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 recently kicked off their new seasons. With that in mind, we will start our division previews today and make our way around the country. Today, we bring you our 2019-20 QMJHL Maritime Division Preview.
You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
QMJHL Maritime Division
Top Two Teams (In Predicted Order of Finish)
The Wildcats are loading up for a run at the QMJHL title and that is seen in their offseason addition of goaltender Olivier Rodrigue. He should be one of the top goalies in the entire league. The offence is led by high draft picks in Alexander Khovanov and Jakob Pelletier. They are supported by Mika Cyr, Elliot Desnoyers, and Jacob Hudson. On defence, they are led by Jordan Spence and Tristan DeJong, who can put up points and play well in their own end.
Cape Breton Eagles
Matthias Laferriere and Shawn Boudrais provide a one-two punch upfront. They are joined by forwards Egor Sokolov, Shawn Miller, and Brooklyn Kalmikov in scoring roles. QMJHL Rookie and first-round Import draft selection Ivan Ivan will also be asked to provide some offence. Goaltender Kevin Mendolese should provide some of the best goaltending in the division. He will have a veteran group in front of him, including Antoine Crête-Belzile as an overager and four other defencemen who are in their fourth junior season.
Players to Watch
Mathias Laferriere, Centre, Cape Breton Eagles
After adding some muscle on his frame, Laferriere increased the power on his shot, going from 12 goals in 2017-18 to 28 goals last year. He also improved his ability to control the puck down low in the cycle game and to create plays. This has helped Laferriere to take advantage of his vision and passing skills. He buys time for his teammates to get open and when they do he is able to make a tape-to-tape pass to set them up for a scoring chance.
Kevin Mandolese, Goaltender, Cape Breton Eagles
A tall goaltender coming in at 6-foot-4, Mandolese has the ideal size that NHL teams are looking for in goaltending prospects. He gets out of his net well to cut down angles and take advantage of that frame. He gives the shooter very little net to look at. Mandolese plays a solid butterfly style with quick legs to take away the bottom of the net. He also has a good glove hand. Mandolese is very athletic, as he can recover quickly from making one save and quickly get back into position to stop another. However, he can stand to work on his rebound control.
Nikita Alexandrov, Centre, Charlottetown Islanders
Alexandrov’s game is a mix of skill and power. He is strong enough to get the puck to the front of the net, and this is where he creates the majority of his offence. Alexandrov drives the net hard as well as having the soft hands to finish in tight to the goal. He can make a quick move to get by a defender or to open up a passing lane to a teammate. Alexandrov’s ability to control the puck in the cycle game allows him to extend plays and wait for teammates to get open in front of the net. Alexandrov has very good hand-eye coordination. He can pounce on a rebound and put the puck into the back of the net. He is also very good at deflecting pucks.
Xavier Bernard, Defence, Charlottetown Islanders
Bernard is a strong defender. His strong skating and lateral agility make him tough to beat in one-on-one situations. He positions himself well and he uses a long stick to cut down passing lanes. Bernard keeps himself between his man and the net. He is physical in defending against the cycle game as well as clearing the front of the net. Bernard is also capable of throwing a big hit. He is disciplined and does not take a lot of penalties despite this physical game.
Raphael Lavoie, Right Wing/Centre, Halifax Mooseheads
Lavoie has the size and skills to be a power winger. He is also a natural sniper. Lavoie has an excellent wrist shot and quick release. He also has a good snapshot and a hard slap shot. Lavoie is also good at getting to the front of the net where he has soft hands and good hand-eye coordination to finish in close to the net with rebounds and tip-ins. He also has good stickhandling ability and protects the puck well.
He handles the puck well, even while moving at full speed. This allows him to cycle the puck down low and control the pace of the game. If an opportunity presents itself he can take the puck to the front of the net. He also has the vision and passing ability to play the role of playmaker. Lavoie’s ability to cycle the puck allows him to extend plays and wait for teammates to get open.
Jared McIsaac, Left Defence, Halifax Mooseheads
McIsaac will miss half the season after off-season surgery. He can carry the puck out of his own zone and lead the rush. McIsaac combines excellent puck handling skill with his good skating and can carry the puck end-to-end to create a scoring chance. He also has the vision and skill to make a strong first pass and start the transition game that way. His good passing skills transition to his play at the point. He has the poise to handle the puck and the patience to make plays. His agility allows McIsaac to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. McIsaac has the passing skill and vision to set up scoring opportunities for his teammates. McIsaac’s strong skating ability helps him to be an excellent two-way defender.
Alexander Khovanov, Centre, Moncton Wildcats
Drafted by the Minnesota Wild, Khovanov is an outstanding playmaker. He has the vision and the passing skills to put pucks through tight areas and on the tape of his linemates. He reads the play really well, slowing things down when necessary to give a teammate the opportunity to get open. Khovanov has soft hands and is a very good stick handler. He combines this with his skating ability to be a nightmare for defenders in one-on-one situations. He can either beat his man and cut to the net, or create a passing lane, or use his defender as a screen and take a shot on net. Overall he is a very smart offensive player.
Khovanov has a powerful and accurate wrist shot. However, his wind-up is a bit long at this point, and this takes away a bit of the element of surprise. It is not that bad, it just is a step below some of the other shooters in this class. He also has a strong snapshot and a very good backhand. Khovanov is a pass first player though. He could stand to shoot more often, which would also help to make him less predictable.
Jakob Pelletier, Left Wing, Moncton Wildcats
Pelletier is known more as a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has an excellent hockey IQ. Pelletier anticipates plays. He knows where his teammates are and is able to thread passes through tight areas. He has the patience to wait for a linemate to get open and in a good scoring position. His quick movements and good hands allow him to control the puck down low. Pelletier uses his skating skills to create space and openings. Defenders must back off and respect his speed. When this happens he can slow down the play and find an opening passing lane. He also creates passing lanes with his quick changes of direction as well as his soft hands changing angles against defenders.
While his playmaking ability is seen as Pelletier’s biggest strength, he can also score goals. Pelletier has the soft hands to finish in tight to the net. He is not afraid to take the puck to the net and make plays. Pelletier also has a good shot.
Olivier Rodrigue, Goaltender, Moncton Wildcats
At just 6-foot-1 Rodrigue is a bit smaller than the prototypical NHL goaltender. He makes up for this with excellent agility and skating ability. Rodrigue comes out of his net and cuts down angles extremely well. He maximizes his size and gives shooters little room to work worth. His quick backwards skating prevents him from being beaten by a deke as he comes out. His strong edges and good push allow him to move laterally quickly. Rodrigue tracks the puck well and is square to the shooter. He likes to use his stick to poke check opponents as well as to cut down the cross-crease passing lane. Rodrigue has quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net effectively. He gets in and out of the butterfly quickly.
Maxim Cajkovic, Right Wing/Left Wing, Saint John Sea Dogs
Cajkovic is an excellent stick handler, who can use his moves to beat defenders one-on-one. His creativity creates space and opens up passing and shooting lanes. Cajkovic finds open teammates with a quick pass and has the vision to see scoring opportunities as they develop. His skating allows him to get in quickly on the forecheck and create turnovers.
He also has the ability to score goals. He is not afraid to get to the front of the net and has the hand-eye coordination to finish when he gets there. Cajkovic can pounce on rebounds, redirect passes into the net, and also get tip-ins. He is a real sniper. Cajkovic also has a nice arsenal of shots with a good wrist shot, snapshot, backhand and one-timer. He has very good power in his shot, and also can fool goaltenders with a quick release. Cajkovic also does a good job of changing the angle of his stick on his release, which also makes things difficult for goalies.
2020 NHL Draft Eligible Players to Watch
Noah Delemont, Defence, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
The third overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, Delemont is an undersized defenceman with excellent skating skill. He handles the puck well, able to skate the puck out of danger and avoid the forecheck and advance it through the neutral zone. Delemont has good vision and passing skills, setting up scoring chances off the rush as well as quarterbacking the play from the point on the power play. He needs to improve his shot in order to move up draft boards. He is solid in his own end of the ice, with a quick and active stick. His pokecheck ability creates turnovers.
Ivan Ivan, Centre, Cape Breton Eagles
Undersized at just 5-foot-9, the Czech forward makes up for it with very good skating and stickhandling skills. He is extremely dangerous off the rush. Ivan is an excellent playmaker. His vision is very good and he anticipates plays well. A quick change in direction or dangle with his stick can open up a passing lane to a teammate. Ivan has the skill to make the pass through those tight areas and set up teammates for a scoring chance.
Lukas Cormier, Defence, Charlottetown Islanders
The fourth overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft, Cormier had a monster rookie season with 15 goals and 36 points. He has slick skating and puck-moving skills though. Cormier retrieves pucks on dump-ins and quickly starts the transition game, whether it be by skating the puck out of danger or with a quick first pass. He sees the ice well, and his vision and passing ability allow him to play the role of power-play quarterback. He also has an excellent slap shot. With his agility, he is able to move laterally and create shooting lanes. He also has a good wrist shot. He sneaks down to the faceoff circles before letting it go.
Justin Barron, Defence, Halifax Mooseheads,
Barron is an outstanding skater, and this helps him to play a strong two-way game. He gets around the ice quickly and can join the rush or pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively. Barron can make a smart first pass to start the transition or he can use his strong skating and stickhandling to lead the rush himself. He sees the ice well and makes good decisions with the puck. Barron also has a good point shot. He can also sneak down to the faceoff circles and let go his wrist shot. Barron plays a disciplined defensive game and his skating helps him defend one-on-one situations. His excellent agility and edgework allow him to maintain good gap control.
Elliot Desnoyers, Left Wing, Moncton Wildcats
As a QMJHL Rookie, Desnoyers put up 12 goals and 31 points in 61 games last season. He has a decent wrist shot, with good accuracy and a quick release. He is able to get himself open without the puck. Once he finds a soft spot in the defence, he prepares to take the pass and fire quickly on the net. With decent skating, he is dangerous off the rush. He also has good vision and can play the role of playmaker.
Jeremie Poirier, Defence, Saint John Sea Dogs
Poirier has good size, as he is already 6-foot, as a 17-year-old. Poirier has two-way skills. He has shown strong positioning and instincts in his own zone. His active stick cuts down passing lanes, while Poirier is willing to use his body to block shots. He is also a good passer. Poirier is willing to join the rush and has a decent shot. He has improved his skating and combines this with his stickhandling ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone. Poirier is very effective at generating good zone entries and establishing possession in the offensive zone. He put up 21 points as a QMJHL rookie.
William Villeneuve, Right Defence, Saint John Sea Dogs
The second overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL draft, Villeneuve is already 6-foot-1 but the 17-year-old is very skinny at just 163 pounds. He has a heavy shot, with a strong slap shot and an excellent wrist shot. His release is quick. However, Villeneuve must work to get his shot through and on the net when facing traffic. He is also a good passer. He can start the transition game with a good first pass as well as quarterback things from the point on the power play. His defensive positioning and instincts are good and he is not afraid of the physical game but must get stronger. Villeneuve is a strong skater in both directions and has good agility and edgework. This helps him to play a two-way game.
2021 NHL Draft Prospects
Joshua Roy, Centre, Saint John Sea Dogs
The first overall pick in the 2019 QMJHL Draft, Roy is an elite sniper. He has an excellent array of shots, with an excellent wrist shot and strong snapshot. Both feature outstanding releases. He has good skating and stickhandling and can create his own shot. He also has a strong slapshot and one-timer. Roy is a very smart player who gets open without the puck and makes good plays with it. He can also excel as a playmaker with excellent vision and passing skills. He will be well followed ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft.
2019-20 QMJHL Maritime Division Preview Main Photo:
QUEBEC CITY, QC – NOVEMBER 20: Jakob Pelletier #11 of the Moncton Wildcats celebrates his goal against the Quebec Remparts during their QMJHL hockey game at the Videotron Center on November 20, 2018, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images)