NHL Draft Scout Series: QMJHL


The second last leg of our NHL Draft Scout Series lands in Quebec and the QMJHL. HockeyProspect Head Q scout Jerome Berube (@Jerome_Berube) was kind enough to chat with us about what to expect from this years crop of QMJHL ice hockey competitors. 

Christian: The QMJHL offered an especially a solid crop of players last year, and usually supply solid talent yearly, but what would you say the strength of this class is as a whole? (skill, role players, a mix?)

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Jerome: It’s not a strong year for the QMJHL this season, goalie or defenseman-wise, but there’s a nice group of offensively skilled forwards available. There are the top two guys in Ehlers & Barbashev and then you have guys who have high-end skills but with some question marks about their game (Aube-Kubel, Tkachev, Karabacek, Perron, Audette, Goulet, Pelletier) that make them potential mid-round picks.

C: How does the 2014 QMJHL class compare to recent ones? Do you buy the notion that 2014 is a weak draft?

J: Yes I do, in my opinion it’s a weak draft for the QMJHL if you compare it to last season. This draft class could be similar to the 2012 draft, not many first rounders but some interesting possible picks in rounds 2 or 3. It might be unfair to compare any QMJHL draft class to the 2013 edition, as this was one of the best ever.

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C: Nik Ehlers has sky rocketed up rankings everywhere, is his sudden rise warranted? How much did playing on a good team and with the best player in junior hockey (Drouin) assist that?

J: It sure didn’t hurt Ehlers to have the best junior hockey player in Canada on his team, but there seems to be some confusion regarding how much they actually played together. Most of the time they only saw ice time together on the power play, 4 on 4 and at times on the penalty kill. But they were on different even-strength lines most of the year. Ehlers played with Brent Andrews & Andrew Ryan, two veteran forwards who had career years this season playing with the Danish forward.

C: On Ehlers, do you think his size will hinder his offensive transition to the NHL?

J: He’s going to be fine when he gets stronger, he obviously won’t play in the NHL at 163 lbs. He’s not NHL-ready, but his upside is very high and he’s extremely smart. NHL Drafts shouldn’t be viewed as a sprint, but a marathon.

C: The next consensus skater would be Ivan Barbashev, the skilled Russian, how far behind Ehlers in Barbashev?

J: Love Barbashev’s two-way game and then when you add his grittiness it leaves you with a real nice player on your hands. Physically, he is almost NHL-ready and should get a strong look in his first NHL camp. The big difference with Ehlers is the upside, we at HockeyProspect.com have been on the Ehlers bandwagon since the start of the year and ranked him in our top 5 since February, while Barbashev was always placed in mid round 1.

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C: The Flames could look towards shoring up their defense with a couple second round picks, what are some defenseman in this years QMJHL crop?

J: It’s not a very good crop from the QMJHL this season. I’m not sure if there are any defensemen I would take in the second round, to be honest. If you want to reach, there’s Alexis Vanier of Baie-Comeau or Daniel Walcott of Blainville-Boisbriand, but I personally I wouldn’t draft them before round 3. There are other guys available like Olivier Leblanc, Cody Donaghey & Nikita Lyamkin who could be available later in the draft.

C: Mason MacDonald has established himself as the top goaltender from the Q this season on most rankings but his numbers surely don’t reflect that. Are his numbers this year misleading?

J: MacDonald was in a tough situation in Acadie-Bathurst, not getting the majority of the starts, and after his trade to Charlottetown at the QMJHL trade deadline, he got all the starts he could have asked for. But the Islanders made a lot of moves at the trade deadline and he had one of the worst records in the 2nd half of the season. If you watched MacDonald play in the playoffs vs. Halifax, he gave up a lot of goals, but without him it could have been much worse. He showed at the recent U-18 World Championship how good a goalie prospect he is.

C: Which eligibles have surprised this QMJHL season?

J: Daniel Walcott of Blainville-Boisbriand. He’s a guy who came out of nowhere and became a mainstay on the Armada blueline right from the get go, logging a ton of ice time. Came in as a ’94-born rookie defenseman from the ACHA and really impressed all year long with his skating ability and poise with the puck. I was also very surprised by Francis Perron of Rouyn-Noranda, who took his game to another level this season. He’s a great playmaker and sees the ice very well.

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C: Which have disappointed? 

J: Nikita Lyamkin of Chicoutimi was a guy who I saw live at the U17 the year prior and had a lot of hope for his rookie season. He struggled a lot this season and looked lost many times in the defensive zone. He started playing better by the end of the season and had a decent U18 world championship, and he should be better next season. Alexis Pepin is another guy who was a disappointment this season, there was some talk of him coming in out of shape at the U-18 team Canada Hlinka try-out camp in August and his season was a big disappointment. Was traded mid-way during the season to Gatineau and failed to establish himself offensively like was expected from him. He also will need off-season shoulder surgery, which could affect him going into in next season.

C: The 1st round always holds a lot of weight with fans, but the later rounds often offer solid value as well, who are some potential gems that are currently ranked outside the Top 30?

J: Nicolas Aube-Kubel of Val-d’Or should be a second or third round pick, he has a lot of skills and he’s a good skater. The Mantha line in Val-d’Or takes up a lot of the spotlight, but Aube-Kubel’s line can be really good. Fans were able to see him in action at the Memorial Cup. Daniel Walcott of Blainville-Boisbriand is a guy who I think could be a dark horse in this draft, not a lot of defensemen have his mobility and footwork. He’s an interesting case, being a ’94-born player playing in his first major junior season. Francis Perron of Rouyn-Noranda lacks size but he’s extremely smart with the puck and one of the best playmakers from this draft class out of the QMJHL.

C: Who are some QMJHL prospects you see as overrated?

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J: Alexis Vanier of Baie-Comeau might fill the bill from the QMJHL. He has the size that NHL teams covet, but I’m not sold on his mobility and decision-making. Vanier is a 6’4” defenseman who at one point was almost scoring a point per game that will surely raise eyebrows, but personally I’m just not sold. (Christian’s Note: Ryan Pike and I were at the Top Prospects Game and came away very impressed with Vanier. Goes to show you one game can be very misleading.)

C: Are there any second or third time eligibles that have made a considerable case this year to finally be picked?

J: Again Daniel Walcott is a candidate here as a ’94-born defenseman but it’s really the first time he’s ever been on the radar for the NHL draft. Cam Darcy, an American forward who was passed over in the last two NHL drafts, could make a case after a strong year with Cape-Breton.

C: And ending on a fun, personal note: Who’s your favourite eligible and why?

J: Nik Ehlers is my favourite, it was just a joy to watch him perform this year with the Mooseheads. Not only is he super skilled, but he’s very smart with or without the puck. Without a doubt, he was one of the most exciting players in the QMJHL this year to watch.

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  • McRib

    I wouldn’t mind taking a late round flyer on Cam Darcy at all (as he got buried on the USNDTP a few years ago and that halted development)!

    Other than that eveyone out of the QMJHL seems very overrated though for me this year in a very weak year with so few good players I think scouts are hyping other guys up just to say something about someone other than Ehlers, Barbashev. For example I like Alexis Vanier as a third rounder, but I think he is a lock for the second, where I would take a Irving or Mayo in a heartbeat over him.

    After watching that Nicolas Aube-Kubel in the Memorial Cup must say if he was in the WHL he would be lucky to be a fourth or fifth rounder with scouts comparing him to other prospects like Quenneville, Bleackley, Hawryluk, Kirkland, Pollock, Point and DeLeo. He is nowhere near any of those WHL players for me. I think he is the best of the second teir of QMJHL Forwards after (Ehlers, Barbashev), but that isn’t saying much for this years QMJHL Crop. I actualy think a Reid Duke has more upside than a Aube-Kubel for me and he will be lucky to go in the fourth. It’s a shame the QMJHL isn’t as good as it was last year every year, at least we got the biggest sleeper last year in a generationaly good draft with Emile Poirier!!!

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Of all these different scouts and scouting services, who have PROVEN they deserve to be listened to?

    I liken things to the financial crisis. So many people were wrong when it came to economic prediction (but some were bang on). They had the credentials but not the bona fides.

    Yet, those wrong voices continue to raise their voices, as if experts.

    The whos who of the scouting world must be known (in services and within teams)

    Can’t someone look at scouts success rates and find out who gets it right?

    I understand there is a difference between projections and development but there must be some way to measure success.

    It has to be conversion rate. Which scouts are most accurate in their projections. Not necessarily which players play NHL games but which players become the players they were scouted as (who realizes the scout’s perceptions)?

    When Burke says he’d buy a advanced stats package that helps him draft better- why is that a demand ie how wrong do scouts get it?

  • Christian Roatis

    How good will Elhers be?

    This draft is interesting to me cause the top-4 are pretty set but the more you think about the Flames saying the group is 7-8 deep isn’t so far fetched..

    5 – Dal Colle

    6 – Ritchie

    7 – Elhers

    8 – Nylander

    I kinda like all 8 of these guys and think at least 7 of them have the skillset to be the best player in the draft, down the road..

    How good are these next four?

    • Christian Roatis

      Well, I’m a little different in that I don’t consider Draisaitl as a top 4 guy, he’s my 6th ranked guy but the other 4 you listed are pretty close to the pack. My rankings go: Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett, Dal Colle, Nylander, Draisaitl, Virtanen, Ehlers, Fluery and Ritchie to round out my top 10 with little separation between them. Small drop off from 3 and then from 8, IMO.

    • SmellOfVictory

      It really should be thought of more as a top 3 and then the next 5, as I think Draisaitl has enough question marks to be in the second tier. Anyone from 5-8 has the realistic potential of being the best player in the draft, I think, but the question marks are just bigger (Draisaitl’s skating, Dal Colle’s – uh – I’m not sure what his main weakness is, Ritchie’s inconsistency, Elhers & Nylander’s size.

      • dudeguybro

        Dal Colle’s main critiques are that he lacks grit and two-way play, things like truculence that Burke and co. likely value highly. He’s big, fast, has good vision and a deadly shot; but he’s a finesse winger who lacks natural snarl or meanness.

        I think that’s the exact reason Burke said Ritchie was their 5th ranked player, comparing him to Looch like they do with big wingers who rack up pts and pims every year (your Zack Kassians etc).

        • Christian Roatis

          Actually, to my surprise, many OHL scouts I’ve talked to said Dal Colle’s defensive game is proficient, if not very good. He just needs to add strength, as most 18 year olds need.

  • piscera.infada

    Really interesting article over at Oilers Nation about the “top-4”. With all the talk about moving up to first overall, it gives me even more pause about picking Ekblad (I’ve never been a big fan of his).

    More to the point of the article, I like Ehlers a lot, but at #4 I’d rather take Nylander if we were, in fact going to reach. It all seems moot though – if there’s a reach, we all know it’s going to be Ritchie, and that scares the absolute crap out of me.

  • everton fc

    My dark horse pick (same as last year)

    Jerome Verrier of Drummondville. A good roster guy to have. Perhaps. He’ll go in later rounds, if at all. 2 straight seasons over 30 goals.