At the 2011 NHL Draft in Minnesota, the Florida Panthers
used the third choice on Saint John Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau
. It's the highest a player from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had been selected since the Pittsburgh Penguins
picked Rimouski Oceanic center Sidney Crosby
with the first pick in 2005.
In fact, in the last six drafts, Huberdeau is only the third QMJHL player taken within the first seven choices.
The league hasn't had a player taken in the top seven in back-to-back years since 2006 (Derick Brassard
, No. 6, Columbus) and 2007 (Jakub Voracek
, No. 7, Columbus), but that could change this year.
|Mikhail Grigorenko Quebec Remparts
Russian-born center Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts is off to a tremendous start in his first season in the league, and NHL scouts certainly have taken notice, with comparisons to Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal
and Philadelphia's Sean Couturier
being tossed around.
However, Grigorenko isn't the only player scouts are flocking to QMJHL arenas to watch. Here's a look at seven players they're keeping close tabs on:
Francis Beauvillier, LW, Rimouski --
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward has the skills, but what seems to be holding him back is limited ice time with the Oceanic.
Beauvillier arrived in Rimouski this season when the Lewiston Maineiacs folded, and in his third season in the league he has 8 goals and 11 points in 28 games. But with more ice time, those numbers could be higher.
"I don't know what the situation is there," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com. "He's a good, strong skater, got good balance. I think he should be OK down the road."
Raphael Bussieres, LW, Baie-Comeau --
Bussieres announced himself with a solid showing at the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August, and has continued that solid play into the season.
2012 NHL DRAFT
Initial rankings rank Yakupov first
Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Central Scouting released its preliminary rankings for the top levels of North American junior hockey on Thursday, with Sarnia's Nail Yakupov topping the list. READ MORE ›
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward has 10 goals, 24 points and a plus-13 rating in 20 games this season. Last season, his first in the league, he had 17 goals and 39 points in 66 games. He also was a minus-31, which makes his plus-13 rating this season that much more impressive.
"He's skilled," Bordeleau said. "He knows the game. He's got hockey sense and everything. … He's got something there."
Martin Frk, RW, Halifax --
Last season, the Czech Republic native had 22 goals and 50 points in 68 games with the Mooseheads, making him a player to watch this season. However, he has yet to show his stuff due to a concussion he suffered during training camp.
"Hopefully we get to see him play some time this year," Bordeleau said. "From what I saw last year, he's a good player and we expect good things. … Can't say too much except from last year, and last year he was a good player."
Frk plays with an edge that belies his 5-foot-11 1/2, 204-pound frame. He had 75 penalty minutes last season with Halifax, and had a tournament-high 31 penalty minutes with the Czech Republic at the 2011 World Junior Championship.
He also had a team-best 3 goals at the tournament, and if he's healthy he'll be a part of their team for this year's tournament as well.
Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec --
The Russian-born center was the second pick of this past summer's Canadian Hockey League import draft, and was worth the price Quebec paid to move up and draft him.
The 6-3 1/4, 200-pound center leads all first-year QMJHL players in goals (19), assists (22) and points (41), and he's sixth overall in the league scoring race. He also has a plus-13 rating and has won more than 53 percent of his faceoffs.
"He's got pretty good hands, got a good shot -- an NHL shot," Bordeleau said. "He's a good playmaker. He hasn't been really dominant, but he just got (to North America). He's a good player, got size, skates all right. He'll be OK."
Grigorenko further impressed scouts at the recent Canada-Russia Super Series games. Playing for Team Russia against Team QMJHL in the Quebec City game, he had a goal and 2 assists in Russia's 5-4 shootout victory. That best-on-best competition includes a number of players that will take part in the 2012 World Junior Championship.
Charles Hudon, LW, Chicoutimi --
Hudon has shown the skill to be a potential NHL star, but the only question some scouts have regard his size -- 5-10, 170 pounds.
"He's a very skilled player," Bordeleau said. "He's the most skilled player we have right now in the league. If this guy was 6-foot he'd be (a first-round pick), no doubt."
In his second season in Chicoutimi, Hudon leads the team with 12 goals, 18 assists, 30 points and a plus-11 rating.
Bordeleau believes Hudon's numbers would be even better with better talent around him -- Chicoutimi is fifth in the six-team Telus East Division after finishing fifth in the division last season.
"In Chicoutimi he doesn't have anybody who can play with him that thinks the game as fast as he did," Bordeleau said. "This guy reads the play and the way he passes the puck, he's got great hockey sense. He's just a good player. When he played against the Russians (Canada-Russia Super Series), he played with (top 2013 prospect Nathan) McKinnon, and I know that for a fact that when you play with good players it makes a world of difference."
Tomas Hyka, RW, Gatineau --
The right wing was passed over in the 2011 NHL Draft, but after an outstanding performance in training camp with the Philadelphia Flyers
, the 5-11, 160-pound right wing has jumped back onto the radar of NHL scouts.
To further raise his draft stock, the Czech-born center signed with the Gatineau Olympiques this season, and has 9 goals and 15 assists in his first 21 games. His 24 points are seventh among all first-year QMJHL players.
"What I've seen in him, he was really good on the power play," Bordeleau said. "We don't usually put guys on the list that were passed over unless they are having a really, really special year. He's skilled."
Christophe Lalancette, RW, Acadie-Bathurst --
Much like Beauvillier, Bordeleau believes more ice time would benefit the 6-foot 1/4, 168-pound forward.
A rookie this season in the league, Lalancette has 3 goals and 17 points in 22 games.
"He's a right-handed shot, a good skater, reads the play well," Bordeleau said. "He reminded me a little bit of Patrick Sharp
when he was in Vermont. There's something about him."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK