A few weeks ago I highlighted some of the best Ontario Hockey League players going into this year’s NHL Draft. Now I will take a look at the flip side and focus on some of the Quebec Major Junior League’s best players that will be drafted come June.
The last first overall pick that played in the “Q” is a familiar name to all hockey fans, and that’s Sidney Crosby. In 2015, Timo Meier was selected ninth overall by San Jose and was the highest ranked QMJHLer going into the draft. While this year, the first selection is likely to be Zurich’s Auston Matthews or Tappara’s Patrik Laine – there are plenty Quebec league players to choose from. Here is a look at who I think are the five best available QMJHL players.
5. Frédéric Allard, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (Defense)
Due to a late 1997 birthday, Allard got to play an extra season in junior and put up 59 points for the Saguenéens while doing so. After breaking the 30-point barrier for the first time in his young career in 2014/15, Allard was relied on heavily to produce from the back end and did so very effectively. If you expect a defenseman to have a heavy shot, you’re not going to find it with Allard. However, he’s an incredibly gifted puck-moving D-man that will likely be the first defenseman from the QMJHL to hear his name called.
4. Vitalii Abramov, Gatineau Olympiques (Left/Right wing)
A Russian hockey player playing in Quebec is not uncommon, but what is uncommon is becoming one of the league’s best players as a rookie. Abramov took home Rookie of the Year honours after his remarkable 93 point season in Gatineau this year. He also had a strong playoff with 13 points in ten postseason games before the Olympiques fell to the Moncton Wildcats in the second round. He was the Olympique’s 13th overall pick in the 2015 CHL Import Draft and made the jump to the “Q” after playing junior hockey with Traktor Chelyabinsk in Russia last season. His decision to play in North America didn’t please a lot of people back home in his native country, as he’s opted to play with Gatineau and wouldn’t be allowed to play for the U-18 Russian team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in. At 5’9″ his best asset is his ability to beat his opponents one-on-one, but will likely be a second rounder come June.
Here is a look at Abramov’s hat-trick against Halifax back in January.
3. Pascal Laberge, Victoriaville Tigres (Centre/Right wing)
Laberge is a player who is capable of a lot of things in the offensive zone, including playing both centre and right wing. Although he scored just 23 times this year with Victoriaville, he is one of the draft’s top-ranked playmakers. His 43 assists and 66 points topped all of his teammates with the Tigres this season. His opponents can’t sleep when he’s on the ice because of his unpredictability to make plays in the offensive zone. Laberge is a few years away from taking the next step and playing at the pro level, but he could easily be either a late first or early second rounder.
2. Julien Gauthier, Val Dor Foreurs (Right wing)
This year’s slider could be taken middle-to-late in the first round. He had a decent showing at the World Junior Championship (2 points in 5 games) at the beginning of the year but fell quite short of his QMJHL counterpart, Pierre-Luc Dubois. Gauthier is a big winger and pure goal-scorer, that at the start of the 2015 season was ranked high by a lot of NHL scouts – but slipped a bit as his game began to slide and all eyes shifted to Dubois, who was putting up great numbers in Cape Breton. That being said, Gauthier’s shot is his deadliest weapon and like Dubois, he has the size to play at the pro level. A lot of people think that his game is much like that of Rick Nash, who plays for the New York Rangers, and is a former first overall pick. Like a lot of young players, Gauthier is inconsistent at times, and could use some seasoning on the defensive side of the game,but he is still likely to be a middle-round first rounder.
1.Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (Centre)
Dubois has had an exceptional sophomore season, and on some lists, he is ranked as high the fifth best available player in the draft this year. His biggest weapon is his deadly shot, that is just as hard as some of the hardest NHL snipers. Secondly, Dubois has NHL size. At 6’3″ 205, and only 17-years-old right now, he is likely to fill out a bit more before he sees pro action, which has some scouts gawking at the Screaming Eagles centreman. Not since Jonathan Drouin in 2013, has a Quebec league player been ranked as high as Dubois. He could possibly be a season or two away from NHL ice, but he sure looks like he’s going to be a great player for a long time. Dubois will likely be chosen anywhere from 3rd overall to 10th depending on how big NHL teams are on him.