2015 NHL Draft Preview: Strong QMJHL class led by Meier, Zboril

By Chris Roberts
Timo Meier - Halifax Mooseheads

Photo: Halifax Mooseheads forward and 2015 prospect Timo Meier turned in a strong second season in the QMJHL, as well as good performances at the U20 World Junior Championship and CHL Top Prospects Game (courtesy of Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

 

 

There were just five players from the QMJHL selected in the first two rounds of the 2014 NHL Draft; this year, it’ll be a shock if that number isn’t at least doubled. In fact, Nikolaj Ehlers was the only QMJHL player to be taken in the first round, whereas at least four or five are expected to be taken in the 2015 NHL Draft.

A total of 17 players were taken out of the league last year, which was a stark drop from the 31 selected in the 2013 NHL Draft. A strong group of imports and some players with intriguing size and skill should help bring the total number of players drafted closer to the 2013 total.

QMJHL Top 10 for the 2015 NHL Draft

1. Timo Meier, RW, Halifax Mooseheads
Final CSS Rank: 10

Swiss-born Timo Meier has arguably been one of the fastest-rising prospects eligible for this year’s draft. After a pedestrian rookie season with Halifax last year, the 6’1″, 209-pound winger recorded 90 points in 61 games for Halifax this season, forming a solid one-two punch with Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG).

The average fan took notice of Meier when he starred in the 2015 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. He starred for Team Orr in the 6-0 win, scoring once and adding two assists, while effectively using his size to his advantage. He’ll turn 19 in October, and because of his foreign status, he’s a candidate to either return to Halifax or turn pro in the AHL if the team that selects him feels he’s capable of doing so.

2. Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John Sea Dogs 
Final CSS Rank: 12

A smart, physical two-way defender, Jakub Zboril is the most talented and NHL-ready defenseman of all the eligible QMJHL prospects. He was sidelined for the second half of the season and missed the World Junior Championship, but his stat line is an impressive one; in 44 games, the Czech Republic native scored 13 goals and added 20 assists. It’s no coincidence that the Sea Dogs’ level of play dropped significantly in the second half of the season without Zboril.

The 6’1, 187-pound defender is strong on his skates and works hard in the corners to remove opposition players from the puck. He’s not the most punishing hitter, but he will step up to make a big hit when the opportunity presents itself. He’s also a player that can play on both the power play, where he utilizes his great shot, and on the penalty kill.

3. Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John Sea Dogs
Final CSS Rank: 16

Part of an impressive one-two punch with Zboril on the Sea Dogs, Thomas Chabot is regarded a little more for his offensive capabilities as well as his skating ability. He moves up and down the ice with ease, and though he sometimes gets caught pinching, he can get back and track his man in a hurry.

Chabot scored 12 goals and added 29 assists this past season, leading all Sea Dogs’ defensemen in scoring. He’s listed at 6’2 and 180 pounds, so he’s by no means slight of stature. But if he fills out a little and adds a gritty streak to his game, he could be one of the top defensemen in this draft class. He had a very strong U18 World Championship in April, scoring once and adding four assists in seven games.

4. Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Final CSS Rank: 17

The differences on and off the ice between Russia and Cape Breton is night and day, to say the least, but it didn’t seem to bother Evgeny Svechnikov. A former first round pick in the KHL Draft, the speedy winger came to the QMJHL and finished third on the Screaming Eagles in scoring with 78 points in just 55 games. His biggest strength is his ability to find the open spaces on the ice, as well as his vision in finding open teammates.

At 6’3 and 205 pounds, he doesn’t accurately take full advantage of his size; once he begins doing so to create open space, he can be even more effective in the offensive zone. Still, Svechnikov is an offensively-gifted winger, but one who could use some work on his defensive zone assignments. Because of his late-96 birthday, he didn’t play for the Russians at the U18 World Championship; he did the past two years, however, recording eight points in 12 games.

5. Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke Phoenix
Final CSS Rank: 21

A quick-moving offensive defenseman, Jeremy Roy took quite a step forward in his development this season. The 6’0, 183-pound defender was given an ‘A’ on his jersey this year, and, despite injuries, played through 46 regular season games and recorded 43 points. He also had five points in six playoff games.

Given his team’s early playoff exit, he was named to Canada’s U18 World Championship team, where he again impressed. He scored three goals in seven games, despite scoring just five in 43 games with Sherbrooke, and was one of the team’s top all-around defensemen. He has a high hockey IQ and, combined with his skating and offensive skills, he should be a first-round pick in this draft.

6. Daniel Sprong, RW, Charlottetown Islanders
Final CSS Rank: 20

Originally from the Netherlands, Daniel Sprong is a fast-skating, offensively-talented, goal-scoring winger. After recording better than a point-per-game average last year, Sprong scored 39 goals and added 49 assists for 88 points in 68 games this past season.

He’s a goal-scorer first and foremost, but his vision and creativity is underrated. A strong skater as well, Sprong continues to refine his game and work on his defensive-zone coverage, which, like most young players, could improve a little.

7. Filip Chlapik, C, Charlottetown Islanders
Final CSS Rank: 18

Filip Chlapik’s biggest weakness is his skating, which, thankfully, can be worked on. What he excels at is, well, mostly everything else. He has great offensive instincts, evidenced by his 75-point season with the Charlottetown Islanders, his first in North America. At 6’1 and 183 pounds, he’s certainly suited to play in either an offensive or bottom-six role, particularly considering he has strong face-off skills and an affinity for knowing where to be in the defensive zone.

He played for the Czech Republic in last year’s U18 World Championship, picking up an assist in seven games. This year, he joined the team following Charlottetown’s second-round playoff exit and went pointless in three games.

8. Anthony Beauvillier, LW, Shawinigan Cataractes
Final CSS Rank: 33

Likely one of the more offensively-gifted, draft-eligible wingers to come out of the QMJHL this season, Anthony Beauvillier’s draft stock might be hurt a tad by his slight stature – he’s listed at 5’10 and 181 poundds, but that might be a stretch. Still, he’ll be picked in the top two rounds as size is less and less a factor in determining a player’s future, and Beauvillier’s point total speaks for itself. In 67 games with Shawinigan this season, he recorded 94 points, a 61-point increase on last season’s total.

Beauvillier made the Canadian U18 World Championship team and scored three goals in six games. He was ranked 49th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, but jumped 16 spots to 33rd in the final rankings released in April.

9. Nicolas Meloche, D, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Final CSS Rank: 40

A big, sturdy defender listed at 6’2 and 198 pounds, Nicolas Meloche has been rapidly improving over the past two seasons. Playing for a strong Baie-Comeau team, the rearguard recorded 34 points in 44 games this past season, up nine from 2013-14 in 10 fewer games. In 12 playoff games this season, Meloche was a force for the Drakkar, collecting 10 points and 22 penalty minutes.

Meloche is s a physical defenseman who plays a little on the edge, which for the most part works to his strength. Like many bigger players, he could improve his skating a bit moving forward.

10. Gabriel Gagne, RW, Victoriaville Tigres
Final CSS Rank: 36

A lanky 6’5″ winger with room to fill out, Gabriel Gagne is one of the more intriguing prospects in the ‘Q’ for this year’s NHL Draft. Already, he knows how to effectively use his size to his advantage, but if he can bulk up to around 200 pounds or so while maintaining his skating ability.

He scored 35 goals this past season on a Victoriaville team that was swept in the first round of the playoffs, and his stock has been rapidly rising. Gagne didn’t make Canada’s U18 World Championship team last year, and because of his late-96 birthday was ineligible this year.

Other Notables

Dennis Yan, LW, Shawinigan Cataractes

Dennis Yan, who is actually ranked higher by some scouting agencies than those listed above, is a gritty offensive winger with an impressive and quick shot. He scored 33 goals this season, but did not play for either the United States or Russia – he has dual citizenship – in the U18 World Championship.

Guillaume Brisebois, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan

Despite playing on a young, rebuilding team in Acadie-Bathurst, Guillaume Brisebois had a decent season with the team, recording 28 points in 63 games. His -40 rating is a little deceiving, though it should be noted he was also a -5 for Canada at the U18 World Championship in April.

Jeremy Lauzon, D, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

Ranked 42nd by Central Scouting, Jeremy Lauzon is a mobile, two-way defender who has a rocket for a shot; he scored 15 goals this past season, which put him in a three-way tie for second amongst all defensemen in the league.

Nicolas Roy, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens

A former offensive dynamo in midget, which the Sagueneens gave up a boatload for when he refused to report to Cape Breton, Nicolas Roy has evolved into more of a complete player in the QMJHL but hasn’t quite met the offensive expectations laid upon him by his No. 1 overall selection in 2013.

Yakov Trenin, C, Gatineau Olympiques

The lanky Russian winger Yakov Trenin showcased his excellent vision and offensive skills in his first season in North America. Playing with Gatineau, he scored 18 goals and added 49 assists in 58 games.

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