2019-20 Team: Saint John Sea Dogs
Date of Birth: March 20, 2002
Place of Birth: Sherbrooke, QC
Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 163 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 99th (Among NA skaters)
- Future Considerations: 46th
- The Hockey Writers (Bell): 76th
- The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 75th
- The Hockey Writers (Fisher): 64th
When talking about underrated prospects, William Villeneuve should be near the top of the list. Even on his team, the defenseman seems to have taken second fiddle to potential first-rounder Jérémie Poirer. And yet, it was Villeneuve that was a finalist for QMJHL Defenseman of the Year.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
The second-overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft, Villeneuve put up 19 points (1 goal, 18 assists) in his rookie campaign (55 games). This season saw that point total shoot up to 58 points. That point total led the entire league in points for defenders, thanks to a league-leading 49 assists (again, from defenders). He was also given the “A” this season, helping to lead the team.
While he didn’t represent Canada this year, he wore the Maple Leaf in 2018 at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. In six games, he collected four assists en route to a fourth-place finish in the tournament.
The right-handed defender brings talent in every zone. He sees the ice well, setting up his teammates often in the offensive end with a crisp pass. For proof of this, please see the above assist total. He has a decent shot as well, although it doesn’t look that way based on his goal totals. He took 162 shots this season, finishing with just a 5.6 shooting percentage (S%). But, that’s up from his 1.5 S% from 2018-19. Could another jump in this percentage be on the horizon?
In his own end, he plays big minutes and holds his own on the blue line when defending the rush. There are some occasions where he can get beat by a speedy forward, but more often than not, he shows up and breaks up a play. He’s solid positionally and knows how to get in the passing lanes. Again, there’s the occasional case of him getting caught, but that’s normal for his age.
Where Villeneuve shines in his transition game. He’s a very agile defenseman (an extremely important quality for a d-man to have) and knows how to make space for himself. He’s often leading the breakout and uses his vision to make a play. He keeps his head up while on the move and can get a great pass off on the rush.
While his skating is alright, this will need to be an area of focus moving forward. His stride can be a bit choppy, and he lacks explosiveness in his first step. Skating can be improved though, and if a team believes that, Villeneuve could shoot up on draft day.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
William Villeneuve – NHL Draft Projection
Villeneuve could be a steal in this draft. If he falls out of the first three rounds, he’s a steal in my eyes. I think the sweet spot for him is a late second to mid-third round pick. But based on the NHL Central Scouting Ranking, that could be a lofty projection. If he’s not taken by pick No. 93, start the Villeneuve watch.
“Villeneuve is a decent two-way defenseman. He will make quality shots from the perimeter and completes smart and efficient passes in the offensive zone… He is efficient in all three zones and has shown to be a dependable puck mover. In terms of his skating, his edgework is exceptional and he transitions well from forward to backward… He more than likely will be a serviceable top four defenseman in the NHL.” – Josh Tessler, DobberProspects
“He’s an all-around player capable of impacting the game in all three zones, with his influence being most pronounced in transition. His sense for space on the breakout and mobility to navigate forechecking pressure to create time for himself is a terrific base of tools that should allow Villeneuve to transition into a successful NHL player… Improved skating will be important for Villeneuve to translate his mobility to the faster pace of the NHL, but I don’t see it as a major point of concern as that’s one of the more improvable traits for a player his age.” – Sam Happi, DraftGeek
“Villeneuve (is) a right-handed defender with a promising frame and advanced puck skills for a young blueliner. His rapid growth on a rebuilding squad this year gives the impression he could eventually develop into a minute-munching defenseman with the ability to contribute on offense.” – Joseph Aleong, FC Hockey
- Transition Game
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
Villeneuve is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. I think he could be one of the bigger steals in this draft – have I mentioned that yet? I don’t think he’ll be a top-two guy, but there’s a very good chance that he could be a top-four defender. His skating is holding him back the most, but if a team works with him on that, it’s something that can be improved in a big way. The team that takes a chance on Villeneuve could have a very good NHL d-man on their hands.
Risk – 3.5/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 7.5/10, Defence – 7/10
In the 2017-18 season, Villeneuve was playing with the Magog Cantonniers in the QMAAA. That season, he led all defenders in the league in points (34) and was named the league’s top defenseman while being named to the First All-Star Team. This season with the Sea Dogs, he led all defensemen in assists (49) and points (58). He was a finalist for QMJHL Defenseman of the Year.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.