The ‘Q’ starts playing real games on Thursday, ahead of the other two major junior circuits. And while Memorial Cup participants Quebec and Rimouski will inevitably take a step back, there are some new teams ready to take their place
The first of the three major junior circuits to kick off its season, the Quebec League won’t have the same big impact on the NHL draft this year as it did in 2015, but there are many good prospects to watch overall. Also, goaltending will be a big unknown for many teams. Those who get great performances will soar, those who do not will plummet.
Below, you will find my preview of the ‘Q,’ with predicted standings based on consultations with experts from Quebec and the Maritimes. Also, prospects to watch for each squad. By coincidence, the top three teams happened to come from the three different divisions, but treat this list as more of a power ranking.
This is how I see the league shaking out this season:
1. Sherbrooke Phoenix – A deep blueline led by San Jose picks Jeremy Roy and Alexis Vanier will help protect 2016 goalie prospect Evan Fitzpatrick
2. Saint John Sea Dogs – Twin first-rounders Jakub Zboril (Boston) and Thomas Chabot (Ottawa) will lead an impressively balanced squad from the back end
3. Shawinigan Cataractes – New York Islanders first-rounder Anthony Beauvillier will pace the attack again, with Dennis Yan (Tampa Bay) and rookie Alexander Dergachev (LA) helping
4. Charlottetown Islanders – Goalie Mason McDonald (Calgary) will have a world juniors spot in mind, while Daniel Sprong (Pittsburgh) and Filip Chlapik (Ottawa) lead the offense
5. Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – Between 2016 prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois and Detroit first-rounder Evgeny Svechnikov, the Screaming Eagles have some impressive wings.
6. Val-d’Or Foreurs – The Foreurs will be dangerous with Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Philadelphia), Anthony Richard (Nashville) and Julien Gauthier (2016) up front.
7. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies – Look for a continued ascent from rising stars Jeremy Lauzon (Boston) and J-C Beaudin (Colorado). Huskies are deep.
8. Gatineau Olympiques – Big Nashville pick Yakov Trenin is the man to watch up front for the Olympiques, while fellow Preds selection Alexander Carrier patrols the back
9. Victoriaville Tigres – Towering right winger Gabriel Gagne (Ottawa) had a great pre-season, while 2016 prospect Pascal Laberge is one to watch down the middle
10. Rimouski Oceanic – Though defenseman Simon Bourque (Montreal) is the only draft pick, the Oceanic retains a decent amount of experience elsewhere
11. Moncton Wildcats – League scoring champ Conor Garland (Arizona) returns, but he’ll need help with Ivan Barbashev gone. Can Liam Murphy (2016) break out?
12. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada – Star goaltender Samuel Montembeault (Florida) will have to be great for an Armada team that lost three of its top four scorers
13. Baie-Comeau Drakkar – Nasty defenseman Nicolas Meloche (Colorado) will lead the blueline, while the dazzling Vaclav Karabacek (Buffalo) handles the offense
14. Quebec Remparts – The Remparts were built for last season, but there’s still some nice flash in Dmytro Timashov (Toronto) and a promising goalie in Callum Booth (Carolina)
15. Halifax Mooseheads – Timo Meier (San Jose) will have to produce without Nikolaj Ehlers, but new speedy import Otto Somppi (2016) could help in that regard
16. Chicoutimi Sagueneens – Two-way threats Nicolas Roy (Carolina) and Dmitry Zhukenov (Vancouver) will pose problems for opponents
17. Drummondville Voltigeurs – Big Russian Sergei Boikov (Colorado) is one to watch on defense, while Mathieu Sevigny (2016) has promise on the left wing
18. Acadie-Bathurst Titan – Top import pick Vladimir Kuznetsov (2016) is ready for his debut, while big and mobile Guillaume Brisebois (Vancouver) leads the blueline