The 2018-19 CHL season is upon us, so once again it is time for previews. As always, I have surveyed a number of journalists who cover each of the three leagues in order to get a sense of who the contenders and pretenders will be this season. Consider the following to be power rankings: divisional formats or seedings are not factored in, so if one division happened to have the best two franchises in the league, they would be ranked first and second.
I have also included a couple of NHL prospects to keep an eye on for each team. Given that NHL training camps have just begun, there will be some wild cards, but I’ve done my best to list kids most likely to return.
With Halifax hosting the Memorial Cup this season, the Mooseheads are obviously going for it and an already solid roster will surely add bodies as the campaign goes on. Drummondville is also gunning for the title and the Voltigeurs just edged out Halifax in our survey. Let’s take a look at how the rest of the league is stacking up:
1. Drummondville Voltigeurs: Defenseman Nicolas Beaudin (CHI) brings smarts and mobility while center Joe Veleno (DET) and recently-acquired Maxime Comtois (ANA) lead an imposing forward corps. Olivier Rodrigue (EDM) is the showstopper in net.
2. Halifax Mooseheads: Antoine Morand (ANA) joins defenseman Jared McIsaac (DET), goaltender Alexis Gravel (CHI) and two-way forward Benoit-Olivier Groulx (ANA).
3. Rimouski Oceanic: Phenom left winger Alexis Lafreniere (2020) has the chance to lead the league in scoring and Dmitri Zavgorodny (CGY) can help that cause.
4. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies: Zachary Emond (SJ) is the key in the crease for the Huskies and Zachary Lauzon (PIT) will be big on defense if his neck is OK.
5. Baie-Comeau Drakkar: Big right winger D’Artagnan Joly (CGY) is a playmaker, while left winger Gabriel Fortier (TB) is a feisty battler.
6. Cape Breton Screaming Eagles: German import Leon Gawanke (WPG) returns on defense and Kevin Mandolese (OTT) is the man in net with his great wingspan.
7. Moncton Wildcats: Alexander Khovanov (MIN) looks to amp things up after a rough first year, but he’s got the skill and the snarl. Meanwhile, talented Jakob Pelletier (2019) is a potential first-rounder.
8. Charlottetown Islanders: It’s all about the defense corps in P.E.I., with Pierre-Olivier Joseph (ARI) bringing the offense and rushing ability and Hunter Drew (ANA) providing physicality and snarl.
9. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada: Luke Henman (CAR) is a smart and efficient center, while Jasper Rannisto (2019) comes over from Finland to help the defense corps.
10. Quebec Remparts: Philipp Kurashev (CHI) looked great in Traverse City, with a more complete game. Towering Dereck Baribeau (MIN) returns in net.
11. Chicoutimi Sagueneens: Zachary Bouthillier (TOR) needs to have a big year in net, while Vladislav Kotkov (SJ) can bring the offense. Look for the big Russian to be more comfortable with the schedule this year.
12. Shawinigan Cataractes: Big and quick, Jan Drozg (PIT) will rack up points, while new import Valentin Nussbaumer (2019) is ultra-skilled and could be a high first-rounder.
13. Saint John Sea Dogs: Maxim Cajkovic (2019) was the top pick in the Import Draft and the Slovakian kid has skills. Alex D’Orio (PIT) mans the net and he’ll be busy.
14. Gatineau Olympiques: Shawn Boudrias (MIN) brings an intimidating frame to the right wing while defenseman David Aebischer (2019) comes over from Switzerland and is somehow not related to the former NHL goalie.
15. Sherbrooke Phoenix: Left winger Samuel Poulin (2019) and defenseman Jaxon Bellamy (2019) will both get plenty of opportunities to shine in their draft year.
16. Acadie-Bathurst Titan: Noah Dobson (NYI) is the key leftover from last year’s championship squad, but don’t expect the big, mobile D-man to stick around all year - he’s prime trade bait for the Titan.
17. Victoriaville Tigres: Mikhail Abramov (2019) is a very exciting new import who is coming off a nice Hlinka tournament for Russia. Otherwise, the Tigres don’t have much high end.
18. Val-d’Or Foreurs: It’s a rebuilding year for the Foreurs and David Noel (STL) will prop up the defense. Remember the name Jeremie Biakabutuka (2020) - his uncle Tim was an NFL star.