Wrapping up the Canadian content of our NHL Draft Scout Series with the QMJHL, Scott Wheeler from FutureConsiderations gives us the inside look on the happenings of the league named after the province that invented poutine. And as we will discover, this Q class looks just about as appetizing as poutine.
CR: The QMJHL past draft classes are all over the map. Sometimes
they produce stars, other times just depth players. How would you characterize
this Q draft class? Is it a star studded class, a more tempered class or
somewhere in between?
SW: This definitely isn’t a weak QMJHL class
by any means. Their 2015 class was one of the strongest they’ve produced and
the year before that Nikolaj Ehlers was their only high-end talent in the 2014
crop — it can be a cyclical process. But this year’s class boasts two of the
draft’s most talented forwards (Pierre-Luc Dubois and Vitalii Abramov) as well
as two top defensemen (Samuel Girard and Frederic Allard), among other
legitimate prospects (Luke Green, Maxime Fortier, Otto Somppi, Julien Gauthier,
All in all it’s a pretty strong group, one that could see some
future NHLers go in the mid-to-late rounds, but doesn’t have the high-end depth
that Jeremy Roy, Timo Meier, Jakub Zboril, Evgeni Svechnikov, Dmytro Timashov,
Daniel Sprong, Filip Chlapik and Anthony Beauvillier offered last year.
CR: Pierre-Luc Dubois has enjoyed a big surge in rankings
during the second half of the season. What are your thoughts on Dubois and does
he project as a star in your eyes?
SW: Pierre-Luc Dubois, without question, has
one of the highest ceilings in this draft class. After the big three of Auston
Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, there’s an argument to be made for
Dubois as the best forward in the class. He has proven himself to be a dynamic
threat offensively, who can play at wing and at centre and can score as well as
he can pass. With his size and athletic ability there’s little that stands in
his way from blossoming at the next level. His surge is well-deserved, but he
has always been a standout talent.
CR: Pascal Laberge hasn’t gotten the press other QMJHLers have
this season, but put up an impressive season. Who is Pascal Laberge, for those
who aren’t familiar with him?
SW: Every year, a handful of players develop
at a faster rate than expected. In the past, we have seen draft-year surges
from the likes of Travis Sanheim. When you’re 17 years old and you’re still
finding your athleticism, the progression can happen overnight — it’s one of
the reasons it’s important to track players on a regular basis. And Pascal
Laberge is that kind of player. While he was always a legitimate prospect, his
ability as a confident puck handler rather than a give-and-go option came a
long way this year and has put him rightfully in the first round conversation.
He still needs to work on his shot, but he’s an excellent passer.
CR: Vitalii Abramov and Sam Girard both harbour first round
talent, but are quite undersized. Do you see them both as first round talents and
are you concerned about either player’s stature moving forward?
SW: Samuel Girard and Vitalii Abramov are
without question first round talents. In fact, I’d probably argue that there’s
an argument to be made for Girard as the most skilled offensive defensemen in
the class (he’s my seventh ranked defensemen overall). And Girard isn’t a
one-trick pony either — despite lacking the reach of the other top-end talent,
he’s a polished defender whose skating allows him to close gaps and make plays
on the puck. And I can’t say enough good things about Vitalii Abramov’s talent.
Despite his size, he isn’t easily knocked off the puck, nor is he afraid to go
to the front of the net. He’s got elite stick handling ability and a snapshot
that he can effectively use at full speed. Both could very well become exciting
CR: The Flames hold three second round picks and a third. Who are
some names from the Q they could look at to provide value in that area of the
SW: The aforementioned names of Luke Green,
Maxime Fortier, Otto Somppi and Frederic Allard are strong options outside the
first round. Allard is an outstanding defensemen with size and the best of the
bunch, but won’t be available in the third round.
CR: Evan Fitzpatrick of the Sherbrooke Phoenix was the top
ranked NA goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Is he an elite goaltending
prospect and who are some other names in net that could be looked at from the
SW: I have never been Evan Fitzpatrick’s
biggest fan. Hockey Canada tends to thrust goalies into the spotlight
internationally, but Fitzpatrick’s game hasn’t developed like it should have if
he was legitimately among the draft’s best goaltenders (I don’t believe he is).
He’s got a ton of kinks in his game to work on, and trails the likes of Zach
Sawchenko, Carter Hart, Josh Parsons and other goalies in this class. Antoine
Samuel and Mark Grametbauer are other QMJHL goalies to keep an eye on but
neither are high-end options. (Christian’s
note: Sounds a lot like Mason McDonald. Great “tools” but crappy numbers.)
CR: Who has been your biggest surprise from the QMJHL this
SW: I think Remparts forward Matthew Boucher
is a legitimate prospect and I was shocked when he was left off of Central
CR: Who has been your biggest disappointment?
SW: I think the player I was most expecting
to blossom who didn’t was Julien Gauthier (who by all accounts has the ability
to be great but hasn’t taken the proper steps forward). He needs to develop his
game as more than just a shooter. Time will tell if he can.
CR: If you had to choose a most overrated and most underrated
prospect for this year’s draft from the Q draft class, who would they be?
SW: It’s going to sound repetitive but I
think Julien Gauthier has received too much recognition. And again, I’d argue
Matthew Boucher hasn’t received nearly enough. Boucher was outstanding on a
team that, once they lost Dmytro Timashov via trade, had no real offensive
threats. Despite his size he continued to produce extremely high shot rates and
create offence for himself and others independently.
CR: Lastly, who’s your favourite QMJHL draft eligible and why?
SW: I watched him more than anyone else in
the class, so that may have something to do with it, but from his four-point
night in his first QMJHL game onwards, Vitalii Abramov was just outstanding
this year. His ability with the puck on his stick at full speed and his knack
for stopping up and letting off his shot to create space is a joy to watch.
Dubois is my top-ranked QMJHL talent, but Abramov oozes talent.
I know I’m not alone here at FN in crossing my fingers for Abramov at 35th overall. He’s a heck of a talent. Much thanks to Scott for joining us and sharing his insight. You can follow his Twitter and the wide array of quality work he does here.