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QMJHL season preview: Shawinigan has the edge

The Cataractes will have to fend off the Sea Dogs and Huskies, according to our experts. Find out how the rest of the league looks for 2016-17.

The Quebec League kicks off tonight and this year looks like a three-way race at the top. Based on the survey I did, featuring journalists who cover the circuit, Shawinigan, Saint John and returning champs Rouyn-Noranda are the cream of the crop, with parity entering after that. Here’s a power ranking for the ‘Q’ with an NHL prospect or two from each team thrown in for good measure.

1. Shawinigan – Anthony Beauvillier (NYI) is back up front, as is smooth Samuel Girard (NAS) on the back end.

2. Saint John – Deep roster includes boisterous right winger Mathieu Joseph (TB) and defenseman Luke Green (WPG).

3. Rouyn-Noranda – Returning champs boast Jeremy Lauzon (BOS) on ‘D’ and J-C Beaudin (COL) at center, among others.

4. Victoriaville – Maxime Comtois is the top 2017 draft prospect out of the ‘Q,’ while center Pascal Laberge (PHI) brings talent and feistiness.

5. Charlottetown – Big Filip Chlapik (OTT) patrols up front, while the steady Guillaume Brisebois (VAN) anchors the defense corps.

6. Gatineau – Another season of Vitaly Abramov (CBJ)? Yes, please. Nicolas Meloche (COL) handles the blueline.

7. Blainville-Boisbriand – Jeremy Roy (SJ) will be a leader on the blueline, but expectations are high for Antoine Crete-Belzile (2017) as well.

8. Acadie-Bathurst – Antoine Morand (2017) is a big-time producer who can dish and finish thanks to his dynamic skill set.

9. Chicoutimi – Look for Nicolas Roy (CAR) to dominate at center, while Frederic Allard (NAS) contributes from the blueline.

10. Val-d’Or – How many goals will Julien Gauthier (CAR) score this year? And what can Adam Marsh (DET) bring to the table?

11. Rimouski –Simon Bourque (MTL) brings a lot of tools back to the blueline and contributes at both ends of the ice.

12. Halifax – Nico Hischier (2017) of Switzerland is the latest import who comes with a lot of offensive promise. He joins Otto Somppi (TB).

13. Sherbrooke – Evan Fitzpatrick (STL) will be busy in goal once again, but he’s up to the task.

14. Cape Breton – Vasily Glotov (BUF) will bring a big dose of skill and fun; especially if Pierre-Luc Dubois doesn’t come back from Columbus.

15. Drummondville – Pavel Koltygin (2017) comes over from Russia and brings both strength and skill up front.

16. Moncton – Two-way winger Manuel Wiederer (SJ) returns, as does overage goalie Keven Bouchard (EDM)

17. Quebec – Callum Booth (CAR) will be the big man in net for a rebuilding Remparts squad.

18. Baie-Comeau – Matteo Pietroniero (2017) is a prospect to watch on defense and comes from a big hockey family.

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