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. All three leagues are kicking off in the next week. With that in mind, we will start our division previews and make our way around the country.
You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
2018-19 QMJHL West Division Preview
Top Three Teams (in Projected Order of Finish)
The Huskies have a new head coach and general manager, as last year’s Memorial Cup winner Mario Pouliot takes over. He has an experienced club to work with in his first year in charge. Samuel Harvey and Zachary Emond provide the Huskies with the best goalie tandem in the division. Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Zachary Lauzon leads a defence corps that also features Jacob Neveu and William Cyr. The team has plenty of offence with four of the clubs top five scorers returning. Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Peter Abbandonato, Felix Bibeau, and Patrik Hrehorcak will be asked to lead the way again. William Dufour provides an injection of youth and Alex Beaucage should get more minutes than last year.
The Armada will have to adjust to life without Joel Bouchard. The team lost their two top stories to graduation but returns third-leading scorer Joel Teasdale. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Luke Henman likely centres the top line. Thomas Ethier, Alexander Katerinakis and Remy Anglehart provide support. The defence is led by Pascal Corbeil, Aleksi Anttalainen, and Samuel Bolduc. Expect Emile Samson to start in goal.
The Olympiques are a bit of a wild card. They are looking for big things from 2019 NHL Draft Prospects, and new imports David Aebischer and Yaroslav Likhachyov. Aebischer should provide offence from the backend. He will get defensive support from Gabriel Bilodeau, Alexis Girard, and Pier-Olivier Lacombe. Likhachov combines with fellow QMJHL rookie Pier-Olivier Roy to give hope to the Olympiques offence. The team should also see scoring from Minnesota Wild prospect Shawn Boudrias. Tristan Berube is a solid goaltender.
Players To Watch
Luke Henman, Centre, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Henman was drafted in the fourth round, 96th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. He put up 47 points in 61 regular season games last year and a further 14 points in 20 playoff games. Henman is a lanky playmaker. He sees the ice extremely well and sets up teammates for scoring chances. Henman has good hands and creates space and passing lanes through quick dekes. He needs to learn to shoot more. Variety would help him to be less predictable and make him more dangerous. Henman is also good in the defensive end of the ice and strong in the faceoff circle.
Joel Teasdale, Left Wing, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Teasdale put up 32 goals and 65 points in 65 games last year. He also added eight goals and 21 points in 22 playoff games. Teasdale went undrafted but still received an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior Summer Camp, the only player eligible for but undrafted in the NHL Draft. He is currently attending Montreal Canadiens training camp.
Teasdale is a hard worker at both ends of the ice. He is willing to battle for pucks in the corners and in front of the net. He is relentless on the forecheck, forcing mistakes and turnovers by opposing defenders. When one is created, he looks to get the puck to the front of the net. Without the puck, Teasdale goes to the dirty areas of the ice to score goals. He is responsible in his own end with good positioning. He provides steady backpressure and defensive support down low.
Shawn Boudrias, Right Wing, Gatineau Olympiques
Boudrias’ 28 goals and 60 points in 60 games were enough to get the attention of the Wild, who picked him in the 6th round of the 2018 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-4 forward plays a power style. He gets to the front of the net, where he is able to score goals with soft hands and good hand-eye coordination. Boudrais is also willing to battle for loose pucks in the corners and is strong on the boards. He will need to add more muscle to continue to play this style at the NHL level. Boudrais also needs to work on his skating, especially his first couple of steps.
Zachary Lauzon, Defence, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
The brother of Jeremy Lauzon, Zachary now takes over the role of top defenceman for the Huskies. Lauzon is solid in his own end, keeping attackers to the outside, and limiting scoring chances against. He is willing to block shots and plays physical in the corners and in front of the net. He also has very good gap control. While Lauzon makes a good first pass out of the zone, he is not much of an offensive player. Perhaps with a bigger role this season, he will show some of the offensive game that his brother gained over his QMJHL career. He was limited to just 25 games last season due to injury.
David Noel, Left Defence, Val D’Or Foreurs
With 14 goals and 46 points in 68 games last season, Noel broke out one year after the St. Louis Blues made him a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Noel has a huge point shot. He can really fire the puck, especially when set up for a one-timer. He also has a strong wrist shot with a good release. Noel isn’t the type to rush the puck up the ice but can make a strong first pass to start the transition game. He shows good positioning and instincts in his own zone, but could stand to be a bit more physical. Noel is a good, but not great, skater.
2019 NHL Draft Prospects To Watch
Samuel Bolduc, Left Defence, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
The 17-year-old defender has excellent size at six-foot-three. As a rookie, he put up two goals and 14 points in 57 games. He was even better in the playoffs with seven points in 20 games. Bolduc is a two-way defender. His skating and edgework are good and allow him to transition from defence to offence quickly. He makes a good first pass and starts the transition game. Bolduc battles hard in front of the net and in the corners. He is willing to put his body on the line to block shots.
David Aebischer, Right Defence, Gatineau Olympiques
The Swiss defender was the 82nd overall pick in the CHL Import Draft. His puck-moving ability should help the Olympiques. He is a very good skater and stickhandler, capable of retrieving pucks in his own end and moving them out of his end. He can also lead the rush through the neutral zone. Aebischer has the passing skills to start the rush, as well as to quarterback the power play at the point.
Yaroslav Likhachyov, Left Wing, Gatineau Olympiques
The 22nd overall pick in the recent CHL Import Draft impressed at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with three goals and seven points in five games. He is a dynamic offensive player with excellent skating and stickhandling skills. Likhachyov is extremely dangerous off the rush, where he has the option to take a defender wide and go to the net, or make a quick cut and beat his man to the inside. He also has a very good wrist shot and quick release. If defenders back off to protect against his speed, he can use them as a screen and fire on net.
Alex Beaucage, Right Wing, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Beaucage scored 13 goals and 37 points in 56 games as a rookie. He showed off a knack for finding openings in the defence and then taking advantage of that space with an excellent shot and quick release. He could use that shot even more often but defaults into being a playmaker when carrying the puck. Beaucage sees the ice well and can find teammates to set up a play. He has good balance and puck control, extending plays in the cycle game.
Maxence Guenette, Defence, Val D’Or Foreurs
Guenette is a mobile defender. He is a good skater in both directions and has very good edgework and pivots. This allows Guenette to cover a lot of ice and play strong in both ends. He is mature for his age and already developing the type of two-way ability that is always in high demand. Guenette has good vision and can pass the puck to start the transition or in the offensive zone. He had just 12 points last year but should see an increase in his offence this year. Guenette helped Team Canada to a gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
2020 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch
Pier-Olivier Roy, Left Wing, Gatineau Olympiques
Roy shows excellent skating ability. His edgework and agility are advanced and allow him to get away from defenders. He also shows very good strength and balance for his age, which make him strong on the puck and allow him to play the cycle. Roy has the passing skills to set up teammates through tight lanes. He also has a decent wrist shot and release.
William Dufour, Right Wing, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
The 16-year-old already comes in at six-foot-one. Dufour works hard on the boards and in front of the net. He forechecks hard, battling for loose pucks and creating offence through turnovers. Once he gets the puck, he plays a North-South power game, driving the net. Dufour has the soft hands to finish in tight to the net, and also has a good shot and release to score from further out.
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