2017 QMJHL Draft will showcase depth and talent
The QMJHL Gatorade Combine was a sparkling showcase for the 2017 draft class. This year’s draft will boast top end talent and considerable depth. QMJHL Central Scouting(CSR) has the daunting task to rank and project talent for the first five rounds. This year’s draft rankings will showcase depth and talent. The consensus top two picks will leave a lasting impression for years to come.
Alexis Lafreniere and Samuel Poulin headline the draft class and both players have unique characteristics that set them apart from the 2001 group. Former NHL goaltender, QMJHL coach and CSR scout Corrado Micalef believes they are special players.
“They have it all, size, skill and determination,” said Micalef, a Memorial Cup winner in 1981 with the famed Cornwall Royals. “Both of them are great competitors, they take control of games when it matters most, they will immediately contribute offensively and gain the trust of their coaches to be relied on in all situations.
At six-feet 185 pounds, Poulin is the prototypical power forward who will slot in on any team’s top six on the left side. He is relentless in all three zones and wants the puck in every situation. His strength, balance and edge control makes him an elusive player offensively and his ability to overpower his opponent to win one-on-one battles is one of his strongest attributes. Poulin thinks the game extremely well and in my opinion is the most complete player in the draft.
The native of Blainville, Quebec has a solid release and isn’t afraid to play in high traffic areas. He can score off the rush and has great hands in tight. He possesses a heavy shot that is conducive to creating rebounds and also has a physical edge to his game. Poulin will have to adapt to the speed in the QMJHL, however it shouldn’t take long for him to adapt and excel next season in the QMJHL.
The sky is the limit for Lafreniere. The native of St-Eustache, Quebec combines high-end speed with creativity and individual skill that instantly makes people around him better. Lafreniere, listed at six-feet, 169 pounds, is a dynamic player, and his ability to make complex plays at top speed makes him a very dangerous player off the rush. It is Lafreniere’s skill, vision and playmaking ability that have him as the consensus first overall pick. It also doesn’t hurt that he will be in the league for a mandated three seasons due to a late birthday. The speedy cerebral centremen uses all his attributes to generate offensive pressure every time he steps on the ice.
The 15-year-old possesses great agility, balance and break away speed. He doesn’t back down from the physical side of the game when competing for loose pucks in all three zones and has a very active stick.
In my opinion, Lafreniere will slot in as a number two centreman at the start of the 2017-18 season and will be that team’s first line centre before the Christmas break. Lafreniere’s skills are comparable to that of Halifax Swiss star Nico Hischier. His ability to get to the quiet areas of the ice offensively and ability to spot the open man makes him an offensive threat and future power play specialist.
Lafreniere has a solid accurate release but will have to work on getting his shot off quicker if he wants to score at a similar clip as the Midget ranks. His determination and ability to elevate his game and adjust to any challenge directed his way sets him far above those within this year’s draft. He possesses a solid two-way game and is a defensively responsible player who is very accountable in all three zones.
He will inevitably have to work on the defensive side of the puck next season as a 16-year-old centerman but will adapt quickly to the rigours of that position. Lafreniere is a multi-dimensional player who will excel in the QMJHL and make the team that selects him instantly better.
Aside from Poulin and Lafreniere there are countless other players from Quebec that will have an impact on the league. Micalef believes the Maritimes will also be well represented June 3 at Harbour Station.
“It is a very good year for Maritimers in the draft, and there are many players from the Atlantic provinces who are ranked high,” he said. “Although there are good goaltenders in the draft there may not be a goaltender selected in the first round.”
Alex Newhook, Brett Budgell and Dawson Mercer are Newfoundland’s highest ranked players and will likely be selected in the first round. Mercer turned a lot of heads at the Combine and drew similarities to Saint John Sea Dogs and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nathan Noel. Mercer possesses the speed and individual skills to be an effective player in the league as early as next season.
Nova Scotia boasts potentially the best defencemen in the draft in Justin Barron who skates extremely well and has a phenomenal first pass. Barron can play in the league next year but there is speculation that he may choose the collegiate route. Bailey Peach and Arlo Merritt are the province’s highest ranked forwards.
New Brunswick’s Jaxon Bellamy from the Saint John Vito’s, a shutdown defenceman with a professional release and offensive upside, is the highest ranked player. Cole Stewart and Aiden Macintosh round out the province’s top ranked forwards.
Not to be overshadowed by Poulin and Lafreniere, Quebec’s other top prospects are forwards Jakob Pelletier who lead his team to the Telus Cup finals, Xavier Parent who is a speedy winger who has a great release, as well as defencemen Christopher Merisier-Ortiz and Maxence Guenette who are projected to be first-round selections.
With the depth of talent in this year’s draft there will be a plethora of future impact players selected well into the fourth and fifth round. The QMJHL team who does it’s homework and projects correctly will have the luxury of stealing a vast array of effective players who will undoubtedly influence their team’s success.
Photo Credit: Vincent Ethier