2015 NHL Draft Review: Sharks make Meier the top pick from the QMJHL

By Chris Roberts
Timo Meier - San Jose Sharks; Jakub Zboril - Boston Bruins - 2015 NHL Draft - QMJHL

Photo: Halifax Mooseheads forward Timo Meier (San Jose Sharks) and Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman Jakub Zboril (Boston Bruins) were the top two selections from the QMJHL at the 2015 NHL Draft (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

 

 

The QMJHL returned to being a most popular league amongst NHL scouts and executives this season, and that was proven at the 2015 NHL Draft. In total, 30 of the 211 picks at the draft were players who spent last season in the QMJHL, up from just 17 in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Just five of those 17 players taken in last year’s draft were selected in the first two rounds; this year, however, high-end skill and potential was on display throughout the season and 12 players were selected out of the QMJHL in the first two rounds. As a comparison, the OHL had 14 players selected, while the WHL had just 10.

Swiss forward Timo Meier was the first ‘Q’ product to hear his name called in Florida. The second-year Halifax Mooseheads winger had a banner season playing alongisde Winnipeg Jets prospect Nikolaj Ehlers, who was also the first player selected from the league in last year’s draft. Meier recorded 90 points in 61 regular season games and was a big factor in his team upsetting the Shawinigan Cataractes in the first round of the playoffs. Meier had 21 points in 14 playoff games. The San Jose Sharks selected Meier ninth overall, making him the second Swiss player the organization has selected in the first round of the NHL Draft in the last three years (the team selected defenseman Mirco Mueller 18th overall in 2013).

A pair of Saint John Sea Dogs defensemen were the next two QMJHL players to be selected in the first round. With its first of three picks, the Boston Bruins took Jakub Zboril, while the Ottawa Senators selected Thomas Chabot at 18. Both players will lead what is expected to be a strong Sea Dogs team next season.

One pick after the Senators picked Chabot, the Detroit Red Wings took Russian winger Evgeny Svechnikov. He was a first round draft pick in the KHL, but opted to play in Cape Breton with good friend Maxim Lazarev this past season. There, he showcased his incredible skill and offensive instincts. Svechnikov has been criticized for his lack of defensive awareness and effort, but if there is any organization where he can round out his overall game, it is with Detroit. The New York Islanders made their second trade of the first round to move up and acquire high-scoring winger Anthony Beauvillier at 28th overall. The Sorel, QC native isn’t a physically overpowering forward, but he has a quick release and excellent vision, scoring 42 goals and adding 52 assists in 67 regular season games. He was just the second QMJHL player the Islanders selected in the draft since they picked Kirill Kabanov in the third round of the 2010 NHL Draft.

There were at least four or five more players who could have gone in the first round and whom some projected as being first round-worthy, but they didn’t need to wait too long to hear their name called on Saturday. Sherbrooke defenseman Jeremy Roy was projected by some outlets as a mid-20s pick, but he fell to San Jose at 31st overall, making it back-to-back QMJHL picks for the Sharks. Roy played in 18 less games this season than the year prior, but had just one less point. His play at the U18 World Championship perhaps impressed scouts most; he scored three goals for Canada, which was the most amongst the team’s defensemen.

The Senators took their second QMJHL player at 36th overall, selecting Gabriel Gagne. At 6’5 and 186 pounds, Gagne’s frame is what attracted scouts most, but his game also has an element of skill as he scored 35 goals last season. Once he fills out, he could become a top-six power forward if he reaches his ceiling. The Colorado Avalanche also took an impressive physical specimen at 40th overall, defenseman Nicolas Meloche. He played 44 games this season and recorded 34 points, but had an even more impressive postseason with 10 points in 12 games. At 6’3″ and 204 pounds, Meloche plays a physical brand of hockey as he is able to utilize his size to clear opposition players from dangerous spots on the ice. He fills a need for the Avalanche organization.

A pair of Charlottetown Islanders teammates went 46th and 48th overall; the Pittsburgh Penguins took Daniel Sprong, while Ottawa drafted its third ‘Q’ player in Filip Chlapik. The two players led the Islanders to their first playoff series win in 11 years and finished 1-2 in team scoring. Sprong, a native of the Netherlands who moved to Canada early in his hockey career, comes with a number of question marks – there are concerns about his defensive game and ability to use his teammates, but he did have 49 assists in 68 games. Chlapik, meanwhile, plays a more refined game, but doesn’t have the skating or offensive ability that Sprong does.

Boston, at 52nd overall, took the sixth QMJHL player in the round, selecting defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies defender scored 15 goals this past season, the most amongst QMJHL defenders, and was just one point away from being the leading defensive scorer on his team. Russian center Yakov Trenin became the seventh and final ‘Q’ pick of the second round as he was selected by the Nashville Predators 55th overall. He was the first Russian the Predators selected in the NHL Draft since Alexander Radulov in 2004 and the first of three QMJHL players the team picked in the 2015 draft.

The third round saw four QMJHL players selected: Dennis Yan (64th overall, Tampa Bay), Guillaume Brisebois (66th overall, Vancouver), Jean-Christophe Beaudin (71st overall, Colorado) and Samuel Montembeault (77th overall, Florida). In Yan, the Lightning get an agitating winger who recorded more than a point-per-game this past season with Shawinigan. The native of Portland, OR also scored seven goals in seven playoff games. Brisebois, a 6’2″ defenseman, was expected to go in the second round by most all scouting outlets, but the Canucks were happy he fell; a more defensive-minded defender, he scored 28 points in 63 regular season games with an abysmal Acadie-Bathurst team and also represented Canada at the 2015 U18 World Championship. Beaudin was a bit of a reach to be taken in the third round, at least, given some of the rankings, but the 6’1″ pivot had an impressive rookie season with Rouyn-Noranda, scoring 53 points in 68 games. Montembeault was the first QMJHL goalie to be picked in the draft. He recorded a 2.59 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in 52 regular season games for Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Two Saint John Sea Dogs – Samuel Dove-McFalls (PHI) and Mathieu Joseph (TBL) – were selected in the fourth round. In fact, seven Sea Dogs in total were taken in the draft. The Carolina Hurricanes made Callum Booth the second ‘Q’ goaltender to be selected in the draft. Booth battled with Zachary Fucale (MTL) for the starting job in Quebec for the Remparts, even starting a pair of playoff games in the first round while Fucale struggled. The Hurricanes also got one of the better value picks of the fourth round by taking Nicolas Roy three picks after Booth. Roy, a standout scorer in midget, has not been the offensive player many thought he would be with Chicoutimi, but his 6’4″ frame and defensive-minded play makes him an attractive prospect. He also finished third on the Canadian U18 in scoring with three goals and three assists. Val d’Or’s Anthony Richard and Gatineau’s Alexandre Carrier rounded out the fourth round selections.

Arizona selected Moncton’s Conor Garland in the fifth round with the 123rd overall pick. The Boston, MA native is undersized at 5’8 and 163 pounds and was passed over in last year’s draft, but had a CHL-best season with 129 points (tying Erie’s Dylan Strome). Another high-scoring winger was taken two picks later when the Toronto Maple Leafs took Ukranian Dmytro Timashov. He collected 71 assists in 66 regular season games and 15 in 22 playoff games for the Quebec Remparts. Carolina picked the Sea Dogs’ Spencer Smallman with the 138th overall pick and the Vancouver Canucks took Sherbrooke defenseman Carl Neill 144th overall.

Teams seemed to take more chances on USHL and high school kids in the sixth and seventh rounds, which meant just four QMJHL players were taken in those final two rounds. Colorado selected defenseman Sergei Boikov 161st overall; in his second year of draft eligibility, the Russian rearguard posted 21 points in 64 games for the Drummondville Voltiguers. The Montreal Canadiens then took Rimouski defenseman Simon Bourque 177th overall, and Tampa Bay took second-year eligible pugulist Bokondji Imama with the 180th overall pick.

Adam Marsh was the lone QMJHL player to be picked in the seventh round. The Red Wings took a chance on the Chicago-born, goal-scoring forward who spent last season with the Sea Dogs. Incidently, the Sea Dogs’ leading scorer last season, Nathan Noel, went undrafted, but attended the Anaheim Ducks development camp; Noel, in fact, was the only skater from the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects game to go undrafted. Other undrafted notables include Moncton Wildcats’ forward Cam Askew, Charlottetown right winger Kameron Kielly and Cape Breton defenseman Loik Leveille.

Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7