The 2016-17 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season has been underway for a month now and is currently featuring two Samuels taking the league by storm. One Samuel can’t stop putting the puck in the net, while the other is keeping everything out.
Widely characterized as the highest scoring entity under the Canadian Hockey League umbrella, the QMJHL is not doing a lot to dismiss that opinion so far this season with a whopping 48 players currently scoring at over a point per game clip. One might think that this number will surely diminish as the season wears on but the fact is that the league finished the 2015-16 season with 46 players posting better than point per game numbers.
— QMJHL (@QMJHL) June 25, 2016
Leading the charge so far this season is Nashville Predators prospect Samuel Girard who is currently scoring at an astounding 2.8 points per game rate. The undersized defenseman is known for his all-worldly offensive abilities and was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The left-shot defender finished his draft year with 74 points in 67 regular season games and then followed that up with 22 points in 21 playoff games.
Girard led all CHL defensemen in scoring last season and finished with an impressive 15 more points than the next highest scoring blueliner in the QMJHL. The record for most points ever registered by a defenseman in a single QMJHL season is 137. This feat was accomplished by Pierre Lacroix and dates all the way back to 1978-79. Could Girard legitimately challenge this longstanding record? He would need to score at a rate of just over 2.12 points per game the rest of way to beat the record and would actually finish with 177 points if he maintains his current scoring pace.
If Girard is able to continue to build off of his strong start to the season he should also find himself in the conversation for Canada’s World Junior team. The 18-year-old has represented his country at international tournaments in the past, including the most recent Ivan Hlinka Memorial, so he can rest assured that he is at least on Hockey Canada’s radar.
Admittedly, all the talk about a record-breaking season is very premature at this point in time but it’s still worth mentioning after the incredible start to the campaign that the 5-foot-10 rearguard has had. Girard’s primary focus remains on helping his Shawinigan Cataractes capture their first ever President Cup championship as they are considered to be one of the favorites to win in the QMJHL this season.
At the other end of the spectrum is 20-year-old goaltender Samuel Montembeault who is doing everything he can to force his team up the QMJHL standings. The Florida Panthers draft pick has been nothing short of stellar since being reassigned to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for his overage junior season.
Montembeault’s first five games this season saw him post phenomenal numbers including a 0.97 goals against average and a .960 save percentage to go along with a perfect 5-0-0 record. These numbers are even more impressive when you look at the stats for the Armada’s other netminders who, to date, have posted a combined save percentage of 0.867 and a have a record of 1-3-1.
A Hawryluk hat trick, Montembeault getting recognized & more.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) February 10, 2016
The 77th overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft was a question mark for Blainville-Boisbriand entering the season because they weren’t sure whether or not he would be back with the team. As a 1996-born player who is signed to an entry-level contract, the Panthers had the option of either sending the goalie back to junior for his 20-year-old season or having him turn professional and suiting up in either the American Hockey League or ECHL.
Just as expected, Blainville-Boisbriand was a team struggling to score goals in the early going of the new season but they were also having problems keeping the puck out of their own net. That is until they were gifted a game changer from the Panthers organization. Montembeault’s reassignment has almost single-handedly righted the Armada’s ship and, while there will no doubt be plenty of low-scoring games in their immediate future, they can’t lose if their opponents can’t score.
These two Samuels, along with current league-leading scorer Filip Chlapik and the sudden offensive juggernaut Charlottetown Islanders, are some of the more intriguing stories to watch as the QMJHL season continues on. Will there be records broken?
Mark Bowie covers the Edmonton Oilers and the QMJHL for THW.