Colorado Avalanche prospect is putting to rest any concerns people may have had about his health. He has been paired with Kaiden Guhle since the start of the tournament in what has been a reliable defense pair for the Canadian’s. While Barron does have some offensive upside of his own his stay-at-home and defensive-minded play have made him the perfect complement to a more offensive Guhle. He is heavily leaned on in shorthanded situations because of his defensive responsibility and chipped in two assists in his first two games played.
Noah Patenaude (G) – Saint John Sea Dogs
The starting goaltender for the Saint John Sea Dogs has not started in Switzerland’s first two games. The Swiss have gone with Thibault Fatton between the pipes and Patenaude has served as the backup. He is unlikely to get any playing time in the tournament as long as Fatton is healthy. He has a 4-3-3 record as the starter with Saint John to go along with a 3.62 GAA and a .899 save-percentage this season.
Oleksiy Myklukha (C) – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
The Huskies forward played the first game for Slovakia on the team’s second line but failed to register a point. He was scratched from the lineup for the team’s second game against Canada and returned to the lineup on the third line against Germany. Myklukha is still acclimating himself to the North American style game after coming to the QMJHL late last year. He has offensive promise but will need to get stronger to be able to endure the up and downs of a full season.
Matej Kaslik (LW) – Chicoutimi Saugeneens
The 18-year-old forward has been shuffled up and down the lineup for Team Slovakia so far this tournament. He has appeared in the team’s top-six in two of their first three games. Without much offensive ability on this team, it may be tough to see what some of these forwards have to offer. He will be looking to get the call to begin his QMJHL career this season after playing primarily in Sweden for the Malmo Redhawks Junior Team.
Samuel Hlavaj (G) – Sherbrooke Phoenix
This is Hlavaj’s third stint with Slovakia at the World Junior Tournament. He started the team’s second game against a strong Canada side where he only allowed two goals on 23 shots earning him the player of the game honors for his team. He was unreal for Sherbrooke last season with an astounding 33-3-2 record with a 2.25 GAA and .915 save-percentage. He is yet to start a game this season for Sherbrooke and with their team still winless it may be time to put him back between the pipes.
Mikhail Abramov (C) – Victoriaville Tigers
The Tigers’ captain is in his third season in the QMJHL and has continued to improve each year. He has yet to see any action for Russia through their first two games, which is unfortunate because he was off to a great start to the season in the QMJHL. He tallied 14 points in Victoriaville’s first nine games and has been a driver of the Tigers’ offense. Despite the shortened 60 game season this year Abramov is still on pace to surpass his previous career highs this season.
Stay tuned for the second installment of the QMJHL report for 2021 where we will wrap up with the “QMJHL at the World Juniors” section of the report, and see how these players faired through the remainder of the tournament. Assuming all goes well for the QMJHL’s plan to resume play, we should be able to return to watching some QMJHL hockey and potential young stars develop before our very eyes. Happy (belated) New Year and let’s hope 2021 is a drastic improvement from a tough and strenuous 2020.
Julian Mongillo – Los Angeles Kings and QMJHL writer.
Follow me on Twitter: @JulianMongillo