Written by Kris Abbott, Play by Play Voice for QMJHL Friday Night Hockey & other sports on Eastlink TV. He can be found on twitter @EastlinkKris
QMJHL PLAYOFF PRIMER
New to the QMJHL? Maybe you don’t follow the regular season all that closely but enjoy the playoffs. You’re in the right place! Below you will find a recap of the key points from the regular season and first round playoff predictions.
#1 Seed: Saint John Sea Dogs (48-14-5-1, 102 Points), Head Coach: Danny Flynn
The Saint John Sea Dogs are the regular season champions in the QMJHL. They lost just twice in regulation time over their last 28 games and are the odds on favourite to capture the QMJHL President Cup as league champions. The Sea Dogs have eleven players either drafted or signed to the National Hockey League, the most of any team in the Q. Thomas Chabot (OTT) was the MVP of the IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto/Montreal this year. Team Canada teammates Julien Gauthier (CAR) and Mathieu Joseph (TB) are also on the Sea Dogs roster. Defenceman Jakub Zboril (BOS) played for the Czech Republic at the WJC.
NHL drafted or signed players: Thomas Chabot (OTT), Julien Gauthier (CAR), Mathieu Joseph (TB), Jakub Zboril (BOS), Nathan Noel (CHI), Matt Highmore (CHI), Spencer Smallman (CAR), Callum Booth (CAR), Bokondji Imama (TB), Simon Bourque (MON), and Samuel Dove-McFalls (PHI). 16 year old forward Joe Veleno is the first player in the history of the QMJHL to ever receive exceptional status and is having a good sophomore year after suffering an early season leg injury.
Matthew Highmore (34-55-89)
Mathieu Joseph (36-44-80)
Spencer Smallman (30-49-79)
Simon Bourque (15-41-56)
Bokondji Imama (41-14-55)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Rimouski Oceanic
Prediction: Sea Dogs in 4
#2 Seed: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (43-18-2-5, 93 Points), Head Coach: Gilles Bouchard
Last year’s President Cup Champions are right in the mix to be the first repeat winners since Saint John in 2011 & 2012. The Huskies have 13 returning players from last year’s championship team including team leading scorer Antoine Waked. The Huskies finished the season on a 3 game losing streak after winning 10 straight previous.
NHL drafted or signed players: Martins Dzierkals (TOR), Gabriel Fontaine (NYR), Philippe Myers (PHI), Alexandre Fortin (CHI), Jean-Christophe Beaudin (COL), Manuel Wiederer (SJ), and Jeremy Lauzon (BOS). Lauzon and Myers were members of Team Canada at the WJC while Dzierkals played for Latvia. Myers was a force for Team Canada before suffering a tournament ending concussion that kept him out for the majority of the second half of the season.
Antoine Waked (39-41-80)
Jean-Christophe Beaudin (30-50-80)
Peter Abbandonato (19-37-56)
Manuel Wiederer (29-24-53)
Gabriel Fontaine (23-29-52)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Halifax Mooseheads
Prediction: Rouyn – Noranda in 5
#3 Seed: Shawinigan Cataractes (42-20-4-2, 90 Points), Head Coach: Claude Bouchard
Shawinigan have finished in the Top 5 of the QMJHL overall standings for the 3rd straight year, even after losing Captain Anthony Beauvillier to the New York Islanders out of training camp. The East Division Champions made it all the way to the league finals last season before losing to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in 5 games. The Cataractes went 11-1 to open the season but have cooled off since then, playing .500 hockey in the second half of the season and limping into the playoffs losing 6 of 9. The Cataractes are led by smooth skating defenseman Samuel Girard (NSH) and sniper Dennis Yan (TB). Girard was a late cut from Canada’s World Junior Team while Yan was passed over by Team USA as they continued their trend of snubbing CHL players. Goaltender Mikhail Denisov has carried the mail for Shawinigan this year, playing over 50 games. He is among QMJHL leaders in all major statistical categories: Wins (31 – T-1st), Minutes (3009 – 2nd), GAA (2.45 – 3rd), Save Percentage(.909 – 2nd), Shutouts(4 – T-2nd), and saves(1233 – 4th). The native of Moscow, Russia turns 19 on March 24.
NHL drafted or signed players: Samuel Girard (NSH), Dennis Yan (TB), Manuel Wiederer (SJ), Brandon Gignac (NJ), and Cavan Fitzgerald (SJ). Other players to watch on this team are dynamic 20 year old forward Alexis D’Aoust and former Moncton Wildcats Captain, Cameron Askew.
Dennis Yan (46-29-75)
Samuel Girard (9-66-75)
Brandon Gignac (23-39-62)
Alexis D’Aoust (29-31-60)
Cameron Askew (27-29-56)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Val d’Or Foreurs
Prediction: Shawinigan in 6
#4 Seed: Charlottetown Islanders (46-18-4-0, 96 Points), Head Coach: Jim Hulton
Charlottetown have a long history of underachievement and heartache since the team moved to Prince Edward Island in 2003. Finally in 2016-2017 the fans in the Birthplace of Confederation have a contender to get behind. The Islanders have set multiple franchise records this season including Wins (46) and Goals Scored (303). Head Coach Jim Hulton, also the team’s General Manager, made waves in Charlottetown and around the entire QMJHL during the trade period completing 8 trades involving 19 players and 13 draft picks; completely overhauling the roster of a team that was already in 4th place in the league. The Islanders also received a boost from the return of Pittsburgh Penguins 2nd rounder Daniel Sprong who underwent major shoulder surgery in the offseason to heal an injury he suffered as a “Black Ace” during the Penguins Stanley Cup run last year. In 31 games since his return, Sprong has 32 goals and 27 assists for 59 points. Since Jan 6, the Islanders are 22-5-3-0
NHL drafted or signed players: Daniel Sprong (PIT), Nicolas Meloche (COL), Alex Dostie (ANA), Guillaume Brisebois (VAN), Carl Neill (VAN), Filip Chlapik (OTT), Adam Marsh (DET). Chlapik was a top player for the Czech Republic at the 2017 World Junior Championship.
Francois Beauchemin (45-52-97)
Filip Chlapik (34-57-91)
Kameron Kielly (34-40-74)
Alex Dostie (30-41-71)
Carl Neill (13-56-69)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Baie Comeau Drakkar
Prediction: Charlottetown in 5
#5 Seed: Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (43-19-4-2, 92 Points), Head Coach: Joel Bouchard
The top defensive team in the league allowing just 171 goals over the 68 game season; an average of just 2.51 goals allowed per game. The Armada play a stifling game all over the ice and may be the top team at taking away time and space from opposing players. If teams manage to get through the skaters, the QMJHL’s top goaltenders Samuel Montembault (FLA) and Francis Leclerc are waiting in the blue paint. Needing some scoring prowess, the Armada acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois (CLB) and Alex Barre-Boulet at the trade deadline. Dubois was the 3rd Overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft while Barre-Boulet led the Drummondville Voltigeurs in scoring at the time of the trade. The Armada battled with Rouyn-Noranda for first place in the West Division all season long but eventually finished one point behind the Huskies. As dangerous a #5 seed as there’s been in recent years, the Armada cannot be counted out of the discussion of contending teams. Talented ‘99 Joel Teasdale has found his game in the 2nd half of the season and their big, veteran blue line is built for playoff hockey.
Jeremy Roy (SJ) is the third NHL drafted/signed player on this team but suffered a season ending knee injury after just 10 games this season. There have been rumours of a potential playoff return but Bouchard has dispelled these rumours, saying he 100% will not be back.
Alex Barre-Boulet (29-52-81)
Pierre-Luc Dubois (21-34-55)
Alexandre Allain (29-23-52)
Joel Teasdale (18-29-47)
Connor Bramwell (22-22-44)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Drummondville Voltigeurs
Prediction: Blainville-Boisbriand in 5
#6 Seed: Acadie-Bathurst Titan (39-23-4-2, 84 Points), Head Coach: Mario Pouliot
It has been a turn-around season for New Brunswick’s northern-most franchise. Led by NHL draft eligible forwards Antoine Morand (’99) and Vladimir Kuznetsov (’98) as well as overage sniper Christophe Boivin, the Titan have had their best season since 2010-2011. The Titan began the season with a nice mix of skill and work ethic and added defensive depth at the trade period acquiring both Adam Holwell (‘97) and Zach Malatesta (’96) from the Moncton Wildcats. Holwell and Malatesta are playoff tested having advanced to the league semi-finals in each of the past two seasons. A quiet addition from Drummondville may prove to be the most essential as GM Sylvain Couturier added goaltender Anthony Dumont-Bouchard who has gone 13-6-1-1 with a GAA of 2.86 and save percentage of .904 with the Titan.
NHL drafted or signed players: Rodrigo Abols (VAN)
Christophe Boivin (43-47-90)
Antoine Morand (28-46-74)
Vladimir Kuznetsov (30-38-68)
Danil Miromanov (22-40-62)
Jeffrey Truchon-Viel (35-25-60)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Quebec Remparts
Prediction: Acadie-Bathurst in 6
#7 Seed: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (39-25-2-2, 82 Points), Head Coach: Marc-Andre Dumont
This year’s version of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are unlike any that the Q’s Far East has seen in a while. Led by Olivier LeBlanc (CLB) and Phelix Martineau, this team has developed a blue collar mentality to match the city they call home: Sydney, Nova Scotia. Lacking big names and star power, the Screaming Eagles embarked on a workmanlike mentality that has earned them home ice advantage in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. Rookie goaltenders Kyle Jessiman (’99) and Kevin Mandolese (’00) have been nothing short of excellent on most nights. Laval, Quebec’s Giovanni Fiore (’96, undrafted) is just the second player in the 20 year history of the Screaming Eagles to crack the 50 goal plateau and is sure to garner pro interest. This is a team to keep an eye on during the playoffs as they will not give an inch no matter who they play. None of the top teams want to see the Eagles on their schedule in April.
NHL drafted or signed players: Vasily Glotov (BUF), Olivier Leblanc (CLB)
Top 5 Scorers:
Giovanni Fiore (52-38-90)
Massimo Carozza (27-42-69)
Drake Batherson (22-36-58)
Vasily Glotov (15-35-50)
Phelix Martineau (28-19-47)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Gatineau Olympiques
Prediction: Cape Breton in 7
#8 Seed: Chicoutimi Sagueneens (38-25-3-2, 81 Points), Head Coach: Yanick Jean
The Sags had a dreadful start to their 2016-2017 campaign going 1-6 to start the season and losing #1 goaltender Julio Billia for two months. They then went on to win 14 of their next 18 games led by Nicolas Roy (CAR) who starred for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. Roy had a very pedestrian draft year in 2014-2015 and slid all the way to the 4th round of the NHL Entry Draft. Since then he has scored 170 points in 116 games for Chicoutimi and now looks to be the most NHL ready player in the entire QMJHL. Chicoutimi were very active at the QMJHL trade period and added six players to their lineup via trade (including Petr Klima’s twin sons Kelly & Kevin) plus signed Russian forward German Rubstov (PHI) after the WJC. Rubstov has paid immediate dividends and added 22 points in his first 16 games. Chicoutimi has one of the most potent power play units in the league and that will be key for them come playoff time.
NHL drafted or signed players: Nicolas Roy (CAR), German Rubstov (PHI), Dmitry Zhukenov (VAN), Frederic Allard (NSH)
Nicolas Roy (36-44-80)
Joey Ratelle (41-36-77)
Dmitry Zhukenov (18-47-65)
Frederic Allard (14-51-65)
Kelly Klima (22-27-49)
First Round Playoff Opponent: Victoriaville Tigres
Prediction: Chicoutimi in 6