May 05, 2011
Saint John Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau has every reason to welcome drawing a tough Gatineau team in the QMJHL championship series, which begins tonight in New Brunswick. Huberdeau has overtaken Sean Couturier as the Quebec league's top prospect and could go as high as No. 2 overall, depending on whom you are asking. But has some context been missed with Huberdeau's surge and Couturier's supposed plateauing?
Tom Stivali at the New Jersey Devils-dedicated In Lou We Trust has a provocative post sorting out the two stars' stats against each QMJHL team, which has been sorted into tiers according to quality. Guess who (small sample size alert level: orange) did better? Not the Sea Dog who has played nearly a quarter of his games, regular and post-season, against Cape Breton and Halifax. As Stivali found:
While it was only 14 games vs. 9 games, Couturier played better against the top competition. Averaging 1.86 points per game vs. 1.11 for Huberdeau, Couturier played better than his normal season point averages and against better teams. The fact that Couturier was a +13 against top competition and Huberdeau was only +2 shows that Couturier was not only scoring himself but making sure the other team didn't score. (In Lou We Trust)
Counting the first round of the playoffs, Huberdeau had 46 points in the 20 games he played against those mediocre Mooseheads and scuffling Screaming Eagles. That isn't to discredit his credentials, but it is something to consider as we play the great guessing game of trying to pinpoint when each will hear his name called at the NHL draft on June 24. That being said, Huberdeau has been Mr. Reliable throughout the post-season (25 points in 13 games), albeit while Saint John was dispatching 11th-seeded Victoriavilla and eighth-seeded Lewiston in the second and third rounds.
Two rounds ago, Couturier had three goals and no assists in the second round when his Drummondville Voltigeurs were bounced in six games by Gatineau, a rival in the QMJHL's most competitive division, the West. Huberdeau now gets four games at least against that same close-checking opponent, plus a potential MasterCard Memorial Cup trip, to provide more proof of how he produces in higher-leverage situations. Meantime, as it's been said previously, Couturier being more of a true centre whereas Huberdeau has become a playmaking winger (Zack Phillips takes far more faceoffs for Saint John), is also a factor in their imagined competition.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).