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Mooseheads' Lavoie one of three Quebecers who might be on Canadiens' radar in first round of draft

Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie scored a hat trick against the Drummondville Voltigeurs in Game 2 of the teams’ third-round series in Drummondville, Que., on Saturday. (ERIC WYNNE/Chronicle Herald)
Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie scored a hat trick against the Drummondville Voltigeurs in Game 2 of the teams’ third-round series in Drummondville, Que. - Eric Wynne/SaltWire Network File

Why didn’t you draft a player from Quebec?

That’s a question the Canadiens have become accustomed to hearing after the NHL draft.

The last time the Canadiens drafted a Quebecer in the first round was 2009. The draft was held in Montreal as part of the team’s centennial celebration and there was some pressure to select Harvard-bound Louis Leblanc with the 18th overall pick. Leblanc never lived up to the expectations. He retired from hockey at age 25 after collecting five goals and five assists in 50 games with the Canadiens. The good news for Leblanc is that he will mark the 10th anniversary of his draft by picking up his Harvard degree.

Since the Canadiens struck out with Leblanc, they have drafted only six players from Quebec and most of the selections have been late-round picks. The one exception is goaltender Zachary Fucale, who was selected in the second round in 2013. He was once touted as the goaltender of the future, but he has spent more time in the ECHL than in the AHL and the Canadiens cut him loose last summer.

Charles Hudon, a fifth-rounder in 2012, has 13 goals and 26 assists in 110 games with the Canadiens, but his stock went down last season. He turned down a qualifying offer from the Canadiens this week and, while Montreal retains his NHL rights, there are reports that he’ll seek employment in the KHL.

While the Canadiens haven’t shown a lot of respect for the homegrown talent, there are three forwards from the QMJHL who could be on Canadiens’ radar when they make their first-round selection Friday in Vancouver.

RAPHAEL LAVOIE: Topping the list is Lavoie, a right winger from the Halifax Mooseheads. The Montreal native is a 6-foot-4, 198-pounder who is a classic power forward. He is a highly skilled forward who is a deceptively strong skater, but there have been questions about his consistency.

Lavoie had 32 goals and 73 points in 62 regular-season games and he stepped up his performance during the playoffs as Halifax went to the Memorial Cup final before losing to Rouyn-Noranda. Lavoie was the leading goal-scorer in the QMJHL playoffs with 20 goals and had 32 points in 23 games. He was awarded the Mike Bossy Trophy, which goes to the outstanding pro prospect in the QMJHL.

SAMUEL POULIN: Is the Sherbrooke forward a top-six power forward or a third-line plugger with a good work ethic? Poulin has a good pedigree but, while his father, Patrick, was drafted ninth overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1991, he never produced the numbers expected of a top draft choice. But Poulin père, whose career ended after four and a half seasons in Montreal, did play 634 NHL games and collected 101 goals and 134 assists as a bottom-six centre.

Samuel Poulin has good size at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds and he is strong on his skates although his first step could be quicker, a problem that has plagued another Canadiens first-rounder, Michael McCarron. Poulin has a quick release and drives hard to the net. He led Sherbrooke with 29 goals and 76 points in 67 games and added 14 points in 10 playoff games.

JAKOB PELLETIER: He has speed, his compete level is elite and he has a good shot, which allowed him to score 39 goals during an 89-point season with the Moncton Wildcats. Pelletier needs all those attributes to succeed at the next level because at 5-foot-9 and 161 pounds, he’s small. The Canadiens have shown a willingness to overlook a lack of size, and players like Max Domi, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron have succeeded in Montreal. The question is whether the Canadiens want or need another small forward?

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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