The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) officially got underway last night, after a 205-day absence, when the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) began their 2020-21 season. Two potential first-round picks in next week’s NHL Entry Draft had big nights in their season debuts. Also, an import is headed to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the upcoming season.
Mercer Has Big Opening Night
The Chicoutimi Saguenéens have themselves quite the lineup heading into the 2020-21 season and it was on full display in Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Shawinigan Cataractes. The offense is led by two potential first-round draft picks. One of those top prospects, Dawson Mercer, got off to a hot start.
With his team down 2-1 in the second period, scored a pair of goals, about five minutes apart, including the eventual game-winner while the power play.
Mercer, who is ranked as the 10th-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, is an alternate captain this season. He is likely to be selected somewhere just outside of the top-10 this Tuesday.
Our own Andrew Forbes had this to saw about his NHL potential:
He may not come in as a top 10 pick, but Mercer’s ability to produce puts him in a position to eventually take on a top-six role. There is room to grow – both in defensive zone play and decision making – but that won’t keep him from being an important role player at some point in the near future.
Mercer has shown off his offensive talent during his time in the QMJHL and if he can shore up his play without the puck, he could be a really nice pick in the upcoming draft.
Lapierre Nets His First Goal
Not to be outdone, Mercer’s teammate, Hendrix Lapierre, was a big contributor in the Saguenéens’ opening-night victory. Early in the third period, he scored his first goal in over a year after missing time due to a concussion last season.
Lapierre had the primary assist on Xavier Labrecque’s goal to open up the scorer and he had the secondary helper on Mercer’s first tally. He added a late empty-net goal to cap off his four-point night.
Despite the recent injury history, NHL Central Scouting has Lapierre as the 13th-ranked North American skater heading into the draft. He could be taken in the latter third of the first round or he may drop into the early stages of round two.
Brandon Share-Cohen wrote the following of Lapierre in his draft profile:
Lapierre has the potential to be a top-six center in the NHL but his lack of a high-end scoring touch could hold him back from being a legitimate top-line option. Still, his playmaking is excellent and the fact that he’s so good in all three zones makes him a very viable option for a team’s second-line with room to grow into a top option if he learns to shoot more.
The young center is hoping for a few more nights like this to prove his doubters wrong.
Kuzmin Commits to Firebirds
The OHL’s Flint Firebirds announced on Friday that they signed defenseman Dmitry Kuzmin to a Standard Agreement and education deal. The Firebirds selected Kuzmin with their first pick (46th overall) at last June’s CHL Import Draft.
“I am very proud to now be part of the Firebirds organization,” Kuzmin told the Firebirds’ official website. “Since I have been drafted, they have gone above and beyond to make my family and I welcomed. They have been first class and have done a good job developing Belarusians. I look forward to arriving in Flint soon to begin the season.”
The 17-year-old is currently playing for Dinamo-Molodechno, an affiliate of the KHL’s HC Dynamo Minsk, in the Belarusian Extraleague (BHL). He has one assist and a plus-five rating in seven games.
The OHL is targeting Dec. 1 as their starting date, so Kuzmin will head over to North America once training camp begins.
Things are beginning to heat up with the QMJHL and European leagues in full swing. The NHL Entry Draft begins on Tuesday, so stay tuned for all the latest prospects news across our channels of coverage.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.