Defense and high-scoring Europeans make up the majority of the QMJHL’s top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft. Four defenders sit in the top 10, as well as forwards born in three different European countries – Russia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
At this point, there is no consensus as to how strong the QMJHL class is – there could be as many as four or five players from the league selected in the first round, or there could be none.
1. Yevgeni Svechnikov, LW
6’3″, 205 lbs., Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (CSS Ranking – 21NA; ISS Ranking – 18)
Yevgeni Svechnikov, who turned 18 on Oct. 31st of last year, is having an impressive rookie season in the QMJHL. The big-bodied Russian winger is third on the Screaming Eagles in scoring with 48 points in just 37 games, and, game-by-game, has been the team’s most dynamic forward.
He has seemingly come out of nowhere in earning recognition this season; Svechnikov was selected by the Screaming Eagles in the second round of the 2013 CHL Import Draft, but didn’t come to North America until the start of this season. Scouts love his size, shot and offensive instincts, but defensive-zone play is a slight concern, though not enough to see him drafted outside the top two rounds, despite the “Russian factor”.
2. Timo Meier, LW
6’1″, 209 lbs., Halifax Mooseheads (CSS Ranking – 12NA)
With an early October birthday, Swiss-born winger Timo Meier will be one of the oldest first-year eligible prospects in this year’s draft, and that much is noticeable when he’s on the ice. At 6’1″ and 209 pounds, he possesses good size, which allows him to get to scoring areas with greater ease than most, and his ability to both shoot and pass the puck can be a challenge for goaltenders.
This season, beside Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG), Meier has been the Mooseheads’ most dangerous forward, scoring 60 points in just 40 games. He improved his NHL Draft standing with a solid World Junior performance, in which he recorded six points in six games, and was also impressive at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game last week playing on a line with Connor McDavid.
3. Nicolas Meloche, D
6’2″, 198 lbs., Baie-Comeau Drakkar (CSS Ranking – 45NA; ISS Ranking – 25)
Perhaps not as skilled as Sherbrooke’s Jeremy Roy, Nicolas Meloche is an intriguing prospect in his own right. At 6’2″ and pushing 200 pounds, he already has the body of an NHL player and plays a strong and physical defensive game. He is second on the Drakkar in penalty minutes with 99.
But Meloche is not just a one-dimensional player. In his rookie season with Baie-Comeau, Meloche recorded 25 points for a Drakkar team that went to the league finals. This season, he is fourth on the team in scoring with 34 points. His 10 goals are far and away the most by a Drakkar defender; in contrast, the team only has nine goals combined from its other defenders.
4. Jeremy Roy, D
6’0″, 182 lbs., Sherbrooke Phoenix (CSS Ranking – 23NA)
A solid two-way defender, Roy is listed as a potential first round pick by a number of scouting outlets, and with good reason. The fourth overall pick in the 2013 QMJHL Entry Draft, Roy scored 14 goals as a rookie in 2013-14 and has 39 points in 40 games this season for the improved Sherbrooke Phoenix, which is enough to lead all QMJHL defensemen in scoring.
Roy captained the Quebec team at the 2013-14 World U17 Hockey Challenge and was an alternate captain for Team Canada at the recent Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He has tremendous hockey ‘IQ’ and, combined with his strong skating, it would not be a surprise if he was a first round selection this June.
5. Jakub Zboril, D
6’2″, 185 lbs., Saint John Sea Dogs (CSS Ranking – 11NA; ISS Ranking – 29)
Because of a knee injury, Jakub Zboril’s impressive rookie season has been put on hold, and, as a result, he was forced to miss last week’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
The injury isn’t expected to be season-ending, and even if it was, Zboril looked comfortable and confident enough in 33 games with the revamped Saint John Sea Dogs. The Czech rearguard’s 22 points is third among Sea Dogs defensemen, behind recently-acquired Jason Bell and Thomas Chabot. His performance at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, in which he scored four goals in five games, really elevated his NHL Draft stock, and a lengthy playoff appearance in Saint John could boost it even higher.
6. Daniel Sprong, RW
6’0″, 192 lbs., Charlottetown Islanders (CSS Ranking – 20NA)
After a tremendous 16-year-old season in which he scored 68 points in 67 games, Netherlands-born Daniel Sprong is continuing to produce for the Charlottetown Islanders this season. Sprong is currently the leading scorer for the Islanders with 54 points in 48 games, two points ahead of fellow 2015 prospect, Filip Chlapik.
In addition to his offensive prowess, Sprong is also a defensively responsible winger who works hard in all three zones, never taking a shift off.
7. Thomas Chabot, D
6’2″, 179 lbs., Saint John Sea Dogs (CSS Ranking – 15NA; ISS Ranking – 22)
Along with Jakub Zboril, 17-year-old Thomas Chabot is a big reason for the Saint John Sea Dogs’ improvement this season. He has already eclipsed his point total from last season and currently has 27 points, placing him second in scoring among Saint John defenders.
Chabot earns plenty of power play time and that’s where he is most dangerous. but he is also a strong skater who, at this level, has the ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone with relative ease. Getting stronger is the most important thing for Chabot to further his development.
8. Denis Yan, LW
6’1″, 187 lbs., Shawinigan Cataractes (CSS Ranking – 35NA)
American-born with Russian heritage, slick winger Dennis Yan’s stock has rapidly risen this season. The 6’1″, 187-pound Yan has added both height and size to his frame over the past year, and has provided the Cataractes with a top-tier offensive player. He is currently third in team scoring with 43 points in 38 games, and is a team-leading +18. He missed most of December due to injury, but has responded with points in nine straight games in January.
Yan moved to Russia with his parents when he was seven, before they returned to the United States when he was a teenager. He was one of the United States’ top players at the recent Ivan Hlinka tournament, in which he scored four goals and added four assists in eight games.
9. Anthony Beauvillier, C
5’10″, 181 lbs., Shawinigan Cataractes (CSS Ranking – 49NA)
Perhaps the most offensively-dynamic, draft-eligible forward in the “Q”, Anthony Beauvillier is leading the charge offensively for the Cataractes. Often playing with Yan, Beauvillier has 72 points in 47 games, which puts him third in league scoring.
The second overall pick in the 2013 QMJHL Entry Draft, his playmaking ability is what stands out most about Beauvillier. He is by no means one dimensional, but certainly needs to work on adding strength to his 5’10″ frame while also improving his play in his own end.
His brother, Francis, was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, but wasn’t signed to an entry-level deal.
10. Nicolas Roy, C
6’4″, 203 lbs., Chicoutimi Saguenéens (CSS Ranking – 25NA)
One look at Nicolas Roy and you can easily see why the Chicoutimi Saguenéens made him the first overall pick in the 2013 QMJHL Entry Draft. He is listed at 6’4″ and 203 pounds, though he doesn’t take full advantage of his size. In 107 career QMJHL games, Roy has just 41 penalty minutes.
After a tremendous rookie season in which he scored 41 points in 63 games, Roy hasn’t quite taken the jump he was expected to this season – he has 29 points in 44 games – but his combination of size and smarts will make him attractive to a number of NHL clubs.
Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7