The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, or QMJHL for short, has churned out quite a bit of talent for the last two NHL drafts. Though the 2019 Draft featured fewer QMJHL selections than 2018, the league remains a very lucrative incubator for NHL prospects.
The QMJHL has had a total of 35 draftees in two years by 22 different NHL teams. 13 players have signed ELCs with NHL teams, five have graduated to the American Hockey League (Joe Veleno, Hunter Drew, Nicolas Beaudin, Filip Zadina, and Philipp Kurashev), and one plays full-time in the NHL (Islanders’ Noah Dobson).
Let’s examine the QMJHL’s current best and brightest, by position.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy is thriving exponentially on a line with Alexis LaFreniere (2020 projected NHL first overall pick) and Cedric Pare in Rimouski. The three of them individually lead the entire QMJHL in goals, assists, and points. Zavgorodniy was one of, if not the biggest steal of the 2018 draft; the Flames took him at the tail end of the seventh round at 198th overall. In just 18 games so far this season, Zavgorodniy has 36 points and a +23 rating. Calgary, still a structurally strong team, will most likely opt to keep Zavgorodniy in the QMJHL until next season so that he can continue to mature while also pursuing a Presidents Cup with LaFreniere and Pare. He could slot in on the second forward line with Matthew Tkachuk. Zavgorodniy signed an entry-level contract with Calgary this spring.
In just 16 games, Samuel Poulin is proving his legitimacy as the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft. A Penguins prospect, Poulin probably won’t see NHL ice time this season unless Teddy Blueger continues his rampant penalty drawing, but he should be ready for launch by Pittsburgh’s 2020 season opener. So far this season in first-place Sherbrooke, Poulin has 28 points and a +15 on-ice rating. Poulin signed an ELC with Pittsburgh in September.
If the Wild choose not to re-sign captain and centerman Mikko Koivu next summer, Alexander Khovanov could be the heir to his third-line center spot. Khovanov leads Montcon in points so far this season with 30- eighth in the QMJHL- and is maintaining a +20 rating in 14 games played. After a 25 goal, 74 point 2018-2019 campaign, Khovanov should be primed to start for a weak Minnesota team next season. He signed an ELC with Minnesota this spring.
The Flames are soon going to be loaded with top-end young forwards from the QMJHL. Jakob Pelletier, their 26th overall pick this year, is lighting it up in Montcon with Alexander Khovanov. Pelletier has been a more-than-point-per-game player since the 2017-2018 season- his first in the QMJHL. That season, he recorded 61 points in 60 games, boasting 23 goals as a 17-year old. In 2018-2019, Pelletier exploded for 89 points in 65 games. The only reason he probably didn’t get selected higher than 26th in this year’s draft was because he is on the smaller side: 5’9, 167 pounds. Still, Pelletier is an enormous talent. In 15 games this year, he’s got 28 points and a +20 rating. Pelletier signed an ELC with Calgary in September.
Felix Bibeau put up a pair of fantastic seasons for Rouyn-Noranda in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019- with 62 points in 61 games and 69 points in 63 games, respectively. Last year he recorded 29 playoff points for the Huskies en route to their Presidents Cup Championship. Now with Quebec, Bibeau is only continuing to prove his worth to the Islanders. He’s already notched 25 points in 18 games so far this season, leading the Remparts. New York is doing well this year and probably isn’t looking to do much changing to the lineup, but Bibeau can’t possibly be worse than Ross Johnston. Bibeau has yet to sign an ELC.
Connor McDavid will be running Edmonton’s show at the center position for the foreseeable future, but luckily for Raphael Lavoie, not much else stands in his way of obtaining a third or fourth line center role. Drafted 38th overall this year by the Oilers, Lavoie currently leads Halifax in goals, assists, and overall points. In 18 games, he’s racked up 28 points and leads the entire QMJHL in shots on goal. Last season, Lavoie put up 73 points in 62 regular season games. En route to becoming the runners-up to the 2019 Presidents Cup, Lavoie posted 32 points in 23 playoff games for the Mooseheads. Lavoie has not signed an ELC yet.
Alex Beaucage was drafted in the third round this year by Colorado and probably won’t see NHL ice for a year or two, but is a very valuable offensive prospect in their system. During Rouyn-Noranda’s championship season last year, Beaucage recorded 79 points and a +46 rating in 68 regular season games as well as 16 points in just as many playoff games. At just 18 years old, the Avs will keep Beaucage in juniors to get him more minutes for the time being. So far this year, he’s tallied 24 points and a +10 rating in 19 games, leading the Huskies. He’s proving that he has the skill to be put on Colorado’s weaker right wing position. Beaucage is not under contract yet.
As it turns out, one of the QMJHL’s brightest drafted defensive prospects is an 18-year old Australian-Japanese-Prince Edward Islander kid named Jordan Spence. He’s a touch undersized at 5’10 and 173 pounds, which is probably why he dropped to the fourth round in this year’s NHL draft- eventually being taken by the Kings at 95th overall. Spence is already Montcon’s highest-scoring defenseman this year, with 15 points and a +12 rating in 17 games. Being undersized isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time, but Spence will certainly need to add muscle in order to win puck battles against NHL boards. Spence has not been signed by L.A. yet.
Another immensely talented 18-year old QMJHL d-man was taken 48th overall this year by the Sharks. Artemi Kniazev is capable of eventually usurping Brendan Dillon’s spot on left defense. Kniazev has only played in nine games so far this season, but has already recorded eight points. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the only other Chicoutimi defenseman to have a higher point total (Louis Crevier) has also played in double the games Kniazev has with only eight points to show for it. Though Dillon’s contract ends at the end of this season, San Jose likely won’t rush to stick Kniazev into the lineup by the beginning of the 2020-2021 season and risk burning a year of the ELC he signed this summer.
The Senators are in need of quite a bit of talent, to say the least. Thomas Chabot is just about their only hope on defense. Even though 18-year old Maxence Guenette was selected by Ottawa at 187th overall this year and would probably do better in the NHL having a few more amateur season under his belt, but he can’t possibly be any worse than Mark Borowiecki. Over the past two seasons at Val D’Or, Guenette recorded 44 points in 129 games and a total rating of -68. That’s obviously not impressive, but Guenette has been improving this season. He has 10 points in 17 games with a +1 rating so far in 2019-2020. The Sens will keep Guenette in the QMJHL for the rest of the season, but he could easily make an NHL debut next October if Ottawa remains dismal. Guenette has not signed an ELC yet.
Olivier Rodrigue is a very solid goaltending prospect for Edmonton. In 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, Rodrigue recorded over-.900 save percentages and is continuing his success this season as well. He is 10-2 with a .906 save percentage this year with Moncton, not to mention he already has two assists. The Oilers are a bit more steady in net this year with the Mike Smith-Mikko Koskinen tandem, but Smith will likely be gone after this season as his Edmonton contract ends next summer. Koskinen is fine, but Rodrigue could be a prospect worth bringing up come next season. Rodrigue signed an ELC with the Oilers this past May.
Junior hockey stats are never going to be comparable to any NHL stat line, nor are they ever going to directly translate. Rouyn-Noranda’s Zachary Emond currently has a 3.37 GAA, which is mediocre at best in the NHL, but when the only other goalie on the team is rolling with a 4.27, you’re clearly the better option. Not only that, but Emond is being protected by a Huskies defensive corps who all have negative on-ice ratings. Emond is a bright prospect for San Jose, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2018. Last season, he went 24-0-1 for Rouyn-Noranda and finished with a 1.78 GAA and .932 save percentage. Despite a 9-7-2 record and a high GAA so far this season, Emond does have a .913 save percentage. If the Sharks choose to evaluate this season as an anomaly for Emond, he could easily supplant Aaron Dell (or hell, even Martin Jones) in the tandem. I mean, Emond’s 3.37 GAA is still higher than both Jones’ and Dell’s. He signed an ELC with San Jose this spring.