In terms of sheer numbers of QMJHL players drafted, the 2008 NHL Entry Draft might not be much different from the 2007 Draft that saw 25 players from the Quebec league drafted. There is one key difference, however. Where the 2007 draft class has already yielded an NHL player in St. Louis Blue David Perron and featured four first-round draft picks, the 2008 draft eligibles lack that high-end talent, although it is still possible that a player or two from the Q will be selected in the first round.
Here’s a look at ten of the top 2008 eligible prospects playing in the QMJHL, in alphabetical order.
Joel Champagne, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Height: 6’3; Weight: 212; DOB: Jan 24, 1990
The tenth overall selection in the 2006 QMJHL Midget Draft, Champagne is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Blessed with great physical tools, he also possesses strong puck skills and the ability to anticipate the play. That said, he doesn’t always use his size to his full advantage and he needs to continue to improve on his skating. In 66 games with Chicoutimi, he’s sniped 16 goals and has 38 points. He’s also a force in the faceoff dot, with a success rate higher then 57 percent. Appearing in the Top Prospects Game for Team Fuhr/Anderson, he earned one assist and worked alongside Sagueneens teammate Nicolas Deschamps and Val d’Or’s Maxime Sauve on a strong skating, forechecking line. Champagne also played for Team QMJHL in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge, being held without a point in the two games he appeared in, winning 20 of 28 faceoffs, and hitting generously.
Patrice Cormier, C – Rimouski Oceanic
Height: 6’1; Weight: 199; DOB: Jun 14, 1990
Cormier entered the QMJHL amid heaps of hype. He gained some national recognition prior to his having been drafted, as the Cap-Pelee, NB, native was drafted out of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, having played for two years among young men five and six years his senior, before entering major junior. This trial by fire forced the physically mature beyond his years Cormier to develop a tougher, grittier game early on in his development. Unfortunately for Cormier, his tenure in the QMJHL has been fraught with bouts of inconsistency. Rimouski has a deep roster of young prospects, and Cormier’s inconsistent play has resulted in him not seeing much time on the team’s top line and special teams units. Cormier, one of Rimouski’s bigger threats in the face-off circle, has posted 18 goals and 20 assists in 47 games, a surprising sixth among forwards. He has also added 84 penalty minutes, and is one of the team’s better face-off threats. Given his impressive skill set and offensive talent, this has to be looked at as a disappointing year. There is little questioning his ability as an offensive threat, nor his energetic nature, but one must be concerned about his consistency and focus.
Peter Delmas, G – Lewiston MAINEiacs
Height: 6’2; Weight: 175; DOB: Feb 16, 1990
Delmas was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft, to serve as the heir apparent of one of the top netminders in the QMJHL in Los Angeles prospect Jonathan Bernier. Delmas appeared in half of the regular season games in Lewiston’s Memorial Cup year, spotting Bernier admirably when he went down with an ankle injury late in the regular season. It was hoped that Delmas would be able to build off of his strong rookie campaign, however, he has suffered through a bit of an up-and-down year, posting a 17-17 record thus far this season. His goals against average and save percentage are on par with those of his highly-touted counterpart; however, Delmas has seen the bulk of his games against inferior competition. He had suffered through a personal six-game losing streak in the lead-up to the CHL Top Prospects Game, but a strong performance (in which he played solidly and allowed only two goals) has helped right his ship in the weeks since the nationally-televised game. Delmas is a strong butterfly netminder, who boasts great lateral movement and sound mechanics. The MAINEiacs will be his squad next year, and the transition should be smooth, as Delmas has seen similar ice time to Bernier during his tenure in the league.
Chris Doyle, C – PEI Rocket
Height: 6’0; Weight: 195; DOB: Mar 22, 1990
The fourth overall selection in the 2006 Midget Draft, Doyle has worked hard to live up to that high billing. Known for his hard and accurate shot, he’s a scoring forward who doesn’t mind paying the price in front of the net and along the boards to make a play. With 25 goals and 61 points in 58 games for PEI, Doyle is second on the team in scoring and is a constant threat with the man advantage, tallying 13 goals on the power play. Despite these scoring exploits, the main knock against Doyle has been his consistency and the other aspects of his game. Ineffective in the Top Prospects Game, Doyle laced them up for Team Fuhr/Anderson. Despite the final score of 8-4 in his team’s favor, Doyle finished the game a -2.
Tomas Knotek, C – Halifax Mooseheads
Height: 6’1; Weight: 171; DOB: Jan 13, 1990
Usually lining up in the enviable position alongside Jakub Voracek with the Halifax Mooseheads, it’s little surprise that Knotek has been one of the most productive rookies in the QMJHL this season. One of the top picks in the 2007 CHL Import Draft, the native of Kladno, Czech Republic joined his fellow countryman and childhood teammate with Halifax and instantly made an impressive as a skilled offensive forward. He was named the QMJHL’s draft prospect of the month for October and currently finds himself tied for second in the rookie scoring race with 21 goals and 62 points in 65 games. Although there are plenty of knocks on his game, such as his skating, his ability to fight through checks and his play in his own end, there’s little doubt in his knack for putting the puck in the net and setting up the play.
Kevin Poulin, G – Victoriaville Tigres
Height: 6’1; Weight: 202; DOB: Apr 12, 1990
Poulin is in the running to be one of the first goaltenders selected on draft day. This notion is nothing new for him, as he was the first goaltender chosen in the 2006 QMJHL Midget Draft (third overall). While his missing the opportunity to showcase his talents on an international stage in the CHL Top Prospects Game (he missed the game as a result of a minor injury suffered in the week leading up to the game), his strong performance with the mediocre Tigres have kept his name in the mix. Poulin has good size and plays a strong butterfly game, with good quickness and reflexes in his repertoire. While he does have occasional gaffes in regards to rebound control, his improvisational ability when he does get caught out of position has prevented many surefire goals over the course of the season. He currently sits with a record of 16-22, while posting a 3.79 goals against average. Victoriaville moved their longtime starting netminder, Jean-Christophe Blanchard, prior to the trade deadline. Poulin’s performance in the second half of the season has made that transition in goaltenders relatively smooth.
Maxime Sauve, C – Val D’Or Foreurs
Height: 6’0; Weight: 178; DOB: Jan 30, 1990
A member of the blockbuster trade that saw Brad Marchand land in Halifax, Sauve went from playing behind Kelsey Tessier and Angelo Esposito in Quebec to leading the offense in Val D’Or. The 18th overall selection in the 2006 QMJHL Midget Draft, Sauve was born in Tour, France. An all-season forward, he’s stepped up to the challenge with the rebuilding Foreurs, averaging more than a point per game since the December trade. All told, the energetic center has 25 goals and 63 points in 67 games. Appearing in the Top Prospects Game, Sauve recorded an assist in a winning effort playing for Team Fuhr/Anderson. An impressive skater, Sauve makes the most of his wheels by hustling back to help out in his own zone just as much as he uses his speed to lead to rush.
Yann Sauve, D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Height: 6’3; Weight: 220; DOB: Feb 18, 1990
Sauve was the first overall selection by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the 2006 QMJHL Midget Draft (their second consecutive first overall pick, and the second straight defenseman chosen in that slot). Sauve is a strong two-way defenseman, with more emphasis on his offensive game. Deemed a detriment to his all-around game, his play in his own end has begun to come around, but that is still one aspect of his game that separates Sauve from being a potential late-first, early-second round selection and a mid-round pick (where he will likely be chosen). Sauve also brings pro size and physicality along the boards, as well as a willingness to occasionally drop the gloves (as he did near the end of the CHL Top Prospect Game, mixing it up with likely first-overall selection Steven Stamkos). He has notched six goals, 14 assists and 88 penalty minutes in 65 games thus far this season.
Mikhail Stefanovich, RW – Quebec Remparts
Height: 6’2; Weight: 202; DOB: Nov 27, 1989
Stefanovich is widely expected to be the first player from the QMJHL to be selected at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, likely to fall somewhere in the middle third of the first round. The Belarussian product was selected by the Remparts in the CHL Import Draft after the Bashkirov twins experiment failed one year in. Stefanovich is a talented forward, with the welcome blend of size, speed, and strength, boasting great stick-handling ability, a strong skating stride, and a willingness to go into high-traffic areas to make plays and battle for the puck. Stefanovich currently sits atop all QMJHL rookies in points (64) as well as leading all rookies in goals (32). He appeared both in the World Junior Hockey Championships (for the second straight year) for Belarus, as well as the CHL Top Prospects Game.
Kelsey Tessier, C – Quebec Remparts
Height: 5’9; Weight: 172; DOB: Jan 16, 1990
If teammate Mikhail Stefanovich is not the first player from the QMJHL picked at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, then most bets will point to Kelsey Tessier. Slipping all the way to the fourth round of the QMJHL Midget draft, Tessier is a diminutive forward with big-league skills. The New Brunswick native does not back down from battling in the corners and taking abuse in front of the net. More of a sniper than a playmaker, Tessier has 37 goals and 79 points in 66 games with Quebec and has come into his own in his second year in the QMJHL. The most offensively prolific of all the 2008 eligibles, Tessier sees time in all situations with 13 goals with the man advantage and another three tallies coming while shorthanded. A participant in the CHL Top Prospects Game, Tessier was one of the top QMJHL performers in the arena with an assist for Team Fuhr/Anderson. Tessier also appeared in one game for Team QMJHL of the ADT Canada/Russia series, being held without a point, despite having three shots, tying for second on the team and winning 8 of 12 faceoffs.
Luke Adam, C – Saint John’s Fog Devils
Despite knocks against his skating and his all-around play, one cannot deny Adam’s goal-scoring nose. Playing for the hometown team, this forward makes a name for himself by staying around the net and putting the puck past goaltenders.
Mark Barberio, D – Moncton Wildcats
One of the key returns to Moncton from last season’s deal that saw Luc Bourdon become a member of Cape Breton, Barberio is coming into his own as a defensive force. Playing in trying circumstances with the rebuilding Wildcats, the Montreal native is the second leading scorer on the team.
Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
One of the top offensive defensemen in the QMJHL playing for one of the top teams in the league, Bourdon excels at making the first pass and distributing the puck. Significant concerns over his skating, however, prevent him from being a top 2008 eligible.
Mathieu Brodeur, D – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
A big smooth-skating blue liner for the Screaming Eagles, Brodeur has been called upon to shut down the offensive stars of QMJHL when they make their way to Cape Breton. Steady and poised beyond his years, he consistently makes the safe play in his own zone.
Phillipe Cornet, C – Rimouski Oceanic
Yet another talented offensive forward on the Rimouski Oceanic, Cornet excels both at creating plays and sniping the puck home on his own. Constantly needing to battle through opposing checkers, he’ll only get better as he continues to get stronger.
Steven Delisle, D – Gatineau Olympiques
A defensive defenseman for the Olympiques, Delisle doesn’t hesitate to use his impressive size to shut down some of the QMJHL’s top offensive threats. Playing within his means, the Quebec native epitomizes the idea of a safe selection.
Nicolas Deschamps, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
It’s hard to ignore this forwards offensive impact. In his first year of the QMJHL, Deschamps was named the QMJHL’s rookie of the month in November and is currently third in the league in rookie scoring.
Robert Mayer, G – Saint John Sea Dogs
Initially considered to be one of the top 2008 eligible goaltenders, Mayer hasn’t been able to carry that mantle through his first season of play in the QMJHL. Strapping on the pads for one of the top teams in the East Division, Mayer also represented Switzerland in the WJCs.
Alexandre Neron, D – Rimouski Oceanic
An offensive defenseman for the Oceanic, Neron’s strength lies in his ability to make the first pass out of his own zone and distribute the puck. Although he never holds back from letting his shot fly, he sometimes has trouble getting it through and his consistency, especially in his own end, needs to improve.
Jordon Southorn, D – PEI Rocket
A young two-way defender for the Rocket whom PEI has relied upon heavily this season, Southorn is an eager participant in joining the rush. Though sometimes struggling with his decision making, Southorn has the size and the skating ability to be a solid pickup.
Mathieu Tousignant, C – PEI Rocket
An all-weather forward who was the key figure returning to PEI when the Rocket chose to trade Pierre-Luc Lessard to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. With a mix of offensive skills, defensive commitment, gritty play and dependable results in the faceoff dot, Tousignant will be looking to prosper with a young PEI team next season.
Kevin Forbes and Phil Laugher contributed to this article.