A son of a former NHLer being picked first overall, the trade of the Memorial Cup-winning goal scorer, and the first round selection of an NCAA-commit rounded up the Saturday storylines in the early rounds of the QMJHL Entry Draft.
Set to begin play in their inaugural season this fall, the Sherbrooke Phoenix selected Daniel Audette with their first overall selection, the son of former Montreal Canadien Donald. Daniel, who has both Canadian and American citizenship, elected last month to continue his burgeoning hockey career in Québec, turning down an invite to join the USA national development team.
Audette, a 5'7", 166 lb Buffalo, New York, native, was described as the most talented player in the draft. He can score from in tight and it makes him a formidable weapon on the powerplay, as evidenced in this short clip wherein Audette is scoring a goal:
He was the easy number one choice, going from the Phénix to the Phoenix, scoring 60 points and 25 goals in 39 games with the Esther-Blondin Phénix of the Québec AAA midget league last season. He also played for Québec's team for the U-17s, but registered just a single assist in five games.
-Rounding out the top three, two more forwards were taken. The PEI Rocket used the second selection to take hulking forward Alexis Pepin from Charles-Lemoyne. Pepin is listed at 6'2" 196 lbs as a 16-year old. The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles took a kid closer to home, St-John's Penneconn's Clark Bishop out of the Newfoundland AAA system.
With picks four and five, Gatineau and Baie-Comeau took defencemen Alexandre Carrier and Loik Leveille, respectively, both big defencemen out of the Québec AAA program.
-Baie-Comeau had two more first round selections. Whatever is in the drinking fountains at Collège Charles-Lemoyne, it certainly makes for big hockey players. With the 13th overall pick originally from Halifax, the Drakkar selected Pepin's teammate Alexis Vanier who was the biggest player take in the first round at 6'4" 200 lbs. The Drakkar also took a forward with one of their picks: they took Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau from Antoine-Girard, a team that produced four first round picks.
-The NCAA's presence didn't prevent Halifax and Rimouski from selecting Jack Eichel and Anthony DeLuca respectively with the 15th and 22nd overall selections. Eichel is a top-tier talent who has signed on to play at Boston University, while DeLuca is headed to the University of Vermont.
Mooseheads General Manager Cam Russell appears confident that Eichel will report to Halifax. Via Willy Palov:
"I think if he was (ranked) in the draft he'd be the best player in the draft. We watched him play all season and we talked to him and the family and we feel confident we can convince him to come and play for the Halifax Mooseheads. If we can get him here, he'd be another very, very exciting player to watch."
Although Eichel is just 16 years old, Russell feels he will make an impact if he reports.
"We had the same questions about (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Jonathan) Drouin last year but you see the success those players had," Russell said."This player, without making comparisons, he's on that level. He's a premier 16-year-old player. Our feeling is he'd have an immediate impact." [Chronicle Herald]
It's a definite high risk-high reward play that will give the Mooseheads a top talent if he decides to report to Halifax.
-With the trading window having opened there were two notable deals made on the floor as well. Coming off a strong Memorial Cup in which he scored the tournament-winning goal in overtime, hero Anton Zlobin was traded from Shawinigan to Val D'Or in exchange for '94-born Yan Dumontier and three picks including one in the import draft.
'92-born Brandon Hynes, set to be an overager next season, was also on the trade block, exchanged earlier in the day to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Hynes scored 42 goals in 61 games last year for Victoriaville, who had previously shipped off goaltender David Honzik to Cape Breton earlier in the trade period.