It has now been more than a month that the season started and up to this time, Alexis Lafrenière and his line reign over the QMJHL. Despite their heavy dominance, Sherbrooke Phoenix is sitting at the top of the CHL, while Acadie-Bathurst is still battling for their first win of the season. Rookies are also making their marks into the league. Zachary L’Heureux from Moncton and Rimouski’s defenseman, Isaac Belliveau, are both over a point per game. For the 2020 players, some are completely blowing up expectations such as Ryan Francis and Dawson Mercer whereas others like Lapierre, Cormier and Rochette are unfortunately struggling with injuries. October will soon take an end and let place for the exciting Canada-Russia series. But before that, here how some invited players performed this month.
Name: Jérémie Poirier Team: Saint John Sea Dogs League: QMJHL
Skating: 7.5/10 Skill: 9/10 Smarts: 9/10 Shot: 8/10 Compete: 6.5/10
October 18th, 2019: It was a great performance by Poirier in which he collected 2 goals and 2 passes. As always, he was excellent when he was in control of the puck. With the head constantly up, Poirier knew the time he had to build up a play. His creativity and his fast decision-making led him to be such a smart player and a master in the transition game. When Poirier got the puck in his zone or the neutral zone, you could be pretty sure that the offence will be started once again. Whether it is a pass across the ice right on the tape or him doing it all on his own (-here a rush by himself-), he definitely established himself as one of the best defenders in the league in these game situations. Jérémie Poirier also showed his impressive puck skills. It was such a difficult task for the opposite team to steal him the puck since he possesses a massive frame and a remarkable puck control. He also easily passed by the opposite team using his skillful hands and great acceleration -his offensive abilities-.
Speaking of skating, Poirier sometimes seemed to be a different skater when it came to a defensive situation. Slow, bad mobility and alright footwork (-sample-) .This was out of his usual character but it mostly looked to be a drive issue. My biggest reproach in general on Poirier is his game in the defensive zone. He can be soft and tend to only look at the puck. Though it happened against Charlottetown, I see progression toward this behaviour compared to his first games. Overall, Jérémie Poirier was a huge game changer for Saint John with his 4 points night despite some defensive mistakes. No doubt, Poirier is clearly closing the gap with Barron for the best 2020 defenseman from the Q.
Name: Dawson Mercer Team: Drummondville Voltigeurs League: QMJHL
Skating: 8/10 Skill: 8/10 Smarts: 8/10 Shot: 8.5/10 Compete: 8.5/10
October 18th, 2019: With a 2 goals night, the Newfoundland player set himself as the third best goal scorer in the league. Dawson Mercer continued to demonstrate his sniping talent. On his first goal, Mercer cut in the slot ready to shot. Though, the pass didn’t come so he proceeded to open himself and he hid behind the defenders, prepared for a one timer. He then received the puck and instead, let go a quick wrist shot too high for the goalie to block. – His goal-
Mercer is listed as a right winger but he did play some shifts in the middle in which he won 10 out of the 21 faceoffs. Versatile as he is, he played both first power play and penalty kill units. On the PK, he was really aggressive when there was a loose puck and always positioned his stick down to cut the pass across. His efforts even created a breakaway on which he scored his second goal. –His second goal-
Mercer had a great game in defensive situations. Nice backchecks, good stick lifts, brilliant anticipation and he played with combativeness. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a hard time with the puck. He committed too much turnovers while entering the offensive zone and had some difficulty to create scoring chance. He also seemed to have less confidence toward his puck handling ability. He however showed great samples of his impressive speed and scoring instinct. Beyond everything, it wasn’t a terrible game, not at all. He still put 3 points and was the best player on the ice with Xavier Simoneau, his captain. And nonetheless, he is up to this time a legit top-5 candidate in the QMJHL in term of point production.
Name: Vasily Ponomarev Team: Shawinigan Cataractes League: QMJHL
Skating: 8/10 Skill: 8.5/10 Smarts: 8.5/10 Shot: 6.5/10 Compete: 8.5/10
October 25th, 2019: Playing against the Océanic, Vasily Ponomarev and his team successfully shut down Rimouski’s dreadful offence and limited Alexis Lafrenière to a simple assist. Ponomarev’s defensive game was a big part of that accomplishment. The Russian is a relentless player who doesn’t give any ground to his opponents. During that match, he was perpetually in his rivals’ faces by applying a vigorous pressure in all three zones. His anticipation was also on point and it even gave him an assist. –Ponomarev’s assist-
Ponomarev facilitated everyone’s task by always being there as a support. He was implicated in every plays and tried to constantly open himself for a pass. On breakouts, Vasily went low, around the bottom of the circles, to be a legit option for his defensemen and his wingers, when there was a pinch. On regroups, it was pretty much the same. He skated low and timed himself perfectly to catch up the pass around the dots. He then had space and time to accelerate in neutral zone. With the puck, Ponomarev did almost zero turnover. He didn’t try to do too much, his passes were always on the tape and when he had no option, he just dumped it. His playmaking instinct was a big threat for Rimouski’s defence since he executed brilliant quick passes. However, his positioning in the offensive zone and his cycling were untidy. With such gifted hands and offensive instinct, he should produce way more than just 9 points in 12 games. Transitioning from the MHL is still a relevant fact but a 0.75 point per game is poor for a guy with these abilities.
QMJHL October ranking
Almost made the cut: Miguël Tourigny (Blainville-Boisbriand) – Ivan Ivan (Cape Breton) – Elliot Desnoyers (Moncton)