2017 QMJHL Draft: The Top Four

(Photo par Vincent Ethier/LHJMQ Média)

The 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Draft took place this past Saturday at Harbour Station in Saint John, New Brunswick. The first four picks of the draft were loaded with talent and gave their respective fans much to be excited about.

Another star in the making for Rimouski

There were no surprises at the top of the QMJHL Draft. The first two picks played out as predicted as Alexis Lafreniere and Samuel Poulin stole the spotlight leading up to the draft after turning in tremendous campaigns at the Midget AAA ranks in Quebec. Projected to be can’t miss NHL prospects Lafreniere and Poulin landed in Rimouski and Sherbrooke respectively.  

Craig Eagles/The Q News

Craig Eagles/The Q News

Lafreniere, a native of St-Eustache, combines high-end speed with creativity and individual skill that will instantly add a dynamic offensive presence to the Oceanic line up. His ability to make complex plays at top speed makes him an offensive threat in all situations. 

Rimouski general manager/head coach Serge Beausoleil will probably have Lafreniere slot in as a second line centre for the first few weeks of the season to help him adjust to rigours of the position. The Oceanic will be starving for offence with Tyler Boland ageing out of the league, so Lafreniere will instantly be called upon to contribute offensively, which may add pressure to the already high expectations.

The Oceanic have a solid youthful core, which will help Lafreniere’s transition into the league. Projecting his success isn’t that difficult as he is the most offensively gifted and creative player in this year’s draft class and should amass at least 40 points in his rookie season.


Family Matters

The Sherbrooke Phoenix and the woeful Moncton Wildcats were the only teams to miss the post-season in 2016-2017 but it appears the stars have aligned for the Phoenix and Samuel Poulin.

The native of Blainville, Quebec will be playing alongside his older brother Nicholas and the family connection doesn’t end there. Samuel, who is the most complete player in the draft, will be playing under the watchful eye of his godfather in Sherbrooke general manager Jocelyn Thibault.

(Photo par Vincent Ethier/LHJMQ Média)

Poulin will undoubtedly have the easiest transition into the league of anyone in the 2017 draft class, given his tremendous skill set and family ties. A prototypical power forward, Poulin possesses all the tools to be a 20-goal scorer next season. His strength, balance and edge control makes him an elusive player offensively.

However, it will be his compete level and physicality that will set him far above other 16 year-olds in the league. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, Samuel Poulin may break family ties a year early. There is a strong possibility that Poulin won’t be in the league at 19. Look for Thibault to take full advantage of his godson’s talent and try to build a championship contender in the next two seasons.

“I hope for him he’s not in the league at 19, but don’t wish that for us,” Thibault said jokingly. “He is the total package, he can play the skilled game, he can play the physical game, defensive side of the puck and offensive side, he can skate, he can do it all. He’s a tremendous leader and is very passionate about the game.” 


Well worth the wait

To quote Canadian song-writing legend Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip, “Its been a long time running, it’s been a long time coming,it’s been a long, long, long time running, it’s well worth the wait.”

It seemed like the Moncton Wildcats had been running away from the first round of the QMJHL Draft for a long, long time. Losers of the QMJHL Draft Lottery, the Wildcats scouting staff  dug in and started to scout harder to find a player in the three spot that they hope can turn the franchise around. 

Vincent Ethier/QMJHL Media

At five-foot-eight, 150 pounds Jakob Pelletier may be small in stature but makes up for it by winning. Pelletier is a highly skilled player with great vision and has the ability to make players around him better. It is his leadership qualities throughout the season that caught the attention of Wildcats Director of Hockey Operations Roger Shannon.

Pelletier lead his team all the way to the TELUS Cup finals. He made noise immediately after donning the Wildcat jersey and showcased his leadership skills during an interview with Rogers TV, “I am a winner, and that’s what I’m going to bring to Moncton and we are going to win,” said Pelletier. He will probably start the season on the wing for the Wildcats but will be leaned on heavily to provide a much needed offensive presence for a team that had the league’s most anaemic offence a season ago.

If the Wildcats have aspirations of hosting and hoisting the 2019 Memorial Cup, they will need to provide a supporting cast for this young talented player. Moncton’s front office and scouting staff have done just that by positioning themselves to make significant gains through the drafting process over the next two seasons. Most pundits say that the Moncton Wildcats scouting staff and front office did an amazing job this past Saturday at the draft.

“It is a great feeling and our fans have waited a long time for this, he’s a winning kid and there is nothing that compares to getting someone with winning pedigree and this kid is going to come to play,” added Shannon.

The Cats went on to trade their 13th selection for future assets but addressed their size and skill on the backend by selecting Jaxon Bellamy with their 16th overall pick. Bellamy brings tremendous potential and raw skill to the Cats line up. 

The Hampton, New Brunswick native will have the luxury of having another former NHL defenceman as a coach for his junior career as he did at the Midget level with Randy Jones. Darren Rumble will be great for Bellamy’s progression and development and look for significant gains over the course of the next two seasons. A full-fledged rebuild has been a long time coming, for the Moncton Wildcats but we shall see if it is well worth wait.


Business as usual

The Halifax Mooseheads continued to add skill and talent to an already solid youthful core at Harbour Station this past Saturday. Cam Russell’s streak of solid first round draft picks continued with the team selecting Xavier Parent with the fourth overall pick and hometown product Justin Barron with the 13th overall pick that was acquired from Moncton. 

Barron is the perfect fit to play alongside other local talented defenceman Jared McIsaac. Barron is a smooth skating, right shot two-way defenceman who has great hockey sense and instinct. Parent’s ability to get to the dirty areas of the ice and score makes him the perfect candidate to play with their first overall selection from a year ago Benoit-Olivier Groulx.

Vincent Ethier/QMJHL Media

“It has been an exciting day and a positive day, with our first pick, Xavier Parent, he’s a dynamic forward who is exciting to watch, not big in stature but fast, skilled and tough,” added Russell. “Bringing in Justin Barron to round it out in the first round, he’s a top-end defenceman, he has great offensive instincts, plays a tough game and moves the puck like a pro, the first round has been a great day for our organization and we are very excited.”

Under Russell, the Moosehead have made first round selections seven of the last eight seasons, which in the junior ranks is an unthinkable stat. The Mooseheads’ front office and scouting staff understand the blueprint to success. Russell’s draft mastery and blending of high-end talent with solid complementary players have the Halifax Mooseheads trending toward championship contention with their rebuild well ahead of schedule.


Photos: Vincent Ethier/QMJHL Media