It’s silly season in the QMJHL, the time where all the trade wink-wink nudge-nudges get confirmed and some new prospects are added to the coffers of Q teams everywhere.
The 2014 QMJHL Draft will be held Saturday in Sherbrooke, Qc., and it is always a wild affair filled with rumours and trades. The third and final – or first, depending on how you look at it – trading period of the season opens Friday and closes Saturday after the draft, so most teams jockey to change their looks and get the prospects they want, all while giving their teams a facelift.
Several deals have been reported already and have yet to be “officially” printed by the league, and some deals remain a rumour, to be announced Friday.
Speaking of rumours, the Saint John Sea Dogs are widely believed to take Newbridge Academy blueliner Luke Green first overall on Saturday. Green projects to be a smart offensive defenceman, and likely the best skater out of the Maritimes in this draft. He can be the fourth forward setting up the play in his own zone and carrying the puck in, or as a trailer. He can do everything at high speed, but his defensive game could use some work. If the Sea Dogs take Green, pairing him up with a defensive partner would be a must, but it could pay massive dividends. QMJHL Central Scouting has Green at five. He had 37 points in 34 games this past season, and added 18 points in 16 games in the playoffs.
It's sounding more and more like the Saint John Sea Dogs will take D Luke Green first overall in next weekend's QMJHL draft.
— Willy Palov (@CH_WillyPalov) May 20, 2014
It’s no surprise that the Sea Dogs would be eyeing a defender. Their three previous first overall picks were Simon Despres, Yann Sauve and Alex Grant – three blueliners.
The top ranked player according to HockeyProspect.com is another defenceman, Chad Rhys, from Connecticut. He goes unranked in QMJHL’s Central Scouting lists as they list American players separately and leave them unranked.
Krys is listed as a “can’t miss” prospect by HockeyProspect and has elite hockey sense and poise with the puck. He is an offensive blueliner, but he is so in control offensively that the defensive game isn’t a worry. Krys had 30 points in 22 games for the New Jersey Rockets Under-19s last season.
The biggest worry with Krys is that Boston University runs in the family. His dad played at BU, and he is slated to go USA Hockey’s NTDP-17 team in Michigan next season. Don’t be surprised if a have team like the Moncton Wildcats, who love their American players, or the Quebec Remparts make a play for Krys at the draft. He could be the best impact player available.
The Q’s Central Scouting puts three Quebec players at the top of the list: Pascal Laberge, Samuel Girard and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Laberge is the top ranked forward, can play both right wing and center, and was a standout for the Chateauguay Grenadiers who lost the heartbreaker in the Telus Cup Final to Prince Albert. He’s a great skater and has a great shot with a killer release. He can beat you in many different ways: in front of the net, on the perimeter, or coming down the wing. His consistency, like most young players, is his biggest issue, but when he’s on, he’s deadly. He had 43 points in 40 games for Chateauguay this season, and another 24 in the playoffs, but he was only good for three points in seven Telus Cup games.
One of Girard’s biggest issues is his size, listed at 5’9” and 156, but he can overcome it with his fluid skating and his anticipation. He can quarterback a powerplay with ease and finds the lanes because his head is up and looking all the time. He isn’t a punishing hitter, but he can pick his spots well and use his smarts to retrieve the puck. CSR has him at number two. He played with Jonquiere this season, putting up 36 points in 42 games from the back end.
Dubois has some clout at the Q level already: he is the son of Rimouski head coach Eric Dubois. His best asset is his speed, and his ability to control the puck while maintaining that speed. He is deadly on the powerplay where he can use the open ice effectively and can pile the points. That is irrelevant, though, when he gets aggressive, as he’s prone to undisciplined penalties. Dubois played at College Notre-Dame this past season, putting up 38 points in 40 games, along with 92 PIMs, but went scoreless in three games in the post-season.
The top netminder in the draft is Evan Fitzpatrick, Green’s teammate from Newbridge and ranked fourth overall. Fitzpatrick is a tall and athletic goalie, who stays fluid and doesn’t waste movement. He is a conservative goaltender who plays a pure butterfly style. He relies heavily on speed and reflexes to make saves, but has consistent movement and fundamentals. His biggest issue is that while he can stay calm and collected, he can get distracted in the net and needs to stay on task. He is head and shoulders the best netminder available, according to HockeyProspect.
While Green might be at the top of the Sea Dogs list – new GM Darrell Young said that his staff like up to three different players at no. 1, and they may not decide until the weekend who they pick – there is no direct consensus as to who goes where. Do you go with Green, the athletic defender? Do you go with the American wild card in Krys? Do you go with the goalie in Fitzpatrick, who some believe has franchise potential? Do you go with Laberge or Girard out of Quebec? There is no consensus first overall pick or even a consensus top-5.
Rounding out the top ten from CSR is Michael O’Leary at six, Jordan Maher at seven, Michael Campoli at eight, Guillaume Beck at nine and Miguel Picard at 10. HockeyProspect has Krys first, Girard second, Laberge third, Maher fourth, Green fifth, Campoli sixth, Mitchell Balmas seventh, Fitzpatrick eighth, Keith Getson ninth an Beck tenth. HP has Dubois twelfth.
The Charlottetown Islanders stand to make the most action in the first round, as they have three first round picks at 12th, 15th and 16th overall. Cape Breton, Acadie-Bathurst, Gatineau, Victoriaville and Rouyn-Noranda all have two. Look for some of those teams to buy their way up the draft and pick their player.
A team like Cape Breton, with a bunch of young players already in the fold, might make a big move to get an impact player and boost their rebuild. They sit at 5th and 19th.
Gatineau would be the team in the best position to improve themselves going into the draft, as they sit at 4th and 7th. This draft has a varying opinion on the top 4, and even the top ten, so the Olympiques are set to acquire two good players.
Victoriaville is in a great position to upgrade picks, as they sit 8th and 9th overall. Rouyn-Noranda is at 10th and 11th. Both those teams could package their picks up and go north.