Name: Justin Barron Team: Halifax Mooseheads League: QMJHL
Skating: 8.5/10 Skill: 7/10 Smarts: 7.5/10 Shot: 8/10 Compete: 8/10
November 13th, 2019: Productive night for Justin Barron on the power play. The defenseman of the week in the QMJHL got 2 passes. As the point man of this unit, he fed well Raphaël Lavoie. He took the middle with the head up, attracted the penalty killer and he just had to do quick pass that gave open-ice for his half-wall guys.
He sometimes let go his usual low slap shot, perfect for rebounds. Even though he often stood still on the blue line, Barron was still an offensive thread. He jumped on the rush whenever he had the chance (he even did it on the penalty kill to outnumber Blainville-Boisbriand), did some good reverses with his forwards along the board and of course, fired the puck to the net. However, Barron didn’t try to do too much offensively and calculated well his opportunities to leave his position, which is exactly in his character.
Transition-wise, he liked to stay wide in neutral zone and he communicated a lot to Patrick Kyte, his pairing. He didn’t cause a lot of mistake which is an upgrade to his previous games. Good thing to remark, his passes were really really hard on tape. This strength in his wrist are pretty useful for long passes. Only downside, he didn’t move his feet enough, and this can also apply to his game in general. We all know, Barron has a fantastic north-south skating, but his quickfeet and pivots clearly don’t have the same speed. This then gave way too much time and space to his man when he had to press him in defensive zone and it set him vulnerable when he didn’t take a good gap. At least, his stick and frame helped him to make it up for this .
Since Benoit-Olivier Groulx took 8 minutes of penalty, Barron played a lot on the penalty kill. He did a great job out there but he didn’t move his head enough so the backdoor player at times fooled him. His defensive game is his biggest strength and it was easy to identify it. Barron was awesome to shut down rushes and anticipate passes. Something worth to notice, when Kyte was being tackled and grabbed because of the big hit he threw, Barron didn’t hesitate a second to jump in the scrimmage and defend his mate. He also showed great endurance since I’m pretty sure he almost played 30 minutes with all these penalties.
Justin Barron can sometimes make soft pass and bad decision but he still stay the most important defenseman for Halifax and a guy on who you can always rely on.
Name: Alexis Lafrenière Team: Rimouski Océanic League: QMJHL
Skating: 9/10 Skill: 9.5/10 Smarts: 9.5/10 Shot: 8.5/10 Compete: 8.5/10
November 23th, 2019: The Rimouski’s superstar was, for the first time of the season, around Montréal and you could see it had an huge impact on the attendance. Alexis Lafrenière got two primary assists on the power play. Once again, he powered this unit and fed Cédric Paré for his 27th goal. On this goal, he did an awesome job to fool the penalty killers. He took a quick look at Paré, used his body language and stick to make it look like he’ll go for the shot and then, a pass right between Paré’s legs for a one timer.
Lafrenière was constantly a real threat when he got the puck. He showed outstanding vision and creativity throughout the game. The scariest is that his body can absolutely keep up with what runs through his mind. He controlled the game like no one else and was able to get rid of all the pressure he received. During zone entry, he tended to use a lot the F3 player. Often he made a reverse with him or did a little back pass to create a much better shooting lane. Skating around so confident in the offensive zone, he attracted all the attention around which opened passing lanes. Lafrenière liked to keep the puck but he wasn’t selfish at all, just no dump and useless pass. He rather confront an adversary than put a teammate in trouble with a risky pass. Plus, it was a really tough task for his opponents to steal him the puck since his puck protection skills are way too superior. Shifty hands, great body position and strong balance. The footwork is lacking but still in good progression.
Coming in his third season in the QMJHL, the biggest concern in Lafrenière’s game was his skating. Well, I was pretty impressed by his skating abilities and it indeed got better. His crossovers and strides generated significant speed and his acceleration was actually impressive. This combination created one of the fastest player on the ice who was pretty hard to stop when entering the offensive zone. First steps, quick feet and edges didn’t affect him that much since he played against junior players but we can spot the issue, especially as a future first overall selection.
Moreover, I would have liked to see him shoot more often. It isn’t a big problem but Lafrenière has an heavy and precise shot and he should use it way more often. He is a wonderful playmaker but he showed previously and at that game that he has the vision to find open ice and hide behind the defenders. In his 2017-18 season, he put 42 goals and 38 assists. In 2018-19, he only scored 37 goals on his 105 points. Even though he doesn’t have a scoring mentality, Lafrenière can still put up goals when he is willing to shoot that puck.
Alexis Lafrenière played at high-tempo against the Armada in the offensive zone. He competed hard and was willing to get the puck. He rushed at high-speed for loose puck, wasn’t scared at all to take the hit, won pretty much all of his battles along the board and fought to get in front of the net and screen the goalie. Lafrenière understood that he must gain the puck before thinking of scoring. Unfortunately, this attitude didn’t always apply in neutral and defensive zone. He sometimes cheated on his backcheck and stayed high waiting for the puck, doing his usual sliding and fixing his elbow pads. The kind of play you don’t want to see from a captain…
Overall, Alexis Lafrenière didn’t disappoint anyone with his offensive skills and created a great show all by himself. He was dominant and made everyone better. He still continued to create a lot of scoring chances without his line mate Dmitry Zavgorodniy, who’s injured. As a matter of fact, he once again proved he has the talent to go 1st overall.
QMJHL November ranking