The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be a return to normalcy for NHL Scouts. They have spent the majority of the season going to games to watch this crop of prospects display their skills and development in person. The draft will also be the first in-person draft since 2019 (held in Vancouver) and will be hosted by Montreal.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has seen a decline in players selected in the first round, going from five in 2020 to four in 2021. With a return to a normal, non-pandemic adjusted season, the QMJHL is looking to take center stage in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) by hosting the 2022 Memorial Cup in Saint-John, New Brunswick.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
This tournament, along with a strong showing in the playoffs by draft-eligible players, will provide the visibility needed for prospects to earn a more prominent position on NHL draft rankings. With that in mind, I’ve managed to put together who I believe are the top ten QMJHL prospects heading into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
10. Oleksii Myklukha, C, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
This will be a little off the board for some scouts; however, his importance to Blainville-Boisbriand in all situations, which led directly to a playoff berth, cannot be overlooked. The Polish-born Slovakian and Ukrainian national has chosen to play internationally for Slovakia in one of the strongest under-20 national programs that Slovakia has iced in many years. Also, his game translates very well to North American professional leagues, making him a safe pick.
Myklukha is a reliable two-way center with a non-stop drive. He demonstrates good speed, using crossovers to generate speed but also uses them to ensure he has full mobility and control. He uses this and his work ethic to his advantage on the forecheck, winning the majority of his one-on-one battles. He is just as adept at going to the net consistently, using tips and screens to generate goals. He is also strong in the faceoff circle, becoming the most trusted center by the coaching staff to take key draws.
Defensively, he can make good reads and anticipate plays, allowing his positioning and stickwork to create turnovers, which helps him generate plays in transition. At 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, the right-handed center will need to add strength and consistency to his toolbox before he can take the next step in his development.
9. Antonin Verreault, LW, Gatineau Olympiques
Central Scouting Ranking: 140th (among NA skaters)
At 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds, Antonin Verreault is yet another small-statured offensive forward coming out of the QMJHL. In his rookie season, he wowed his coaches and opponents, scoring at a nearly point-per-game pace and earning the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the QMJHL offensive rookie of the year.
There is a place in the NHL for small-statured forwards if they can learn how to effectively defend. Verreault plays a prototypical small player game, playing at a high pace and speeding in and out of high danger areas making plays. His high hockey IQ and vision are qualities he will need to rely on at the next level. Whichever team selects him at the draft will be hoping he reaches his top potential of becoming a third-line winger who can be a power-play weapon.
8. Jake Furlong, D, Halifax Mooseheads
Central Scouting: 68th (among NA skaters)
Jake Furlong is the third Halifax Mooseheads player on this list, which demonstrates the excellent work done by general manager Cam Russell and his staff in the 2020 QMJHL Draft. The development curve for the Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia native, has been consistent since he entered the league as a rookie last season.
“The most noticeable aspect of Furlong’s game is his high hockey IQ. He may not produce enough points to consider him a potential star, but his ability to sense backpressure, step up in the neutral zone for interceptions, and handle the puck under pressure without turning it over indicates Furlong is clearly thinking and playing at the same time.” – Danny McGillicuddy, The Draft Analyst
From the very start of his QMJHL career, he prioritized his defensive game. As he improved, he was given more responsibilities in all situations and is now a minute munching top-pairing defender for Halifax. If he continues his strong and consistent two-way play, Furlong could be a draft climber.
7. Noah Warren, D, Gatineau Olympiques
Central Scouting: 33rd (among NA Skaters)
Noah Warren is another in a line of physically imposing prospects from the QMJHL. The 6-foot-5, 214-pound right-handed defender could become the best stay-at-home defender in this draft.
Because of his size and physical style of defensive play, Warren seems to be given extra space by opposing QMJHL forwards, who seem to take an extra second to avoid the worst of any battle with him. He uses this strength mismatch to his advantage, allowing him to make quick plays to clear the zone or to make an accurate first pass to start the transition game.
“Warren does have the fundamentals and the talent to at least be a defensive defenseman in the NHL. Most likely a third-pairing defenseman. But, if he can improve his skating, mobility, and his shot, he could be a contender for a second pairing role in the NHL.” Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
At the professional level, he would be an excellent penalty-killing option; also, he would be most effective if used in a pairing with a left-handed puck-moving defenceman, allowing him to take the defensive burden off of his partner.
6. Markus Vidicek, C, Halifax Mooseheads
Central Scouting: 116th (among NA skaters)
would slide down any draft board. The playmaking center compares favourably to former Mooseheads star Jonathan Drouin. While Vidicek isn’t generating offence at the same level as Drouin did in the QMJHL, Videcek has a grit to his game that is missing from the latter. Vidicek’s work ethic and on-ice awareness allow him to read plays and be judicious in his bursts of effort and speed.
He is a dangerous offensive player, especially on the power play. He has the elite stick skills to execute plays quickly in tight quarters. Vidicek’s elite on-ice vision allows him many options in the attacking zone. He uses that high offensive IQ to help create quality scoring chances.
“As much as Vidicek has developed a game that showcases his skill, patience, on-ice reads, and work ethic, there is still room for him to take his play to a higher level. Most notably, Vidicek will need to add some muscle and overall strength, which is not uncommon for players entering their draft year. Currently, there are times when he does everything right but can still find himself overpowered and unable to control a situation. I would expect those instances to decrease as Vidicek physically matures.” Shaun Richardson, FC Hockey
His offensive mindset is what could eventually earn him an NHL job, but only if he can improve his defensive play. Due to his small stature, he can’t rely on his size to go shoulder-to-shoulder with his opponents and will need to learn how to position himself and his stick to win battles and cut off passing lanes. He will be another project for the organization that drafts him, and it will take time to help develop his game and allow him time to add some muscle and strength to be able to compete at the NHL level.
5. Maveric Lamoureux, D, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Central Scouting: 20th (among NA skaters)
Drummondville Voltigeurs defenceman Maveric Lamoureux is a massive physical specimen. His style of play is also a throwback to the prototypical stay-at-home defender with a massive point shot. However, his mobility allows him to be an effective defender against top forwards in the QMJHL.
Lamoureux excels at consistently playing highly physical hockey. Defensively, he is already a force to be reckoned with. He couples his physicality, agile skating, and an enormous wingspan to make life difficult for opponents in his zone. Offensively, he is still raw. He has the booming point shot, but today’s style requires defenders to be capable of generating transitional plays; his first pass and rushing abilities are there but require more development.
“Lamoureux is a nasty, tough to play against type of defenseman that plays solid defensively and can also jump on the offense. Considering his imposing 6-foot-7 frame, his skating is pretty surprising. He has great top speed and decent mobility. His agility is not the best, but it is well enough to give him an edge on many plays.” Zacharie Labrie, FC Hockey
He won’t be drafted for his offence; he will be drafted for that tantalizing combination of size and mobility. Given time to fill out his frame, making gains in his play and strength, there’s no telling how high his ceiling might be.
4. Nathan Gaucher, C, Québec Remparts
Central Scouting: 16th (among NA skaters)
Finding a 6-foot-3, 207-pound center at 18 years old is rare, and one that could arguably be the top forward prospect from the QMJHL in this year’s draft is rarer still. Nathan Gaucher is a left-handed center with a late birthdate who can also play the wing and has been a top weapon for the QMJHL-leading Quebec Remparts.
No aspect of his game stands out as elite, however, Gaucher brings physicality and grit to a complete 200-foot game, and he’s relied upon in all situations and is capable of meeting his coach’s demands.
“Big two-way forward with a great scoring touch around the net. Needs to learn to utilize his physical tools more efficiently to fulfill his potential as a top-six NHL forward.” Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects
Offensively, Gaucher plays the role of a power forward, throwing his size and weight around precisely and effectively. His mean brand of hockey is a throwback to the prototypical power forwards of the past, and his style compares favourably to New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider. His work ethic and size make him an intimidating threat below the circles and along the boards, especially as he is determined to get to the front of the net and wreak havoc once there. Once he can add consistency to his intense play, he could become an impact forward at the NHL level.
3. Ivan Zhigalov, G, Sherbrooke Phoenix
Central Scouting: 2nd (mong NA goaltenders)
The Belarusian rookie goaltender has earned the confidence of the Phoenix coaching staff. He has played a central role along with Montreal Canadiens 2021 pick Jonathan Roy in Sherbrooke, clinching the regular-season division title this season while flirting with being the top QMJHL team.
At the 64-game mark of the season, he started in the CHL Top Prospects game and 39 games for Sherbrooke. His modern approach to goaltending, aided by his 6-foot-3 frame and penchant for making the key saves in a game, has led him to a 23-9-3 record. With a strong playoffs, he may become the top goaltender drafted in 2022.
2. Jordan Dumais, RW, Halifax Mooseheads
Central Scouting: 73rd (among NA skaters)
Jordan Dumais has the skill to produce at the NHL level, but his size – 5-foot-9, 165 pounds – could be an issue for his longevity. He has been incredibly productive in the QMJHL, leading Halifax in points with 38 goals and 104 points in 66 games played, becoming only the third 17-year-old Moosehead in franchise history to score over 100 points.
He has incredible vision and playmaking abilities, even setting a franchise record for most assists in a single game. He can also shoot the puck quickly and accurately, making him a scoring threat as well. He is relentless on the forecheck to regain possession so that he can create offensively. His abilities and work ethic make him the driving force for most of the offence his lines generate. These skills make him a top offensive player but also a power-play weapon where he shines with the extra space and time.
Defensively he has work to do to grow into a reliable professional. Also, he doesn’t engage physically as often as he could, perhaps due to his size disadvantage. However, he doesn’t struggle in board battles as he uses his hockey IQ to position himself well to gain and protect the puck. Dumais is an incredibly gifted playmaking winger who will make defenders pay if given any openings. All it will take for him to move up into the first round is one team’s scout stepping up to the plate for him.
1. Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques
Central Scouting: 24th (among NA Skaters)
Tristan Luneau was the 2020 QMJHL first-overall pick, and he has continually shown why he was selected so high. Playing a key role in Gatineau’s success this season, the puck-moving defender is also a skilled all-around player who, at 6-foot-2, already has an NHL frame and will only get stronger. He is a first-round talent on any draft list and is even flirting with becoming a top-10 pick in the draft.
Luneau is capable of playing a robust, physical game, but his true strength is in his mobility. A strong, offensively-skilled defender who has incredible footwork that allows high-end mobility in any direction.
“There’s massive upside in the potential of this player based on puck-handling skills and the ability to make a good first pass. Getting completely back to game shape following a lower-body injury will be key in realizing this potential.” Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
Coupled with his elite vision, his high IQ allows him to anticipate offensive plays and complete them. This skill makes him more than capable of being a power-play quarterback but also makes him capable of dictating the pace of the game in all situations.
Quality QMJHL Prospects
If there’s one thing you can take away from my list, it’s that the QMJHL has no explosive, high-skill talent this year. What the league does have are quality two-way players who can produce points, defend, and be counted on to fill secondary scoring and defensive roles. Finally having a full season post-pandemic has been helpful in their development, but they will all need two or more years playing at lower levels to develop before we can see if their games translate to the NHL.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 28 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist to guide him in informing his readers and his goal of being a trusted source of information and entertainment.