"Jordan's got size and skill. He played well last year. From what I saw last year he's a pretty good prospect."
-- Chris Bordeleau on Jordan Caron
While most casual hockey fans have heard the names John Tavares
and Victor Hedman
, there are many other 18-year-olds clamoring for NHL attention prior to the 2009 Entry Draft. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has long been a breeding ground for big-time talent. Martin Brodeur
, Guy Lafleur
and Vincent Lecavalier
are among many who played in the QMJHL prior to becoming NHL stars.
The following is a list of players to watch in the QMJHL this season that are eligible for next June's draft.
-- The Rimouski Oceanic center was fourth on the club last season with 20 goals, and he also had 23 assists in just 46 games. The 6-foot-2, 201-pounder stepped his play up in the postseason, tying for second on the team with 3 goals in 9 games, and he led the club with 18 penalty minutes.
"Jordan's got size and skill," said NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau. "He played well last year. From what I saw last year he's a pretty good prospect."
-- Gilbert had 7 goals and 14 points in 28 games with the Quebec Remparts last season. The center is listed at 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds, but Bordeleau noticed he has bulked up this summer.
"I just measured him a couple days ago and he's grown quite a bit," Bordeleau said. "He's got a lot of skill; if he can add a little moxie to his game he'll be a really good prospect."
-- Some prospects don't see the amount of ice time that they require to continue their development, but Shawinigan provided Paradis with an ample opportunity to play last season. The center had 12 assists and 23 points in 45 games for the Cataractes and also is regarded as strong on faceoffs and solid defensively.
"He's going to be OK because they played this kid last year," Bordeleau said. "We expect him to continue his development this year and to get even more playing time."
-- Cape Breton, where Pittsburgh Penguins
goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
played his junior hockey, has a history of developing goalies. Screaming Eagles goalie coach Vincent Riendeau
played 184 games in the NHL and has an ace to work with in Roy, who set QMJHL records for a 16-year-old last season with 27 wins and 4 shutouts.
"When we needed him, he stepped up," Pascal Vincent, who coached Cape Breton last season, told the Cape Breton Post. "That's what we need from our goaltenders, especially when you're not that busy it's hard to stay focused. He showed a lot of maturity to make those big saves when we needed them."
-- At 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds, Deslauriers is a big two-way defenseman who will play the point on the power play for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this season. Last season as a QMJHL rookie, Deslauriers had 7 assists and 9 points in 42 games. Bordeleau believes that his lack of playing time is going to be detrimental to his development.
"This kid got caught in an unfortunate situation last year because the team didn't play him last year," Bordeleau said. "I was up there two or three times and they never played him because he was so young. If they play that little they lose a year of development."
-- Despres was one of just two QMJHL players to play for gold medal-winning Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka
Memorial Tournament in August, and he led the club's defensemen with 2 goals in the four-game tournament.
Despres' teammate with the Saint John Sea Dogs last season, defenseman Yann Sauve
, was a second-round pick at the 2008 Entry Draft, and was the second QMJHL skater taken. Bordeleau believes Despres, who had 13 assists, 14 points and a plus-18 rating in 64 games last season has more potential than Sauve.
"He showed a lot of maturity to make those big saves when we needed them." -- Pascal Vincent on Olivier Roy
"Last year he started out and he was on fire," Bordeleau said of Despres. "He played real well and then tailed off for some reason -- I don't know why. He's also got the size (6-2, 205), he's a good skater, he can make plays and he has a lot more potential than the defenseman that was there last year, Sauve. He has more skill than that guy. He can handle the puck and play the power play -- he can do it all."
-- Gelinas debuted in the QMJHL with 16 assists and 19 points in 54 games with the Lewiston MAINEiacs last season. The defenseman has a good all-round game, but needs to work on his skating.
"Gelinas is one of those prospects who is good at everything but not spectacular at one thing," said Hockey Prospects Online. "He has a lanky build with above-average skating ability. He plays defense with his brain, in that he makes smart reads, contains his man well and has a very good stick. He isn't going to put anyone through the boards, but he plays an effective style. He is capable in the offensive zone and that is one aspect of his game that should flourish with more confidence. He plays a mature style, which should allow him to adapt to the Q rather easily."
-- O'Connor is an intimidating force at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds and he isn't afraid to use his size. Last season O'Connor had just 3 assists for the Halifax Mooseheads, but his 75 penalty minutes in 58 games showed his physical side.
"He's a big kid in Halifax," Bordeleau said. "He played pretty well last year. He's the type of kid that can develop into a solid defenseman."
-- Like most stay-at-home defensemen, the Shawinigan blueliner doesn't get the recognition he deserves. He had 8 assists and a plus-3 rating in 54 games. Injuries limited his play last season, but in 2008-09 Yetman and the Cataractes should have a good season.
"He got hurt last year, but he's a big, strong kid," Bordeleau said of the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder. "I got big expectations because he played pretty well last year all year. They played their kids last year and they are going to have a pretty good team this year."
-- Labrie, who had 15 assists and 17 points in 61 games with the Gatineau Olympiques last season, is an offensive defenseman who knows who to quarterback a power play. Labrie earned experience playing for Canada at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka
Memorial Tournament; the only knock on him is his 5-foot-10, 157-pound frame.
"If this guy was 6-foot-1 he'd be right at the top of the first round," Bordeleau said.