Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at William Villeneuve.
Sherbrooke native William Villeneuve had a huge season for the Saint John Sea Dogs. He scored nine goals and 49 assists for 58 points in 64 games. Villeneuve led all QMJHL defencemen in both assists and points. He also served as an alternate captain for the Sea Dogs. Villeneuve spent most of the season playing on the Sea Dogs top pair, alongside fellow 2020 NHL Draft prospect Jeremie Poirier. On a rebuilding club, the two 17-year-olds took on big minutes. They also had the responsibility of being matched against the opponents’ top lines.
Villeneuve was the second overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft. In his rookie season, he scored one goal and 18 assists for 19 points in 55 games. Villeneuve has also played internationally for Canada. He put up four assists in six tournament games for Team Canada Red at the 2018 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. Villeneuve played Bantam hockey for the Magog Cantonniers in the QMAAA, where he was coached by former NHL goaltender Felix Potvin. He led the Cantoniers to an appearance in Canada’s top midget hockey tournament, the Telus Cup.
William Villeneuve Scouting Report
Defence — shoots Right
Born March 20th, 2002 — Sherbrooke, Quebec
Height 6’1″ — Weight 175 lbs [185 cm/79 kg]
Villeneuve is a strong skater in both directions. This helps him to play an effective two-way game. He skates with an upright style and somewhat awkward stride, but it does not seem to slow him down. Villeneuve has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has good agility and edgework. He can change directions quickly. Villeneuve’s lateral movement is extremely good. This also helps him in both ends of the ice. It allows him to walk the line to open up passing and shooting lanes, as well as helps him to maintain his gap control and keep attackers in front of him when defending.
Villeneuve will need to add more muscle to his frame going forward. Increased core strength will help his balance and allow him to be stronger on his skates. This will help him fight through checks as well as make him better in the corners and in front of the net.
Villeneuve can score goals from the point. He has a good arsenal of heavy shots, with a strong slap shot as well as an excellent wrist shot. His release is quick and the shots are accurate. Villeneuve improved a lot between his rookie season and his second season at getting his shots through traffic and on the net. He takes advantage of his good lateral agility to walk the line and open up shooting lanes. Villeneuve also does a good job of keeping his shots low, which allows his teammates to get to the front of the net for rebounds and deflections.
Villeneuve is also a good passer. He often starts the transition game with a good first pass. He also can use his skating and strong stickhandling to skate the puck out of danger and away from forecheckers. Villeneuve can carry the puck through the neutral zone and make plays, though he prefers to head-man the puck and join as a trailer. He has the vision and passing skills as well to quarterback things from the point on the power play. Villeneuve can make a quick dangle or move laterally to change the angle and open up a passing lane. If there is room available he can make a smart pass to a teammate, setting up a scoring chance.
Villeneuve’s defensive positioning and instincts are good. He is not afraid of the physical game, getting involved in battles for loose pucks in the corners and working to clear the front of the net. However, he must get stronger in order to maximize his abilities in these areas. Villeneuve has a lanky frame right now and can be overpowered by stronger, more physical attackers. Villeneuve is a smart player. He reads the play well and cuts down passing as well as shooting lanes. Against the rush, he does a good job of forcing attackers wide to low-quality shooting areas. He also uses a quick stick to steal the puck from opponents. Villeneuve’s ability to move the puck up the ice quickly helps to limit the offensive zone time his team faces.
Projection and Comparison
Villeneuve isn’t as flashy as his defensive partner, Poirier, but he has also been an important part of the pairing. He has his own skill and is not just leaching off of his teammate. Villeneuve could develop into a top-4 defenceman with the offensive skills to run the power play. At this point, his best bet is a couple of more years in the QMJHL where he can continue to work on bulking up to be stronger defensively. Villeneuve’s game is reminiscent of Kris Letang but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of William Villeneuve that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
William Villeneuve Main Photo:
— QMJHL (@QMJHL) June 2, 2018