Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects. It’s that time again, major junior hockey is back and we’re here to preview the new season for you. The QMJHL kicked off their new season Thursday, September 10th, while things are set to start on September 24th in the OHL and WHL. With that in mind we will start our division previews out east and work our way across the country this year.
Unlike previous years this won’t be 11 divisions in 11 days. We will do the QMJHL over the next three days, but I still have some other prospect heavy work to do before we get to the OHL and WHL. In any event, you can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
2015-16 QMJHL EAST DIVISION PREVIEW
THE TOP 3 CONTENDERS (IN ORDER OF HOW I FEEL THEY WILL FINISH)
Shawinigan Cataractes: Its taken some time to rebuild the club after they sacrificed a lot in going all in to win the 2012 Memorial Cup, but Shawinigan is back. The Cataractes are led by the dynamic duo of Anthony Beauvillier and Dennis Yan up front. With support coming from Alex D’Aoust and Alexander Dergachov this team should be able to score. The defense doesn’t have a lot of big names, but they are experienced and solid defensively. Antoine Samuel is back and will take over as the number one goaltender.
Rimouski Oceanic: Rimouski lost some talent after winning the league last year, but should still have enough to be competitive. Last year’s starting goaltender Louis-Philip Guidon is back, and should provide solid play between the pipes once again. Simon Bourque, Beau Rusk, Andrew Picco and Guillaume MacSween, are back to give the team a strong blueline. Anthony Chapados, Tyler Boland and Michael Joly return up front, and will be helped to score by newcomers Carson MacKinnon, Matous Belohorsky and Nicolas Werbik.
Quebec Remparts: The Remparts will have solid goaltending with Callum Booth taking over as the starter. The blue line will also be solid with Nicolas Brouillard, Matt Murphy and Raphaël Maheux, giving them a solid top 3. The question marks come up front. Dmytro Timashov can score, but who will help him provide offence for the Remparts.
Players to Watch
Vaclav Karabacek, Centre, Baie-Comeau Drakkar: A 2014 draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Vaclav Karabacek’s offensive game is based around his tenacity. He digs pucks out of the corners for his linemates, and works hard to continue the cycle game down low. He makes short quick passes to teamates, and almost always takes the safe option over those that are riskier, but more creative. The stickhandling is decent, but it is more about puck protection on the cycle than it is about making the type of creative moves to beat a defender one-on-one. Without the puck, he has the ability to find open spaces on the ice, and to evade defenders. From there he is able to unleash a good one-timer, or a very powerful wrist shot, with an excellent release. The shot is the best part of his offensive game and is among the better shots in the QMJHL. Karabacek could work on being a bit quicker though.
Nicolas Meloche, Defence, Baie-Comeau Drakkar: A second round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, Meloche has excellent size, and he’s certainly not afraid to use it. He plays a gritty game in the corners battling for pucks, and in front of the net working to clear the crease. He also is willing to throw big hits when he gets the opportunity, but avoids getting himself out of position looking for those checks. He has outstanding positioning and defensive awareness for a player his age, reading and anticipating plays well, and almost always keeping good control and defensive posture. He is not afraid to block shots, and does a great job using a long stick to cut down passing lanes. Meloche is also willing to drop the gloves if necessary to come to the aid of a teammate. He also plays on the powerplay, where he can score with a hard and accurate slap shot.
Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau, Chicoutimi Sagueneens: A second round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2013, Paquin-Boudreau like a waterbug out there. He is very quick on his feet, with outstanding acceleration and great agility. He darts quickly into openings or beats defenders with quick moves one on one, both off the rush and in the cycle game. Offensively he is more of a play maker than a goal-scorer, with excellent vision and passing skills.
Nicholas Roy, Centre, Chicoutimi Sagueneens: A fourth round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, the former 1st overall pick in the QMJHL draft, he put up just 16 goals and 50 points last year. The size is there, the stickhandling and passing skills are there, he even has a decent shot. However there are some questions if he has the hockey sense to put it all together offensively. There are also major concers about his skating ability. Roy does play a committed two-way game though, and might end up a bottom six NHL player even with those concerns. He did have a very good tournament at the Under 18s to finish the season. The question is if he can take that good tournament and translate it into a big year for Chicoutimi.
Callum Booth, Goaltender, Quebec Remparts: Another fourth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, Booth becomes the undisputed number one goalie in Quebec as Zach Fucale is moving on to the pro ranks. At 6’3″, Booth has the type of size that scouts are looking for in young goaltenders. He gets out well to cut down angles and give shooters very little to look at. Booth has extremely solid technique for a young goaltender, with a good compact butterfly. He gets up and down quickly. His long legs take away a lot of the lower part of the net, and he has a good glove to take away the top parts of the net. Even when on his knees he is tall enough to cover the top corners. He is also good at making quick passes to start the transition.
Dmytro Timashov, Right Wing, Quebec Remparts: A fifth round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Timashov is an undersized but dynamic player. He is an excellent skater, with very good speed, tremendous acceleration and the ability to change directions on a dime. He also has great hands and strong stick handling, but can get himself into trouble overhandling the puck at times. Timashov has a good shot but he just does not use it enough. He has been much more of a playmaker than a scorer to this point, and has excellent vision and passing skills.
Simon Bourque, Defence, Rimouski Oceanic: A sixth round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Bourque is an excellent defensive defenceman with strong positioning, great gap control, and the smarts to funnel opposing forwards to the outside and force them to shoot from bad areas. He has a very active stick and cuts down on passing and shooting lanes. Offensively Bourque is much more of a set up man than a shooter. He has some decent passing skills from the point, but his shot will never make him a big offensive producer.
Anthony Beauvillier, Centre, Shawinigan Cataractes: A first round pick of the New York Islanders, Beauvillier has great stick handling skills and the ability to create plays when it seems like nothing is there. He protects the puck extremely well, and uses his quick hands and shiftiness to get defenders out of position and create passing or shooting lanes. Beauvillier also has excellent vision and playmaking abilities and is the type of player who can make his linemates better. He has a strong shot and a good release, and with him learning to rely on it more has added a new element to his game, making him extremely difficult to defend, and greatly adding to Beauvillier’s breakthrough season last year. He’s a little undersized as he’s listed at just 5’11″ right now, but Beauvillier is not afraid to go into the corners, the front of the net. He shows a gritty game, battling hard for position. He also has very good hockey sense. He makes the smart play with the puck on his stick, and he finds openings in the defense to set up for a one-timer when he doesn’t have it. Beauvillier is also an excellent skater. He has a good stride generating excellent speed and very good acceleration. Add in a quick first step and he wins races to loose pucks.
Dennis Yan, Right Wing, Shawinigan Cataractes: A third round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yan is a pure sniper. He has a tremendous wrist shot and release, along with the soft hands needed to finish on rebounds, tip-ins, and dekes in close to the net. Yan has the hockey sense to find openings in the offensive zone to get off his quick wrister or a one-timer. His vision and passing are decent, but its his goal scorer’s touch that really stands out. Yan has very good puck handling ability. He can stick handle in a phone booth and uses a wide variety of moves to make plays. He also has good size at 6’2″ and has the tools to be a power forward, as he loves initiating physical contact and getting in on the forecheck. However, he does really need to bulk up and add to his frame. While he loves to initiate contact, he sometimes seems tentative when he is on the receiving end of a hit though. Yan could stand to be more courageous and take a hit to make a play in both ends of the ice.
Gabriel Gagne, Right Wing/Centre, Victoriaville Tigres: Gagne was a second round pick of the Ottawa Senators. They say that you can not teach size, and at 6’5″, he certainly provides that. Gagne has shown a willingness to use his frame, getting in quickly on the forecheck and throwing hits, and in establishing position in front of the net. He digs for pucks in the corners, but a lack of lower body strength and balance has been an issue, with him being knocked over and losing battles to smaller defenders. Adding muscle and strength in his legs and core would go a long way to alleviating any concerns here. Gagne has a very good wrist shot, and a quick release. This gives him the ability to score from further out from the net, and not just rely on scoring goals in tight. While more of a scorer than a playmaker, he has shown an ability to set up teammates from time-to-time. He could stand to work on his stick handling ability though, as its decent but could continue to improve. Gagne is a very good skater for his size. He has decent speed, but it is his first step quickness and his acceleration that are really surprising.
2016 Draft Eligible Players to Watch
Igor Kabanov, Right Wing, Baie-Comeau Drakkar: At 6’4, Kabanov has great size, but at just 190 pounds it is clear that he will need to spend some time in the weight room over the next several years. Still he is a very good skater for his size, with good acceleration and top end speed. He also has a hard shot. Coming over from Russia it will be interesting to see how quickly Kabanov can make adjustments to the North American game and move himself up draft boards.
Samuel Girard, Defence, Shawinigan Cataractes: At just 5’9″ tall, Girard is an undersized defenceman and will need to have a growth spurt to really attract the attention of NHL scouts this spring. If he can add a couple of inches he could be drafted early, as he is a tremendous skater, and great puck moving defenceman. He has outstanding speed and acceleration, as well as the hands to make plays with the puck at top speed. Girard can also quarterback the Shawinigan powerplay and does so very effectively. He is an excellent passer both from the point, or in moving the puck out of his own end. His size can be an issue on defence, but a quick pokecheck and good active stick help Girard avoid too many issues.
Gabrielle Sylvestre, Defence, Shawinigan Cataractes: Sylvestre is nearly the exact opposite of Gabriel. He has good size at 6’2″ and plays an excellent defensive game, using that size, as well as good mobility, to play a physical game and knock his man off the puck. He shows very good positioning and instincts. The offensive game is a work in progress though. Sylvestre has an excellent slap shot, but could use some work on having more poise with the puck and waiting for the right pass, instead of rushing things.
Pascal Laberge, Centre, Victoriaville Tigres: The 2nd overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft, Laberge was involved in a surprising trade deadline move that saw him go from Gatineau to Victoriaville. He has good size, but could stand to put some muscle on his frame. He plays the cycle well at the junior level, but its unclear if he can keep playing this style against bigger pro opponents. A fast skater, Laberge can be very dangerous off the rush. He also has a very hard wrist shot and excellent release.
2017 Draft Eligible Players to Watch
Maxime Comtois, Centre, Victoriaville Tigres: The top pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft, Comtois is said to bring a sniping element to the Tigres. He has an excellent array of shots, with good power and accuracy on his wrist shot, snap shot and slap shot. He also has a very quick release, that can handcuff opposing goaltenders. He also has excellent vision and passing sklls. Comtois can extend plays by using his stickhandling and puck protection to protect the puck.