5 QMJHL Draft-Eligible Players Who are Thriving this Season

There is no denying the fact that the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has had a rough time since starting up in October. There have been multiple teams that have been shut down and teams able to continue playing like there is nothing wrong.

With that being said, there have also been many instances where players have showed their immense talent. Many 2021 NHL Draft eligibles have shown the hockey world that they are right in the fold of top players in this class and can make an impact on their teams on a nightly basis. Here are five players who have thrived during their QMJHL season thus far.

Zachary L’Heureux

In my opinion, one of the top talents coming out of the QMJHL this season, L’Heureux has had a great start to his season thus far. Playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, he has scored six goals and added six assists for 12 points in 11 games.

What has impressed me the most about L’Heureux’s game is how versatile he is on the ice. He loves to keep the puck to the outside of the offensive zone and is great at creating time and space. Currently averaging 21 passes per game, L’Heureux is great at finding passing lanes and can set up his teammates with ease. L’Heureux is also not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the game. He battles hard for position in front of the net and is often rewarded with an easy tap-in.

Zachary L'Heureux Moncton Wildcats
Zachary L’Heureux on the Moncton Wildcats before he was traded to the Halifax Mooseheads. (Daniel St-Louis)

L’Heureux is also no slouch in the defensive zone either. Although he may not be the biggest player at 5-foot-11, he is more than willing to engage in a physical battle in the corners for the puck. He has great lower body strength and is hard to knock off the puck when he wins it back. His versatility has also gained the trust of his coaches. L’Heureux is a relentless puck pursuer who averages 1:35 of shorthanded ice time a night. He plays with an active stick and is always disrupting passing lanes which adds even more value to his game.

L’Heureux has been thrust into the spotlight in Halifax this season and has shined. Considered a first-round pick by many, he has shown scouts how good he can be and will continue to rise if he continues to play at the level he has thus far. The future is bright for L’Heureux and I’m excited to see what he can do from here on out.

Xavier Bourgault

Bourgault is another player who has garnered a lot of attention thus far. Currently playing for the Shawinigan Cataractes and coming off a 71 point outburst last season, he has accumulated three goals and two assists for five points in five games.

What impresses me the most about Bourgault is his ability to score from anywhere on the ice. With the puck on his stick, he is able to use his pro-ready shot to unleash a bomb on the goalie. His shot is very accurate and he is great at placing it where he wants to. Bourgault is also very good at carrying the puck up the ice. Using his skating ability, he is able to gain speed through the neutral zone and drive around defenders as he enters the offensive zone.

Xavier Bourgault Shawinigan Cataractes
Xavier Bourgault of the Shawinigan Cataractes (Jean Levasseur)

Bourgault also makes his presence felt in the defensive zone as well. Currently averaging 4.3 takeaways a game, he plays with an active stick and is great at being able to keep his opponent to the outside. He reads passing lanes well and can quickly transition the puck up the ice when he intercepts a pass.

Bourgault has been heavily trusted by his coaches so far this season, averaging 20:48 of ice time a game. He makes smart decisions when he is on the ice and he has been one of my favorite players to watch in the QMJHL this season. If he continues to play his game and do the little things right, I don’t see a reason why he wouldn’t rise on numerous scouts’ lists.

James Malatesta

Malatesta is another player who has caught my eye over the past few months. Currently playing for the Quebec Remparts, he accumulated one goal and one assist for two points in four games. As many know, the Remparts were one of the teams who had to shut down due to the restrictions put in place by the province of Quebec so it has been hard to watch him as much as I have the other players on this list.

What has impressed me the most about Malatesta in his brief playing time this season is the fact that his motor never stops. He is able to use his elite skating ability to drive the net with speed and create a dangerous scoring chance. If the puck transitions the other way, he is more than able to get back and is consistently able to read and disrupt the play, averaging three takeaways a game.

James Malatesta Quebec Remparts
James Malatesta of the Quebec Remparts (Jonathan Roy)

Malatesta’s offensive instincts are another strong part of his game. He is able to create time and space for his teammates and finds them even with defenders draped on his back. He also always seems to be able to find the open spots in the offensive zone and makes opponents pay for leaving him open. He is not afraid to go to the tough areas of the game and will push back against bigger opponents if they try and get under his skin. It will be interesting to see how he progresses as the season goes on but he has the chance to make some serious noise.

Joshua Roy

Someone who was lower on my list at the start of the year, Roy has really impressed me so far this season. Playing with the Saint John Sea Dogs, he has scored nine goals and added eight assists for 17 points in 15 games.

What has impressed me the most about Roy’s game is his offensive awareness with the puck on his stick. He is really good at using his skating ability to open up passing lanes and shields the puck really well when driving the net. Roy has no trouble finding a teammate in the slot and often makes plays that others wouldn’t even dare to try. Pair that with a hard, accurate shot that he is able to get off even with defenders swarming him and it easy to see why Roy makes his impact felt on the offensive side of the puck.

Saint John Sea Dogs Joshua Roy
Joshua Roy of the Saint John Sea Dogs (Dan Culberson/Saint John Sea Dogs)

While Roy needs to work on his defensive positioning and physical game, he has excellent tools to be able to make an impact in the NHL one day. His coaches trust him (he is currently averaging 17:47 of ice time a game) to make big plays when needed and he has proven time and time again that he can make big plays. I am the first to admit that I was not as high on him as were others at the start of the season but as I continue to watch him, he continues to impress.

Justin Robidas

A player who wasn’t really high on my list either before the start of the season, Robidas has been making a name for himself. Currently playing for the Val D’Or Foreurs, he has accumulated four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 11 games this season.

What impressed me the most about Robidas is the fact that he does every little thing right. Whether that be winning crucial face-offs (he has won 58% of his draws this season) or chasing down the puck on the forecheck, Robidas makes his impact felt whenever he steps foot on the ice. Robidas is not afraid to go to the front of the net to battle for positioning. He makes heads-up plays with the puck on his stick and is always looking for an open guy.

Blessed with amazing speed, Robidas is great at picking up speed through the neutral zone and driving wide on the defenders to create a dangerous scoring chance. That speed also helps him when the puck transitions the other way as he is able to get back and help out his defenders as well. In the future, I see Robidas having a long successful career in the NHL. His ability to be reliable at both ends of the ice is going to make the team that drafts him very happy. I’m excited to watch him as the season progresses and I expect him to continue to rise up scouts’ lists as time goes on.

Bright Futures

Over the course of the season, I will definitely be keeping a close eye on these players. Although some may have more points than others, that is not the only way to judge a player’s talent. All of these guys make their impact felt on a nightly basis and I envision nothing but great things for them as the draft very slowly continues to inch closer.

All stats were provided by InStat Hockey.

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