It’s time to conclude our series of the best Calgary Flames to come from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) with the greatest to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
The league is made up of 18 teams spread across Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Their league champion is awarded the President’s Cup and a chance to play for the Memorial Cup with the other league champions as well as the tournament host team.
The Flames have a solid assortment of prospects from “the Q”, including Jakob Pelletier, Clark Bishop, Nic Meloche, and Jeremie Poirier, to name a few. The Flames have had fewer players join them from the QMJHL, likely due to geographic reasons. Nonetheless, they have had some very impactful former Q members don the red, white, and yellow over the years, and here are the five best.
Number 5: Jonathan Huberdeau
Yes, Jonathan Huberdeau is only a few games into his Calgary Flames career and has been underperforming to boot. However, it is impossible to look past his success at the junior level, and as a Flame this season, he qualifies for this list.
Huberdeau played 195 QMJHL games, all for the Saint John Sea Dogs, and scored 257 points. He scored in his very first game, was the best 16-year-old statically, and helped his team reach the QMJHL Finals. His junior success also included a dominant 2010-11 season when he recorded 43 goals and 105 points, and his team won the President’s Cup and Memorial Cup. He received the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy for playoff MVP for his efforts.
In the NHL, Huberdeau was of course part of the blockbuster trade that jettisoned Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a first-round pick. He quickly signed the richest extension in franchise history; $84 million spread over eight years.
Despite his slow start with the team, Huberdeau has been one of the best forwards in the league for a while now; over the last five seasons, only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, and Artemi Panarin have scored more points than his 352. Things will start to go his way, and he will once again become the offensive star that first showcased himself in the QMJHL.
Number 4: Ronnie Stern
Clocking in at number four on our list is former Flames enforcer Ronnie Stern. He played in parts of seven seasons with the Flames, from 1990-91 to 1996-97. Stern is originally from Sainte-Agathe, Quebec, and played his junior hockey career in the QMJHL with the Longueuil Chevaliers.
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It was there that he got noticed for his toughness and fighting skill as well as an impressive scoring touch to boot. In his second season (1985-86), he scored 39 goals, and 72 points and racked up 319 penalty minutes (PIMs). This got him drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the fourth round, 70th overall. The following season, Stern and the Chevaliers went all the way; they won the President’s Trophy and represented the league in the Memorial Cup. They ultimately fell short, but soon after, Stern made his debut in Vancouver.
Stern played four seasons with the Canucks before he was traded to the Flames for Dana Murzyn at the 1990-91 trade deadline. Stern suited up for 396 games with the franchise, scoring 59 goals, 125 points and a whopping 1288 PIMs. That last stat ranks sixth all-time in Flames history – which is remarkable given that the top five all played 500-plus games.
Stern also hit career-highs offensively, potting 13 goals in 1991-92 and 29 points in 1993-94 in Calgary. His 338 PIMs in 1991-92 were also his best, and the third-highest mark in a season in franchise history. Stern ended his career in San Jose with the Sharks and went back to Calgary to work for Precision Drilling for 15 years and a few years at a software company thereafter.
Number 3: Alex Tanguay
Next up is an underrated player who put up solid stats in the 2000s. Alex Tanguay was an offensively gifted forward who hailed from Sainte-Justine, Quebec. He enjoyed immense success in the QMJHL with the storied Halifax Mooseheads franchise, playing three seasons and totalling 214 points in 152 games. Had he not suffered a concussion in the 1998-99 season, these totals would likely have been much higher. Nevertheless, his 47-goal, 85-point season gave the Colorado Avalanche enough reason to draft him 12th overall in the 1998 Entry Draft. Unfortunately, Tanguay’s teams never really had much in the way of success, never getting past the first round of the playoffs other than reaching the third in his rookie year.
In 2006, after six seasons with the Avalanche, Calgary acquired Tanguay’s rights, sending defensemen Jordan Leopold and two second-round draft picks to Colorado for his services. The team signed him to a three-year, $15.75 million deal, and he rewarded them with a career-high 81 points in 81 games in 2006-07.
He fell to 58 points the next season after head coach Mike Keenan strangely decided to use him in a defensive/checking role that didn’t suit him. Tanguay subsequently asked for a trade and, in 2008, went to the Montreal Canadiens for a first and second-round pick. He returned as a free agent for the 2010-11 season and spent the next three years in Calgary, recording 145 points in 183 games. He also played for the Avalanche once more as well as the Arizona Coyotes before retiring in 2016. He now works as an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings and spent some time as an NHL Network studio analyst.
Number 2: Guy Chouinard
Now, we will go back in time to an original Flame and Quebec City native Guy Chouinard. Chouinard got his start in 1971 with the storied Quebec Remparts, where he put up an impressive 70 points in 58 games as a 15-year-old. He followed that up with a cool 129 points the next season to go with a President’s Trophy for the Remparts, but the team fell short in the Memorial Cup Final game to the Toronto Marlboros.
Chouinard then upped his production with a whopping 160 points in 1973-74, and his team repeated as QMJHL Champions. However, they again lost in the Final, this time to the Regina Pats. In total, Chouinard scored 359 points in just 179 games with the Remparts.
Chouinard was selected 28th overall in the 1974 Draft by the Atlanta Flames and became a star in 1978-79 as the first player in franchise history to score 50 goals in a season. When the Flames relocated to Calgary, Chouinard went too, becoming an inaugural member of the Calgary Flames, finishing second in scoring to legendary Kent Nilsson with 83 points in 52 games. Chouinard added 17 points in 16 playoff games that season as the Flames made it to the Western Conference Final before falling to the Minnesota North Stars.
He played two more seasons with the Flames before joining the St. Louis Blues and then retiring in 1984-85. Chouinard went back to the QMJHL and got into coaching where he finally won a championship in 1986-87 with the Longueuil Chevaliers and a young Ronnie Stern. He is now the head coach of the Champlain-St.Lawrence Lions college hockey team in Quebec City.
Number 1: Réjean Lemelin
One of the better goalies in franchise history, and the only one on our list who got his start in the QMJHL, Réjean “Reggie” Lemelin suited up for the Sherbrooke Castors from 1972-74, going 32-33-1 over 79 appearances. He also earned a .870 save percentage (SV%) and a 4.87 goals-against average (GAA) during that time.
Unfortunately, his teams did not go far in the playoffs, but the Philadelphia Flyers had seen enough to snag the young goalie 125th overall in 1974. He never played a game for the franchise, instead toiling about in minor leagues until he finally made his debut with the Atlanta Flames in 1978-79. He had a cup of tea with the team that season as well as the next, spending most of his time in the minors with the Birmingham Bulls.
Lemelin finally broke out with the new Calgary Flames, going 14-6-7 during their inaugural season in 1980-81. He became the starter and played six more seasons with the team, including the 1985-86 Stanley Cup Final-reaching squad that lost to the Canadiens. It was during those playoffs that Lemelin lost the starting gig to a young Mike Vernon.
Lemelin went on to play with the Boston Bruins and won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the lowest goals-against average with teammate Andy Moog. His 136 career wins rank third all-time in franchise history, and his 15 career assists put him second among goalies behind Vernon. Lemelin worked as the goaltending coach for the Flyers from 1996 until 2009 and actively participates in many Bruins charity games.
All of these players brought success, visibility, and character to the Flames franchise. Two were members of the original team that blazed a new trail. As with the other two lists, the names on here will surely change as time passes and more QMJHL talent passes through the pipeline.
Derek Olsen has a Bachelor of General Studies with focuses in History and English, and is now working on a Bachelor of Education. He grew up an avid sports fan and participant, but hockey has and always will be the most important to him. Eat, sleep, and hockey. Blood, sweat, tears, and hockey. He has a relative presence in the ever-expanding sports card industry and claims his collection will “be his retirement”. He is pleased to be able to write for The Hockey Writers and to cover the Calgary Flames.