NHL Draft Scout Series: QMJHL

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pic via Sportsnet

We end this years edition of the NHL Draft Scout Series back in Canada, with the QMJHL. The Q’s class this year is very intriguing and it was – admittedly – pretty cruel to leave it for last – but then again, you leave the best for last, right?

HockeyProspect’s head Q man, Jerome Berube was kind enough to join us again this year to chat up the QMJHL’s entry for the 2015 NHL Draft.

Christian: The QMJHL’s crop of draft eligible prospects is very up and down from
year to year, sometimes producing a lot of top talent and sometimes yielding
none. With names like Timo Meier, Jeremy Roy and Evgeni Svechnikov this year
leading the pack – among multiple other potential first rounders – how do you
rate this group of Q prospects? Seems like a really strong class from the
outside. 

Jerome: It’s a good crop this year, as it is a much better
year compared to last year. The QMJHL often goes by cycles, with a good year
every two years. For example, 2012 and 2014 were viewed as bad years and 2013
and 2015 were viewed as good years. The 2015 draft class doesn’t have the
high-end talent of 2013, but has good depth. I could see up to 15 players
selected in the top 75, which would be considered a good year for the league.
As far as the first round goes, I predict between 5 and 7 first round picks out
of the QMJHL, with most of them in the 2nd half of the 1st
round.  

C: Timo Meier had a very strong season in Halifax and seems likely to be
the first QMJHLer picked this Friday, but there have been questions about
his compete at times, and he had the luxury of gracing the same ice as point
producing dynamo Nik Ehlers. How do you evaluate Meier? Did Ehlers
significantly affect his production? 

J: I feel like I get asked this question every year
regarding a Halifax prospect (laughs). In 2013 it was Drouin, last year it was
Ehlers, and this year, Meier. I can’t say that playing with Ehlers didn’t help
Meier’s production, as Nik Ehlers was the QMJHL’s best player this season and
he makes everyone around him better. For us, Meier is the top-ranked player out
of the QMJHL. His progression from his first year in the league was a big
reason why, as his skating took a big leap, he has a big shot and is very good
along the walls. He also performed very well on the international stage for
Switzerland at the WJC this year (without Ehlers).    

C: Jeremy Roy on the other hand looks very much like a Kris Letang-lite,
especially on the offensive side of the puck. His defensive game has been
called into question by some, however. What do you make of Jeremy Roy?

J: Roy is very interesting player, not only due to his
play on the ice, but scouts’ views on him can be very polarizing. Even within
our group at HockeyProspect.com, we had many discussions about him over the
course of the year. I have seen Jeremy play since he was an underage midget
player in Saint-Hyacinthe with the College Antoine-Girouard, and there’s no
secret that his main strengths remain his play with the puck and how he can
quarterback a power play. He didn’t have a strong U-18 tournament, which caused
him to drop a bit in our final rankings. I like his smarts and passing ability,
but would like to see him improve his speed and he remains an average size for
a defenseman. I felt his defensive game improved this year from his rookie
season, but there’s still work to be done there. His decision-making in his own
zone was a part of his struggles at the U-18.    

C: Evgeni Svechnikov looks like he has the potential to be one of the best
players to come out of this draft, already at NHL size and with elite offensive
tools. Who is Evgeni Svechnikov and what’s keeping people from rating him way
higher than the mid-to-low first round he finds himself on most boards?

J: I think his skating could be a reason why he’s not
higher, that’s a big flaw in his game. One of the reasons we put Denis Guryanov
ahead of him was the explosiveness and game-breaking ability that Guryanov has compared
to Svechnikov. Even though Svechnikov had a good season with the Screaming
Eagles, I always wanted to see more out of him in my viewings. I expected him
to be more dominant in his first season in the QMJHL; consistency was an area
of concern for me. But he has high-end offensive tools: shot, vision and a
willingness to play in the tougher areas of the ice. It doesn’t matter to us,
but for NHL teams, the Russian factor might play a role in where Svechnikov
gets selected on draft day.

C: Reviews on Daniel Sprong are mixed. Some love his offensive game, but
others seriously question his selective compete and defensive disinterest.
What’s your impression of Daniel Sprong? Is he worthy of being a 1st round
pick?

J: We have Sprong outside the first round. We have
concerns over his commitment to play without the puck and his ability to make
players around him better. He’s a one-dimensional player with great scoring
potential but we would like to see him share the puck more often. It’s not that
he doesn’t have good vision, he sees the ice well and can make great passes,
but we just don’t see it enough on a regular basis. He’s a bit lost in the
defensive zone, even though he made progress since his rookie season, but the
commitment level is still not there. There’s still a chance of him going in the
first round if a team is willing to bet on his offensive potential on draft
day. Not many players possess Sprong’s offensive tools, notably his shot is
amongst the best of any draft-eligible prospect in the 2015 draft. He’s the
definition of a boom-and-bust prospect in this draft class.   

C: Defensive partners Jakub Zboril and Thomas Chabot have emerged as one
of the top young defensive pairings in the QMJHL – if not the CHL – and both
are rated by most to be first rounders. What does each player bring to the
table? Which of two do you prefer?  

J: We have Chabot ahead of Zboril ahead in our
rankings. Chabot was one of the most improved players in the QMJHL this season
and emerged as a sure-fire first-rounder by mid-season for us. Chabot is a very
good skater, so smooth, and can carry the puck with ease in the offensive zone.
He produced a lot this year at even-strength, which is something we like. He
needs to mature physically and improve his play in his own zone, but we think
he has the most potential of any defenseman from the QMJHL. In Zboril’s case,
he brings a solid two-way game with a strong physical attributes. He produced a
lot on the power play this year thanks to his big shot from the point, but was
not as good at even-strength as his teammate Chabot. At times he looked a bit
lazy on the ice; we would have liked to see him play with more drive. He was
injured during the season, missing quite a few games, and also didn’t get to
play at the WJC when he was cut by the Czech team before the tournament.      

C: The Flames have three picks in the 2nd round, and two more in the 3rd.
Are there any Q prospects you see being available around that area of
the draft?

J: Quite a few actually,
if the Flames are looking to add a goaltender to their prospect pool, Callum
Booth and Samuel Montembeault could be targets. Both are 6’3’’ and are very calm
in their crease. Defensively, you have guys like Meloche, Brisebois, Carrier
and Lauzon that could be available. I find them underrated; these four could
end up being good sleeper picks for a team picking in the 2nd round
/ early 3rd round. As far as the forwards go, you have guys like
Trenin, Sprong, Beauvillier, Chlapik, Gagne, Beaudin, Joseph, Nicolas Roy and
Yann. In this group, you could see Beauvillier and Sprong go in the first round
if a team really likes them.     

C: Which QMJHL eligible has been your biggest surprise this year?

J: There were quite a
few players who were pleasant surprises this year with Meier, Chabot, Beaudin,
Joseph, etc. But I will give Conor Garland of the Moncton Wildcats the title of
biggest surprise this season. He went undrafted last season but he came back
strong this year, winning the QMJHL scoring championship and winning the MVP
honours (first American to win the Q scoring championship since Pat Lafontaine
in 82-83). Everyone who watched Garland knew how skilled he was, but I don’t
think anyone expected that type of season out of him. He’s on the small side,
but he’s a terrific playmaker and makes things happen on every shift. He might
not have the speed or the two-way game of a Tyler Johnson, but he’s worth a
gamble in the mid-rounds. 

C: Which has been your greatest disappointment? 

J: This one was easier to choose. Nicolas Roy was my
biggest disappointment this year. At the beginning of the season, he was touted
as first-round potential pick…possibly challenging to be a top-20 selection.
Roy had a very difficult season, not producing offensively and not improving
areas that he needed to work on this year. Skating is still a huge question
mark with him and his effort level is still lacking. We would like to see more
passion out of him, we like his smarts and he showed at the U-18 World Championships
that he can play a defensive/shutdown role on a team with a strong defensive
game and faceoff prowess. Right now he’s very inconsistent, you can see the
potential is there with his size and vision, but he just didn’t perform
consistently enough for us to keep with his pre-season ranking.  

C: Which draft eligible Q prospect do you think is most overrated by other
scouts/media?

J: Always a tough question to answer, but I’ll go with
Filip Chlapik of the Charlottetown Islanders. Not that he’s a bad prospect (we
have him as a mid-2nd rounder) but when I see him ranked in the
middle of the first round by some media I don’t know what to think. He’s a good
two-way player and he had a very good first year in the QMJHL, but his skating
needs a ton of work and I’m not sold on how his offensive game will translate
to the pro level. 

C: Which do you feel is most underrated? 

J: Mathieu Joseph of the
Saint-John Sea Dogs. There has been basically no press on him all year long,
but he’s been a riser for us all season long. He ended his season with an
invite to the NHL Combine. Joseph didn’t get to play top minutes with Saint John,
but still found a way to perform playing in a supporting role with the team and
became very useful on the penalty killing unit. He’s a skilled player who has
grown quite a bit since his QMJHL draft year. He also plays with a lot of
passion and can be a pest on the ice. Another underrated player from the QMJHL
I like is Alexandre Carrier of Gatineau; if he was bigger I think he would have
challenged to be a first-round pick. He lacks some respect in the scouting
community due to his size, but he’s as smart as any other defenseman from the
QMJHL and he’s a solid puck mover. He was also Gatineau’s captain this
season.    

C: Lastly, who is your favourite prospect from the QMJHL for the 2015 NHL
Draft?

J: My
favorite player if i had to pick one would probably be Timo Meier of Halifax. I
like players who improve a lot from year to year and it’s clearly the case with
Meier. I could have put Thomas Chabot in there as well. Jeremy Roy of the
Sherbrooke Phoenix is another prospect I like, not only because he’s a good
prospect but I have seen him in action a lot going back to his 14 years old
season in Midget AAA.  


Special thanks to Jerome for sharing his work on the QMJHL with us, it’s looking a really fantastic class of prospects from the CHL’s most eastern league. I recommend you follow Jerome on Twitter @Jerome_Berube for all sorts of draft goodies and analysis. 

Also, thank you to everyone who has been following along on our journey through the NHL Draft’s major supplier markets and all the positive feedback you’ve provided us with. I hope you’ve learned as much as I have through these, and that they’ve enriched your understanding of what’s taking place this Friday and Saturday. 

It’s going to be a lot of fun, I can hardly wait.

NHL Draft Scout Series