The QMJHL has always been known as a scorer’s league, and some of their alumni are bringing those skills to the biggest stages in Edmonton and Toronto.
Nathan MacKinnon is one of the most accomplished QMJHL graduates, and he has become one of the top players in the NHL. His dominance is on full display in Edmonton, as he has propelled the Colorado Avalanche into the Western Conference Semifinals.
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In Toronto, three former QMJHL elite just finished battling for a berth in the Eastern Conference Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning prevailing in five games. The Lighting’s Nikita Kucherov and Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have established themselves as top-15 NHL forwards, and their performance in the bubble has not disappointed.
The four players mentioned above are high profile stars in the NHL, but there are other QMJHL alumni forwards who have used their time in the bubble to leap into the spotlight. A dive into how many of these players are making a difference for their teams shows the talent the QMJHL produces.
Two Stars Emerge
Pierre-Luc Dubois played 163 games in the QMJHL before being selected 3rd overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He put up huge numbers in junior and has had three solid seasons in Columbus, but his stock soared in the Toronto bubble. He scored the overtime winner to complete the hat trick in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup play-in series against the Toronto Maple Leafs to help his team rally from a 3-0 deficit. Columbus won the series before losing to the Lightning in the first round. If Dubois can consistently perform as he did in the playoffs, he will be a very tough player for opponents to deal with going forward.
Anthony Beauvillier has also electrified the Toronto bubble. He is tied with Jean-Gabriel Pageau to lead the New York Islanders in playoff goals with 7 in 12 games. After three very productive seasons with the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL, he joined the Islanders for the 2016-17 season.
Like Dubois, he has been solid in his first three seasons on Long Island, but in Toronto, he has been a dangerous offensive weapon. When the conservative Islanders have needed offense, he and Matt Barzal have put on a show.
The Glue Down the Middle
Pageau is crucial to the Islanders’ push for the Cup. He has paid huge dividends since being acquired at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators. He centers the third line, but is also a key member of the power play, on the penalty kill and in the faceoff dot. Pageau had a point per game in 175 games in the QMJHL with the Gatineau Olympiques and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
Watching the Lightning, it’s easy to see how important Yanni Gourde is to his team’s success. Gourde was signed as an undrafted free agent by Tampa Bay after playing four seasons for the Victoriaville Tigres, and spending over 300 games in the AHL and ECHL. Like Pageau, he centers the third line, plays in all situations, and can regularly be found playing in the dirtiest areas of the ice. On a team filled with high scoring threats, his value is immeasurable.
Major Contributions For Contenders
Among the seven remaining playoff teams, there are plenty of QMJHL alumni playing major roles. Alexander Radulov (Dallas Stars), Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Ondrej Palat (Lightning), and Jonathan Marchessault (Vegas Golden Knights) all spent time in the QMJHL and are important to their team’s success.
Connor Garland (Arizona Coyotes) and Mike Hoffman (Florida Panthers) have now exited the bubble, but both led their team in goals in the 2019-20 regular season, and of course, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby who had his number retired by the Rimouski Oceanic and the QMJHL earlier this season.
The impact of some of these QMJHL alumni is evident, and NHL general managers should be taking a good look at the next crop of prospects. These players come out of junior hockey with an ability to play in all situations, knowing how to win, and with a gift for making plays and finding the back of the net.