Well, folks, the 2020 QMJHL Draft is in the books. So, the winners were who? The Val-D’Or Foreurs for sure, but in a different way. They kicked off with a pre-draft trade, swooping in on gun winger Jakob Pelletier via trade with the Moncton Wildcats (who proved to be even more active as the draft went on).
Val-D’Or needed an injection of stardom, some individual brilliance as such. Pelletier has that in droves, and for the price of two firsts, two seconds, a fifth-rounder and promising prospect Mathis Cloutier, will be worth more than his slightish weight in gold.
Who Bought Home the Choccies
Overall, in terms of players selected in the draft itself (what you actually came here to read about), the Gatineau Olympiques had a stellar draft and made the most of its picks, including its first-ever first-overall pick. They really had a no-brainer here, selecting one of the most promising and polished defensive prospects the league has seen in a long time, Tristan Luneau.
The 6-foot-1, 172-pound blueliner out of Trois-Rivières is a smooth, efficient skater who has elite hockey senses over 200 feet. He can turn it on offensively when need be and has a great release and poise on the attack. Luneau projects as a first-pairing guy at the NHL level and has a stylistic mix that is similar to Adam Fox and Drew Doughty.
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Credentialed hockey writer, scout and analyst Steven Ellis also has high praise for Luneau, saying “You won’t find many players with the confidence to rush the puck through pressure like Luneau.” Luneau did have a commitment to Wisconsin of the NCAA, but has fully committed to playing with Gatineau, waiving his NCAA status as soon as he steps onto the ice in a game situation.
Gatineau wasn’t finished there; they used the very next pick to take the best forward available, Saint-Eustache’s dynamic winger Antonin Verreault. Smaller in stature doesn’t matter. He’s a strong skater who thrives on transition skating, and is both a poised distributor and shooter when in possession. A former youth Olympian, Verreault has always carried a good pedigree with him at any level he has played at.
Olympique, All Over Them
Also holding the fourth pick, the Olympiques didn’t mess around in selecting Samuel Savoie, the high-energy, fleet of foot centre out of Moncton in the NB/PEI major midget league. The highest-ranked Atlantic skater, Savoie blends high-end skills, technical skating and a workmanlike attitude; he’s a coach’s dream some would say. Gatineau later traded up to the 8th pick from pick 13, which was acquired by Moncton in the trade involving Pelletier. They went and drafted big Noah Warren out of the College of Charles-Lemoyne.
A 6-foot-4 specimen, Warren is much more than just a big body. He’s a good skater with a deceptively quick but clean stride who closes gaps well and uses his length to his advantage. Smart in all three-zones, Warren looks to be a solid, safe pick with a high floor. He may seem a bit of a reach at eight, but players of his size, skill and ultimate upside don’t come along much, if at all.
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Enough about Gatineau. The Saint John Seadogs sat at third and selected Halifax native Leighton Carruthers. The powerful centre plays a hard-nosed game and brings good puck skills and a nasty shot with him to the Sea Dogs. It surprised me to see him reached on here, but I can see why. He brings an element that Saint John just doesn’t have amongst its most talented forwards. Carruthers was my 10th-ranked prospect.
Best of the Rest
Now, let’s run through some other picks that caught my eye. The Shawinigan Cataractes took the consensus number-two defenseman at pick nine, Michael Mastrodomenico. My second-ranked skater, he slipped due to the fact he has shown a sniff towards playing in the NCAA. If Shawinigan can get the Laval midget star to commit and play, that’s a huge gain for both the Cats and the QMJHL. He plays a strong offensive game, often buzzing around in transition and jumping into the play with regularity and ease. Poised on the puck and composed over three zones, he’s got all the tools to be your key offensive defenseman who will compete at a high level shift-by-shift and not be Swiss cheese in his own end.
The Drummondville Voltigeurs made out like bandits, collecting the biggest fallers in the draft, and may I say, how were they even allowed to. Luke Woodworth (my fourth-ranked eligible) managed to slip to 11, where Drummondville quickly called his name. He is the most complete centre in the crop and only his size saw him fall — he’s 5-foot-5, tiiiiiny. The Nova-native is creative, quick on his skates, plays a great north/south style and has a deft touch on the puck. Sure, his size isn’t ideal, but if you’re patient, feed him up on some prime rib and protein shakes, you’ve got one heck of a player when he physically matures.
The Volts also had Justin Cõté fall into their lap with the first pick in round two, the steal of the draft. Again, he’s a player on the smaller side who fell because of it. He was seventh on my board, despite his size. He can play any position on a line, slices through defences with ease, finishes really well from just about anywhere and is a puck hound over 200 feet. He’s very much in the mould of current Voltigeur Xavier Simoneau. They have the blueprint there with his development. They just need to apply it to Côtè and they’ll have themselves a player, friends.
Here is how the entire first round looked:
1. Gatineau – D Tristan Luneau
2. Gatineau – LW Antonin Verreault
3. Saint John – C Leighton Carruthers
4. Gatineau – C Samuel Savoie
5. Quebec – D Evan Nause
6. Val-d’Or – G Vincent Fillion
7. Victoriaville – D Pier-Olivier Roy
8. Gatineau – D Noah Warren
9. Shawinigan – D Michael Mastrodomenico
10. Blainville-Boisbriand – C Jonathan Fauchon
11. Drummondville – C Luke Woodworth
12. Drummondville – D Maveric Lamoureux
13. Moncton – C Yoan Loshing
14. Halifax – C Marcus Vidicek
15. Saint John – D Nathan Drapeau
16. Acadie-Bathurst – D Lane Hinkley
17. Cape Breton – G Nicolas Ruccia
18. Halifax – RW Jordan Dumais
19. Victoriaville – LW Nathan Morin
20. Rouyn-Noranda – D Dyllan Gill
Whilst I feel there is some good talent here, it doesn’t seem yet that this draft is as deep as previous ones of late, but its top-end guys are absolute gold. Luneau is as special as any young defender I’ve seen in several seasons at the same age. Verreault, Savoie and Mastrodomenico are names you should all remember, as you’ll be getting to see and know these guys sooner than later, on a screen or rink near you.
To find the results of the other rounds, plus go through a host of former drafts, you can simply click here.