2017-2018 Predictions: Maritimes Division
In seven of the last eight seasons, the Maritimes division has been won by either Saint John or Halifax. This trend looks like it will continue as Halifax looks poised to take the division this year. The consensus is that Halifax will win the division and Bathurst will finish runner-up.
What will be interesting to watch, is the battle for middle spots between Moncton and Cape Breton. Both teams look strong and it wouldn’t be a surprise if either team make a run at the top two spots and Saint John could be a dark-horse in this division. They lost several key players but they still have a game changer in Joe Veleno. Charlottetown this season will look to gather assets and rebuild.
#1 Halifax Mooseheads
The Mooseheads will be an exciting team to watch this season and should be one of the top teams in the QMJHL. Nico Hischier might be gone but this still a dangerous offensive team. Lots of young talent up front players like Benoit-Olivier Groulx enters his draft year and will look to build on a solid rookie season.
Import forward Filip Zadina and rookie Xavier Parent both have shown in the pre-season that they are capable of fitting right in and helping this team right away. Mix the youth with a few veterans in Maxime Fortier, Connor Moynihan, Arnaud Durandeau, and Barret Dachyshyn, and this team should have no problem scoring.
On defense, eyes will be on second-year player Jared Mclsaac who last season put up thirty-two points. He should eclipse this total this season as he’s adjusted to the league. Two rookie defencemen Justin Barron and Patrick Kyte both have a lot of offensive upside while Jocktan Chainey will look to bounce back this season as he battled injuries last year. Alexis Gravel burst onto the scene last year with the Mooseheads as a rookie and should be the starting goalie this year. Halifax should win the Maritimes Division and don’t be surprise if they’re at the Memorial Cup in Regina come May.
#2 Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Bathurst will enter the year with lots of confidence as they’re coming off their best season in years. This should be a team that will be even better this season. Reilly Pickard will be back as the starting goalie in 2017. He has improved each season he’s been in the league and although last season he battled injuries, still managed to put up 19 wins. If he can stay healthy this season he can definitely be a top-five goalie in the league.
Noah Dobson, who had strong rookie year, will lead a veteran defensive core. Another player to watch on defence is Louis-Philip Fortin, a very good skater who moves puck well and should help out a lot on the power play.
Antoine Morand, Jeffrey Truchon-Viel, and Jordan Maher should all score at least twenty goals this season. Bathurst has shown they’re not afraid to make a big move at the holiday trading period, and with rumours already circulating involving the Titan, look for them to do so again this year and make another run.
This is a team that is excellent at all position, so the Titan have what it takes to give Halifax a run for their money and try to win the Maritimes Division.
#3 Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Cape Breton will look to build off their second-round playoff performance from last season. This will be a veteran team with a few rookies mixed in the lineup. Drake Batherson will look to build off of his performance from the second half of last season where he had 31 points. This led him to be drafted by Ottawa in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft. A couple young players that had a strong pre-season and will look to keep it going are Brooklyn Kalmikov and Ryan Francis, both selected at the 2017 QMJHL Draft.
Up front players like Jordan Ty Fournier and Phelix Martineau will bring a veteran presence and help carry the offence. Ross MacDougall and Leon Gawande will lead a veteran defence group that will also include 2017 first-round pick Noah Laaouan.
Kevin Mandolese and Kyle Jessiman will be between the pipes for the Eagles and we’ll likely see Mandolese take a step forward and take the starter job this season. The battle of Nova Scotia should be exciting to watch this year with every game meaning a lot to every team. If Cape Breton keeps going in the right direction, they should finish in the top ten in the league.
#4 Moncton Wildcats
Moncton Wildcats enter 2017 with a revampe and young roster. There are only ten players returning from last season team, the worst season in Moncton franchise history. This off-season they made deals to acquire veteran defencemen Oliver Desjardins and Nicholas Welsh to help lead the blue line. At the draft Moncton had two first round picks using the third overall selection to take Jacob Pelletier and the sixteenth overall pick to take defenceman Jaxon Bellamy. That’s two big building blocks for Moncton going forward and both should play big roles this season.
The Wildcats also bolstered their goaltending by acquiring goalie Mark Grametbauer from Charlottetown. Grametbauer will give the Wildcats a solid goaltending tandem with Mathew Waite. The biggest move the Cats made this summer was bringing in Anderson MacDonald from Sherbrooke. The Quispamsis, New Brunswick native will give Moncton a pure goal scorer, something they lacked all last season. This will be an exciting team and it will be interesting to watch their young players like Pelletier, Blackmore, Hudson, and Bellamy all develop this season. In the Maritimes Division, Moncton should finish third or fourth, with the possibility of pushing for the top two spots.
#5 Saint John Sea Dogs
It will be a different sight in Saint John this season with players like Chabot, Smallman, Highmore, Imama, Joseph and many others all moving on in their careers. There will be many new faces in Saint John this season including behind the bench with new Head Coach Josh Dixon. Dixon will be taking over a team that will take a few steps back in 2017.
The Sea Dogs have brought in players like William Poirier, Anthony Boucher, Daniel Hardie and Kevin Gursoy to help carry the offensive load. Joe Veleno will be entering his third season and could very well be a top-five pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Being healthy will be a big thing for him as he battled injuries over the last two seasons. If he continues to play like he did in last years playoffs and the Memorial Cup, he could easily lead the league in scoring this season. Cedric Pare is another player who will benefit from more ice time this season.
There will be some big holes on the back end to fill with Chabot gone but look for import player Radim Salda to help fill the void after a good performance in the pre-season. Saint John will also hope that players like Bryson Michel and Nathan Larose will plug a few of the holes on defence.
Alex D’Orio will take over in goal and be expected to play a lot for Saint John this season. This being a step back for the Sea Dogs, they should still make the playoffs and finish fifth in the Maritimes Division. If this core group of players sticks together this could be a very good team next season.
#6 Charlottetown Islanders
The Islanders had their most successful season in 2017 making it all the way to the QMJHL semi-final for the first time in franchise history. It’s looking like it will be a really long year for the Islanders in 2017 as this will be a roster transitioning with a lot of young players on the team.
There will be a few things to keep an eye on this season including import forward Nikita Alexandrov, Look for him to fit right into the North American style game and be a building block going forward for the Islanders. Also, players like Adam Marsh, William Bower, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph could be prime trade bait during the holiday trading period. Mathew Welsh will be leaned on heavily this season in net.
This will be a team that is in store for a lot of growing pains this season and the playoffs will be a long shot for the Islanders this season.