After a long summer of training and, for some, international tournament, these young guys are now ready to start their season in the QMJHL. Last year, only two players were drafted from this league in the first round. For 2020, I’m sure we can all expect a better outcome from the QMJHL in terms of 1st round talents. It is currently mid-September and the pre-season is soon taking an end, so it is the perfect time to release the first ranking of this Eastern Canadian region.
1 – Alexis Lafrenière (LW)
Lafrenière is the consensual player to go 1st overall in the 2020 NHL Draft so it’s a no-brainer decision to put him at the top of this ranking. The CHL player of the year finished tied at 2nd for the most points (105) and at 3rd for the points per game (1.72) as a 17 years old in the QMJHL. Lafreniere’s hockey IQ and his limitless talent should make him the best player in the CHL for this upcoming season. Lafrenière is a terrific offensive machine and his dominance in all the areas of the game makes him overwhelming and unmatchable for the others players. Possible generational talent.
2 – Hendrix Lapierre (C)
Lapierre’s excellent performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup really allowed him to make his name known to the world. Lapierre’s puck skills and offensive vision are elite attributes. He uses them to control the game and drive plays. He reads and processes the game so quickly which leads him to be a offensive producer. His passing ability is just sensational and it’s one in the QMJHL. The pure playmaker likes to slow the game and let his talent speaks for himself. His shot and defensive abilities shouldn’t be underestimated too. The first overall selection in the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft almost succeeded to establish a point per game ratio in his first season. I see in him the potential to hit around 80 to 90 points for 2019-20.
3 – Justin Barron (D)
Without surprise, Barron comes UP as the top defenseman on this list. He also has a chance to be the best defenseman of this draft class. With 41 points in 68 games, he finished with the most points among all the 2020 eligible defensemen in the CHL. Barron is a first-class two-way blueliner. He does all the little things right and is also well known for his cerebral puck moving skills. With powerful legs that generate massive speed which allow him to transport the puck everywhere. Uses his big body and reach to get a superb puck protection. That big body also serves him right to box out and gives a hard time on the board to his opponents. He has a robust shot and a great offensive vision, especially for passes. Overall, he clearly possesses all the tool to grow into a top-pairing defenseman.
4 – Jérémie Poirier (D)
Poirier is a poised defenseman that likes to control the puck, never tries to force plays and always makes the right pass. Regroup and transition game are the parts of the game that he thrives in. His offensive attributes, mostly his puck skills, are incredible for a blueliner. At the point, Poirier can easily fool wingers with his great hands and footwork which create room for him to drive the net, get more time to release a better shot or try the pass across. Those qualities make him a perfect fit as a quarterback on the power play. As he does aims his game towards the offence side, it doesn’t come with a price. In his own zone, he will have to learn to become much more involved and responsible. Top-end speed and the power in his strides are lacking and it is quite the only things that are stopping him to become a formidable offensive defenseman.
5 – Dawson Mercer (RW)
Just like Lafrenière and Barron, Mercer will be entering his third QMJHL season. The Newfoundland native posted 16 points in 16 playoff games. In comparison, it was more than Maxime Comtois in a more limited role. Mercer is a exceptional skater who is able to outrun anyone without difficulties. Speed, acceleration, footwork, edges, he is outstanding in all those domains. Fearless as he is always willing to arrive first on the puck and he rushes it without hesitation to fight in dirty areas. Score or pass, center or winger, power play or penalty kill time, Mercer is such a versatile player. With the departure of star players like Veleno, Comtois, Beaudin and Joseph… Mercer will inherit a lot more responsibilities on and off the ice with his new “A” and should become the new top player for Drummondville.
6 – Vasily Ponomarev (C)
Ponomarev is the first player from the CHL Import Draft on this ranking. Drafted 9th overall in 2019, he recently reported to Shawinigan to play his draft year in North America. The Russian center is a tenacious and hard worker player who constantly battles for the puck. Buzzing around the ice ready to unleash his explosive skating. Playing in the bottom lines in the MHL really helped him to round up his game. He became such a reliable player and had developed a two-way sense. Ponomarev is also a really skilled player. With quick hands that are able to both deke and shoot. Offensively, he has the vision to set up teammates and locate space in the defense to overload. In the end, he is an annoying player to play against, who is excellent in every zones.
7 – Mavrik Bourque (C)
On a horrible Shawinigan team, he successfully produced 54 points in 64 games which placed him right behind Lafrenière and Mercer in term of points for 2020 eligible players. Bourque is a remarkable 5’11 two-way center. With his well developed defensive vision, he is able to predict where his man is going to position himself so he can prevent the pass to go through. Offensively, he uses his patience with the puck to analyze the game and let his teammates find an empty spot. Not to forget that he is also a great skater. In a nutshell, Bourque is average or slightly above in all the aspects of the game. Though, playing on the same team as Ponomarev, Bourque will have to battle for the number one center spot if neither of them is put on the wing. Nevertheless, he has all the abilities to crack the top 5 best QMJHL players by the end of the year.
8 – Lukas Cormier (D)
Thought undersized Cormier isn’t scared to get involved physically, and he uses his long stick makes him impassable on enemies’ rushes. Cormier is a great skater going both direction. He uses his speed to quickly activate out of his zone on the breakout and jump in the offence. Cormier likes to go low around the top of the circles in the offensive zone so he can get a better shooting angle. With the puck, he is very calm and patient, never in a hurry. Unfortunately, he can sometimes be soft with the puck and his passing decision needs some improvement. He will also need to find a better balance between defence and offence since he focuses too much on the attack at times. However, he possesses huge offensive potential, but he must learn to use it adequately.
9 – Théo Rochette (C)
Dual citizen Theo Rochette is both Swiss and Canadian, and likes focuses his game towards his offensive skills. Agile on his skates, Rochette is always ready to rapidly change direction and get involved in plays. He possesses a tremendous wrist shot with good placement. He is truly good to open himself for passing lanes and afterwards, quickly let go a deadly shot. Rochette’s offensive vision is his best attribute. He can both create scoring chance and set up his teammates or get himself in the position of the finisher. An active player perpetually in motion and ready to receive the puck. Speed and acceleration are above average but consistency will need to be worked on if he wants to get higher on rankings. Altogether, Rochette is an interesting prospect who is able to accomplish great things when he is in possession.
10 – Noah Delémont (D)
After playing hockey all his life in Switzerland, Delémont decided to cross the ocean and come play in Canada. The 3rd overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft is a two-way defenseman who is really efficient in regroups. He uses his calmness and vision to spot his best option and eventually let go a precise pass. Prefers to follow the rush and arrive as an option at the point. Delémont owns a great puck handling skill and the mobility to quickly change direction. He can do some damages during the attack when he lets his offensive instinct take over. Defensively, his positioning is really good and he always keeps an eye on his man. He never gives away the middle and maintains opponents to stick far from scoring areas with his stick. However, his frame is an issue when the game gets physical and he is occasionally caught avoiding corner fights. Plus, consistency is a red flag. He will have to always play at his full capacity if he wants to reach his potential.
Almost made the cut: Pier-Olivier Roy (Gatineau), Brady Burns (Saint John), Elliot Desnoyers (Moncton)