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 West Division Preview.
You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
QMJHL West Division
Top Two Teams (In Predicted Order of Finish)
A strong defensive group is led by David Noel who is back for an overage season. It also has Senators prospect Maxence Guenette and draft-eligible defender Jeremie Biakabutuka. They also have Blues draftee Jeremy Michel leading the offence. Overage forward Nicolas Ouellet, Jacob Gaucher, and Alexandre Couture return and will provide secondary scoring. In net, the Foreurs have Jonathan Lemieux back as the team’s starter.
There is almost always a downturn after a team loads up to win the league and the Memorial Cup and that will happen with this year’s Rouyn-Noranda team. However, they still have some talent, and it should be enough to compete in this division, which is probably the weakest in the QMJHL. Goaltender Zachary Emond was drafted by the San Jose Sharks and is ready to take over in net. Colorado prospect Alex Beaucage will lead the offence. The Huskies are waiting on the New York Islanders to decide on the status of defenceman Noah Dobson. If they opt to send him back to the QMJHL, it would make the Huskies the favourites to win this division.
Players to Watch
Samuel Bolduc, Defence, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
The New York Islanders draftee has excellent size. As a rookie, he put up two goals and 14 points in 57 games in 2017-18. He was even better in the playoffs with seven points in 20 games. Bolduc carried that over to last season with nine goals and 37 points in 65 points. 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. Bolduc has really improved his shot over the last year.
Luke Henman, Centre, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Henman was drafted in the fourth round, 96th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018. He put up 12 goals and 46 points in 63 regular-season games last year. 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.
Alex Beaucage, Right Wing/Left Wing, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Beaucage had a solid season with 39 goals and 79 points in 68 games. 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 started using that shot even more often this past season and the goal totals went up as a result. Beaucage can also play the role of a playmaker. His good stickhandling and skating allow him to carry the puck in transition and make plays. 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.
Zachary Emond, Goaltender, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted in the sixth round, Emond has very good size at 6-foot-3. He takes full advantage of that size by getting well out from his net to cut down angles and take up as much of the net as possible. Technically sound, Emond gets up and down in his butterfly quickly, using his strong legs to take away the bottom of the net. He tracks the puck well and gets side-to-side quickly. He could use some work on his rebound control, but this is the case for many young goalies. Emond went 24-0-1 in the regular season last year, with seven shutouts. He had a goals-against-average of 1.73 and a save percentage of .932. The stats might not be quite as good this year as he will be behind a much weaker team.
Maxence Guenette, Defence, Val D’Or Foreurs
An Ottawa Senators draftee, 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 went from 12 points as a QMJHL rookie to 32 points in his second season.
David Noel, Left Defence, Val D’Or Foreurs
Noel battled injuries last season but was productive when he played with 13 goals and 27 points in 37 games. Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the fifth-round in the 2017 NHL Draft, he is now a free agent as the Blues did not sign him. 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.
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. With added ice time, he looks to build on the 26 points he scored last year.
Jeremie Biakabutuka, Defence, Val D’Or Foreurs
The nephew of former NFLer Tim Biakabutuka, Jeremie Biakabutuka put up three goals and 14 points as a QMJHL rookie. He is looking to take a big step forward as a 17-year-old. Already 6-foot-3, he has outstanding size and is willing to use it to play a physical game in his own end of the ice. He also has an excellent slap shot and a good wrist shot. With improved lateral agility he should improve his ability to create shooting lanes and get the puck on the net. He also has decent passing skills.
2021 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch
Yevgeni Kashnikov, Defence, Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted 12th Overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft, Kashnikov is a lanky defenceman who comes in at 6-foot-2 but just 165 pounds. He put up 15 points in 16 games in the Russian Under-18 league last season. Kashnikov is a puck-moving defender. He combines strong skating ability with good stickhandling and passing skills. He can start the breakout with a good first pass or through skating the puck up the ice himself. As a late 2002 birthday, Kashnikov will have time to get physically stronger before his NHL Draft year in 2021.