What’s up in the Q?
Over a week has passed in the QMJHL’s 2018-19 season. As the NHL’s camps are about over, the picture will become clearer as we move towards the 15-game mark as to who will be the hungriest teams to make a push and who will try to sell in order to be competitive in a few years. But this picture isn’t too foggy as of now and we can already have a good idea of the top-five contenders for this year’s President Cup trophy.
Here’s an overall look of those teams to watch during the 2018-19 season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League:
The Rimouski Oceanic will be among the strongest teams in Quebec this year. 2020 NHL draft’s projected number one pick, Alexis Lafrenière will be the player to watch in the next two seasons and with seven more goals before October 11th, Lafrenière could become only the third QMJHL player to score 50 goals before his 17th birthday. It would then join a rather elite group alongside Pierre Turgeon (52) and other former-Oceanic, Sidney Crosby (54).
On the Northern shore of the Saint-Laurence River, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, could become a great amount of challenge for their Eastern Quebec rivals Rimouski. The Drakkar was unbeaten in their first five games (4-0-1) and San Jose’s seventh round pick in 2017 (212th), Ivan Chekhovich has been taking care of business early in the season with 11 points (4g-7a). Selected in the second round (59th) by the Lightning in 2018, Gabriel Fortier will also lead the Drakkar’s offense. Some fine tnning seem to be needed defensively but there’s lots of time for Baie-Comeau’s general manager Steve Ahern to make those adjustments if indeed it was needed.
The Drummondville Voltigeurs received half of a terrible news as it was announced on October 1st that their elite scorer, Maxime Comtois would be playing with the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL’s season debut. The impact would, of course, be even tougher if Anaheim keeps Comtois passed 9 NHL games played. Other top performers in Drummondville include forward Joe Veleno, defenseman Nicolas Beaudin and goaltender Olivier Rodrigue. Although very heavy, the potential loss of Comtois shouldn’t discourage the Voltigeurs from going for it this year.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will count on an almost-identical team as in 2017-18 this year and there is no reason to doubt that they have what it takes to be playing for the Q’s big prize until the very end of the playoffs. There are not many NHL draftees on this team (2), but its experience and depth definitely makes it a strong contender. They also have what many see as the league’s top goaltending duo in Samuel Harvey and Zachary Emond. As a matter of fact, Harvey did very well as an invitee for the Montreal Canadiens in their August clash against Toronto and Ottawa’s rookies.
Host of the 2019 Memorial Cup, the Halifax Moosheads are already assured to be part of the CHL’s spring dance. But no one would be in shock if the Nova-Scotia-based team made it to the QMJHL’s finals and enter the Memorial Cup from the front door. Their offense is absolutely dynamite with players such as Antoine Morand (NYI), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (ANA) and Raphael Lavoie (2019), who could easily go in the first round of the 2019’s NHL draft. Defensively, Jared McIsaac (DET), Jake Ryczek (CHI) and Jocktan Chainey (NJ) should serve as great leaders to one of the 2020’s NHL top prospects, Justin Barron, as he tries to develop into a top defenseman in both ends of the ice. And don’t even think that the Mooseheads will sit and leave it as is. They should become more and more active buyers as we approach the trade deadline.
Key players will probably find new homes during this season. Among notables are Acadie-Bathurst’s Noah Dobson (NYI), Victoriaville’s Vitaly Abramov (CBJ) and Charlottetown’s Pierre-Olivier Joseph (ARI). They should all be traded to anyone of the talent-hungry contenders in order to fill their actual teams’ draft pick pools.
For future analysis from the QMHJL as well as the Montreal Canadiens’ prospects, follow me on tweeter @SinclairCarl
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