A consistent scoring presence is a much desired commodity in the QMJHL, of that there is little doubt. Out of the 13 players highlighted here, seven found themselves changing teams either during the off-season or during the league’s mid-season trade period. Meanwhile, eight of the players listed below are expected not to return for the upcoming season, although that is far from a sure thing, as three of them are 20-year-old over-age players who have been drafted but still find themselves back in the junior ranks, rare for most prospects.
Below is a ranking of the top wingers in the QMJHL. Note that only drafted prospects were considered in this listing.
1. Dmitri Kugryshev, Quebec Remparts
Drafted by the Washington Capitals, 58th overall (2nd round) in 2008
It should come as no surprise that the rights to this talented Russian are held by the Washington Capitals. In fact it seems that the Caps almost have a monopoly on acquiring and developing top Russian talents. The future is bright for this scoring star. The offensive leader for the Remparts in his second season of junior hockey, the 19-year-old picked up where he left off after a strong rookie season. Though his goal totals were down slightly, Kugryshev made use of his teammates more to finish the season with 29 goals and 87 points in 66 games, a modest increase over his production the previous season. Although the Remparts won their division and have continued to the quarter-finals in the league playoffs, they currently find themselves against a wall with a three-game deficit versus the Victoriaville Tigres. In eight postseason games, Kugryshev has four goals and 10 points.
Toiling his first two seasons in relative obscurity with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Deschamps found himself jumping up the league scoring chart after a mid-season trade landed him with a contending team in the Moncton Wildcats. Finishing the year with 39 goals and 96 points in 64 games, the 19-year-old placed second in league scoring while obliterating his previous career highs in nearly every offensive category. Prior to this season, Deschamps was known more for his two-way play, which makes him an excellent fit for the Moncton Wildcats where being defensively responsible is just as important as being offensively effective. In seven playoff matches, Deschamps has three goals and seven points and has advanced to the league quarter-finals for the first time in his three-year junior career.
If there is an award for breakout player of the year, the winner in the QMJHL could be Dumont. After posting 49 points in 51 games in his draft year last season, Dumont exploded in 2009-10 to finish third in the league with 93 points in 62 games. He also led the league with 51 goals, including 16 coming while on the man advantage. Finding chemistry with top 2011 prospect Sean Courturier, who finished the year leading the league in scoring, Dumont also benefited from remaining relatively healthy, after nagging injuries due to his rambunctious style limited his effectiveness over the course of his first two seasons in the league. At 5’10 and 180 pounds, the 19-year-old isn’t the biggest player on the ice, but he often plays like he is and that is nowhere more apparent than in the postseason. So far in six playoff matches this year with the defending champion Voltigeurs, Dumont has a league-leading eight goals and 13 points.
4. Chris DiDomenico, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, 164th overall (6th round) in 2007
Last year, as the Drummondville Voltigeurs celebrated their QMJHL championship win and headed to the Memorial Cup, DiDomenico watched from the sidelines. Suffering a broken femur in Game 3 of the league championships, all the Leafs prospect could do was sit and wonder what could have been as his team was beaten in the semi-finals of the Memorial Cup by the eventual champion Windsor Spitfires. Almost nine months later, Didomenico, now 20, rejoined the Voltigeurs after a lengthy healing process. Although eligible to begin his pro career and with this season counting as the first year on his entry-level contract with the Leafs, it was decided that after such a long recovery process. returning to junior to finish off the year would be in his best interests. His return also gave immediate dividends for Drummondville with the forward putting up seven goals and 22 points in just 12 games to finish the season. Now in the playoffs, DiDomenico is making up for lost time with three goals and 13 points in just six postseason matches. Encompassing both the regular season and the playoffs, Drummondville has yet to lose with Didomenico in the line-up in the 2009-10 season.
After playing for the Memorial Cup as a member of the host Rimouski Oceanic in 2009, Philippe Cornet is looking to get another shot at the CHL championship in what is expected to be his last season of junior hockey. Flirting with the league scoring lead for most of the first half of the season, Cornet finished the 2009-10 season with near identical totals to his previous year’s efforts. In 65 games, the 19-year-old posted 28 goals and 77 points to finish second on his team in scoring. Reunited with Jordan Caron and Patrice Cormier, Cornet’s linemates from Rimouski, the trio’s chemistry was supposed to be the magic to catapult Rouyn-Noranda over the top, but Cormier’s season-ending suspension has made the Huskies hopes a bit foggier. Currently playing in the league’s playoff quarter-finals, the Huskies are in tough against a strong Moncton Wildcats team. In eight playoff games, Cornet has three goals and seven points.
6. Mikhail Stefanovich, Quebec Remparts
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, 98th overall (4th round) in 2008
Like fellow Maple Leaf prospect Chris Didomenico, Mikhail Stefanovich‘s presence in the QMJHL for his over-age season, might have come as a bit of a surprise. But after attending both the Leafs training camp and the AHL Marlies camp, it was thought that it would be best for the development of the big Belarussian if he spent another season in the junior ranks. Although he may have been initially unhappy with the decision, he quickly used the additional year with the Remparts to begin to round out his game. Posting 25 goals and 68 points in 53 games, Stefanovich’s point-per-game average was down compared to the previous season, but his 43 assists were a career high and he displayed an increased willingness to use his 6’2, 206-pound frame to his advantage on the ice. In eight playoff matches, he has scored three times and has 12 points. Although additional work remains to be done, Stefanovich has plenty of talent to be a success.
Breaking out as a 19-year-old with the Shawinigan Cataractes and helping the club make it all the way to the league finals in the postseason, Petersen was a bit of a surprise to be drafted after being skipped over the previous two seasons. It was even more surprising when the Penguins opted to not keep the 20-year-old in the pro ranks, but opted to instead return him to junior, where his rights were dealt to the Saint John Sea Dogs. On a line with fellow over-age player Mike Hoffman (OTT), who also heard his name called on the 2009 draft day after a strong 19-year-old season, Petersen’s playoff experience is a valuable addition to the Sea Dogs line-up. After helping pace Saint John to first place in the league standings with 39 goals and 79 points in 59 games, Petersen has posted two goals and 11 points in seven playoff matches thus far.
Starting the year with the Rimouski Oceanic, Caron was part of a mid-season trade as the Oceanic begin a quick rebuilding process after hosting the 2009 Memorial Cup. A four-year veteran of junior hockey with the Memorial Cup experience under his belt, Caron landed with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, joining fellow Rimouski linemates in Cornet and Cormier. An oft-injured forward with a rambunctious style of play, Caron suffered a shoulder injury over the summer and then missed more time to play for Team Canada at the 2010 World Juniors. In total, he appeared in 43 games between the Oceanic and the Huskies and finished with 26 goals and 53 points. So far in the playoffs, the 19-year-old forward leads the league with six goals and 14 points in eight games.
9. Gabriel Bourque, Moncton Wildcats
Drafted by the Nashville Predators, 132nd overall (5th round) in 2009
A diminutive whirlwind of a player, Bourque went from the basement to the penthouse in the league standings thanks to a mid-season trade. While his former team, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar have missed the playoffs, Bourque has joined the Moncton Wildcats, one of the favorites to compete for the league championships. With a new team comes new responsibilities and while Bourque was relied on to provide scoring punch with Baie-Comeau, he has settled into serving more of an energy role with Moncton, not unlike the role he filled for Team Canada at the 2010 World Juniors. In total, the 5’9, 186 lbs forward had scored 16 goals and had 52 points in 55 games split between the Drakkar and the Wildcats. So far in the playoffs, he has lit the lamp twice and added a single assist for three points in seven games. Although Bourque’s lack of size will continue to be the challenge for his pro hockey future, his determination might be enough to make up for it.
10. Jacob Lagace, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, 134th overall (5th round) in 2008
Like many members of this list, Lagace also saw himself the subject of a mid-season trade, going from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Counted on to lead the offense while with Chicoutimi, the 19-year-old saw himself asked to change his game to fit in with the defensively responsible Eagles. Although he finished the season with 35 goals and 73 points in 60 games, his production after being dealt to Cape Breton was well off pace with just five goals and 20 points in 25 games. But that’s not to say he was not effective; Lagace played a regular role on the team’s penalty-killing unit, where his puck awareness was a useful skill. Unfortunately his addition was not enough to lift the Eagles over the hump and after five playoff games, where he brought in three points, all of them assists, the year ended for both Cape Breton and Lagace.
After being drafted out of the United States National Team Development Program, Bourque was expected to continue his hockey career with the University of New Hampshire — and then Patrick Roy came calling. In a surprise move, Bourque shifted focus and joined the Quebec Remparts where he immediately stepped into a top-six spot with the team. Although his lack of size (listed at just 5’9 and 166 pounds) is an obvious hurdle for his future pro aspirations and he needs to add significant strength to his slight frame, the son of Hall of Famer defenseman Ray Bourque showed plenty of speed and offensive ability in his rookie season. He posted just under a point per game with 19 goals and 43 points in 44 regular-season games, but the time missed is also of particular concern as Bourque suffered two concussions over the course of the season. In eight playoff matches for the Remparts, Bourque has three goals and 10 points.
Although the Detroit Red Wings allegedly had Nestrasil listed as a potential first rounder when they drafted him last summer, the Czech native is coming along slowly in his second year in North America. Playing for an vastly improved Victoriaville squad, Nestrasil’s own progress wasn’t as noteworthy. He finished the year with 16 goals and 51 points in 50 games, compared to the 57 points in 66 games he tallied as a rookie. Though a modest improvement over the previous season’s totals, much more was expected from the 18-year-old as he continues to adapt to the North American game. Part of the reason might be due to the time he missed, with Nestrasil first leaving the team to play for Team Czech Republic at the World Juniors only to return and suffer a shoulder injury that kept him out for several weeks. Once healthy, he found himself lower in the line-up as the Tigres loaded up for their playoff run. Now in the post season, he currently has a goal and three points in nine playoff matches.
A rough and tumble forward, Danick Paquette has earned a reputation by making the lives of opposing goaltenders difficult, standing in their crease and hammering home rebounds. Dealt from the Lewiston MAINEiacs to the Quebec Remparts over the offseason, Paquette toned his game down a bit, dropping his penalty minute totals from 230 down to 136, but didn’t lose his offensive touch. In 64 games with the Remparts, Paquette potted 36 goals and finished with 65 points. With a shoulder injury limiting him to just four playoff games thus far, the 6’1, 206 lbs forward has a goal and four points in this year’s postseason.