Top pick Dion scores a bit, hits a lot
QJMHL seventh overall draft pick Pier-Antoine Dion puts on the St.Johns Fog Devils cap and jersey after he was picked at the annual QJMHL annual draft session Saturday in Drummondville, Que. Photo by The Canadian Press
They gathered for a draft, but they stirred up trade winds.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leagues 18 teams congregated at the Centre Marcel Dionne in Drummondville Saturday for the leagues annual selection process and they spent almost as much time swapping draft picks as making them.
In the end, there were 26 trades, 20 of them involving no players, only draft selections.
The St. Johns Fog Devils were involved in five deals, including the first one of the day, sending the fourth overall pick to the Victoriaville Tigres for the seventh overall selection which they used to select Quebec midget forward Pier-Antoine Dion plus a second-round pick in 2008.
No Newfoundlanders were picked in the first round, but forwards Brandon Street of Bonavista and Travis Randell of Twillingate were taken back-to-back in the second round.
Street, who plays with Tri-Pen Frost, went 27th overall to the P.E.I. Rocket.
The Halifax Mooseheads followed up by taking Randell, a member of the Atlantic major midget champion St. Johns Maple Leafs.
They were two of 15 players from Newfoundland and Labrador who were selected Saturday. Thats a record number despite the draft being scaled back from 15 rounds to 12 rounds this season.
Most of the trading was done in the early going. In fact, there was such movement that of the 72 draft choices made in the first four rounds, only 18 were made by the team that originally owned the picks. One of those was the first overall choice, as the Saint John Sea Dogs took defenceman Simon Despres, who had been ranked first overall by the QMJHLs Central Scouting Bureau.
It marked the third straight season the Sea Dogs had the first overall pick and in each case, they took a defenceman (Alex Grant in 2005 and Yann Sauve in 2006).
But after Saint John took Despres, Drummondville selected forward Phillipe Lefebvre (with a pick acquired last year from Rimouski) and Shawinigan made rearguard Charles-Olivier Roussel the third pick, the bartering began in earnest.
Fog Devils general manager/head coach Real Paiement said teams were obviously zeroed in on particular players and willing to pay top price often to move up just a few spots to get the young man they wanted, rather than risk losing him to another club. Paiement wasnt sure if he understood that thinking, but was willing to take advantage of what was a sellers market.
I asked at the table, is the guy at 47 that much better than the guy you are going to get at 54? It seems so, because teams were jumping all over the place to get some picks, said Paiement.
By the conclusion of the fifth round, the Fog Devils had garnered two extra picks, two more for 2008 (a second and a third) and a fourth-rounder in 2009.
We were able to bank some picks for next year, but they might also be able to use those to get some help for our team during the season, said Paiement. And I thought we were really able to load up on some good assets for the present and future.
Dion had been ranked 18th overall by the QMJHL Central Scouting Bureau, but was also seen as a player who continually improved during the 2006-07 season with his Trois Rivieres midget team.
Watch this kid ... one of the best performances by a 91 (player born in 1991) late in the season, wrote the International Scouting Service (ISS) in its draft preview. A classic late bloomer.
The Fog Devils had been hoping to use the fourth pick on centre Louis Leblanc, but Leblanc was one of a number of players who didnt show up at the draft after insisting they were aiming to play at the American university level. That made the decision to trade down an easier one, especially since it still allowed them to have a shot at Dion.
With players, theres I hope and I know And I know what hes going to do, said Paiement. Hes going to show up every game with a good set of skills. He has been improving, but we think hes going to improve even more.
Excited about Devils
For his part, Dion said he is excited about the opportunity to play for St. Johns.
Ive never been to St. Johns, but I hear its a good team, good organization, nice city, said the 16-year-old, who plays both centre and left wing.
His words came through a translator because he didnt trust his English in an interview. But he says the language issue isnt a concern for him.
I see this as an adventure, he said.
Dion is five-11, 181-pounds and still growing after a season that saw him score 18 goals and add 15 assists in 44 games for Trois Rivieres. He also had 96 penalty minutes, a testament to the fact he likes to play a physical game.
I score a bit and hit a lot, answered Dion when asked for a self-description of his game.
I think people in St. Johns will find out that Dion is a lot like Matt Fillier, said Fog Devils chief scout Bob Johnson, referring to St. Johns gritty and dependable captain.
The Fog Devils also traded down in the second round, sending the 22nd overall pick to the Sea Dogs and receiving the 31st and 50th choices in return. Paiement had been hoping Randell still would be around by the time the Devils chose later in the second round, but the Mooseheads took the Newfoundlander (with a pick they traded for) and St. Johns instead opted for centre Louis-Marc Aubry, Dions Trois- Rivieres teammate and another player the ISS raves about.
He may be one of the biggest sleepers in this years QMJHL draft, the independent scouting service said about Aubry, whose father, Pierre, once played for the NHLs Quebec Nordiques.
Slight, but growing
At less than 150 pounds, Aubry also was one of the lightest players in the draft, but Paiement points out he wont turn 16 until November.
He still has lots of time to fill out, said Paiement.
The Fog Devils had been considering using the pick to take Fredericton, N.B., goaltender Jake Allen instead of Aubry, but gambled and found Allen, the top- ranked netminding prospect in Atlantic Canada, still available in the third round.
Of the 15 players from Newfoundland and Labrador selected on Saturday, three went to the Fog Devils, beginning with St. Johns Maple Leafs defenceman Patrick Parfrey in the fifth round. Their other two picks from the province were also blueliners Jeff MacRoberts of the Leafs in the sixth round and Donnie Churchill of the Western Kings in the 12th round.