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Bay Roberts sniper among league’s top draft-eligible players
Back in 2013, six Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players went in the first round of the NHL draft, including Nathan MacKinnon first overall and linemate Jonathan Drouin two picks later.
This year’s Q class is drawing comparisons to that group. Scouts are unanimous at this point that Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexis Lafreniere is the front-runner to go No. 1 and two others are rated to go in the top 10.
A lot will surely change between now and the 2020 draft in Montreal, but here are the leading names to keep track of leading up to what could be another bumper year for the Quebec league:
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic: If he didn’t have a late birthday, he’d be in the NHL right now. Lafreniere is a physical force, highly intelligent and a complete player. Everything about his game is elite.
2. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens: The No. 1 pick from the 2018 QMJHL draft had a strong rookie season and then took his game to another level with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Under-18 Championship in August. Some scouts pushed him as high as No. 2 in their rankings, thanks to his tremendous playmaking and overall package of skills.
3. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads: You would be hard-pressed to find a more fluid skater, even at the pro level. The Haligonian also has good size and may only be just scratching the surface of his offensive potential.
4. Dawson Mercer, RW, Drummondville Voltigeurs: The Newfoundlander is a sniper who loves taking the puck to the net. He’s a powerful skater and does strong work in the corners. The Bay Roberts native’s challenge this year will be to produce without the offensive support he enjoyed last season.
5. Vasily Ponomarev C, Shawinigan Cataractes: He too had a terrific Hlinka Gretzky tournament and arrived in Shawinigan from Russia with high expectations. If he makes a smooth transition to the North American game, he has more than enough talent to push his way into the first round.
6. Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John Sea Dogs: Some scouts have him rated around No. 20 leading into the season but others see him more as a second-rounder. Poirier has all the requisite tools to be a pro and if he can build on his good rookie Q year, he too could find himself in the first round when all is said and done.
7. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes: What will help Bourque this year is more depth around him. The Cataractes were at the beginning of their rebuild when he entered the league last season as a 16-year-old and he still managed 54 points in 64 games. With Ponomarev and others around him, he should improve on those numbers as a sophomore.
8. Lukas Cormier, D, Charlottetown Islanders: If Barron is the best-looking skater in the Quebec league, Cormier could easily be No. 2. His agility and glide are a pleasure to watch. You could also argue he is the better offensive player of the two but he is only five-foot-10 so he will have more to prove to the scouts.
9. William Villeneuve, D, Saint John Sea Dogs: His game is slightly more conservative than Poirier’s but that also helps him make fewer turnovers and mistakes. That doesn’t mean there is no offensive potential there because there is. It just seems at this point he is trending toward being an all-situations type of defenceman and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
10. Theo Rochette, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens: There is a wide range of opinion on the Swiss plyamaker. Some see him as a highly gifted offensive player who can create all manner of plays, while others have real concerns about his physical limitations. He plays at five-foot-10, 161 pounds and some scouts feel he is easily pushed off the puck with too much regularity.
Halifax Chronicle Herald