The 2011 draft was a banner year for eligible prospects from the QMJHL. After having just a single player drafted in the first round in 2010 and averaging less than three first-rounders per year over the last decade, the QMJHL enjoyed a bumper crop of prospects in 2011, with five players selected in the first round. This was the most since five years ago in 2006, when five players were also selected.
The league was buoyed by the Saint John Sea Dogs, who proved to be as dominant on draft day as they were on the ice in 2011. In fact, the Memorial Cup champions saw five of their players selected, with three of them being first round choices.
Overall, 22 QMJHL players were selected in 2011, matching the number of Q draftees from the previous year’s draft.
Leading the charge was Saint John Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau. After an electrifying season that saw him lead his powerhouse team in scoring while picking up playoff MVP and Memorial Cup MVP awards en route to the national championship, Huberdeau did not have to wait long to hear his name called. Selected third overall by the Florida Panthers, Huberdeau was the highest QMJHL player picked since Sidney Crosby went first overall in 2005. Huberdeau is expected to rejoin the Sea Dogs for the upcoming 2011-12 season as they attempt to defend both their league and national titles.
It isn’t as guaranteed that Sean Couturier will be back in the QMJHL next season. At one time, he was thought to perhaps be the best prospect available out of the 2011 draft class, but found himself falling to eighth overall. The Philadelphia Flyers, who acquired the pick from Columbus in a move to send Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets as part of the shakeup that also saw Mike Richards land in Los Angeles, were more than happy to see Couturier fall into their laps. Already a veteran of three QMJHL seasons, Couturier’s blend of size and skill have some believing he’s ready for NHL duty. Though the recent deals of Carter and Richards create some openings down the middle on the Flyers, Couturier will be battling with newly acquired star prospect Brayden Schenn for a sport on the roster.
Nathan Beaulieu might be the only other QMJHL prospect close to making the leap to the NHL. With that said, it’s more than likely that the smooth-skating defenseman will return to the powerhouse in Saint John. The Montreal Canadiens selected Beaulieu 17th overall and are keen to give him the time necessary to develop into a two-way defensive stud.
Clocking in at 26th overall was Philippe Danault. Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks, Danault was a 17-year-old captain of the Victoriaville Tigres and helped lead them to a first round upset over Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL playoffs. A character player, Danault may never carry a scoring line, but his intangibles and all weather play are qualities that are hard to ignore.
Looking back towards the Sea Dogs, Beaulieu and Huberdeau will more than likely be reunited back in Saint John with forwards Zack Phillips and Tomas Jurco. Phillips, selected 28th overall by the Minnesota Wild, had great chemistry with Huberdeau all season long, while Jurco, selected 35th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, raised his stock significantly with a strong performance at the Memorial Cup.
Detroit also picked up another QMJHL player in the second round in Xavier Ouellet. Playing for the Montreal Junior (now the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada), Ouellet could be one of the top defensemen in the Q before his junior career is over.
Other QMJHL draftees of note included goaltender David Honzik, selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the third round. A big goalie from the Czech Republic, Honzik’s rookie season was impressive enough to make him one of only two QMJHL goaltenders selected in 2011.
Alexandre Grenier was also selected by the Canucks in the third round after playing just half of a season with the Quebec Remparts. With his rights now traded to the Halifax Mooseheads, he’ll be considered an over-age player in the 2011-12 season and will be looking to gain experience and build off his hot start to his junior career.
Like Grenier, Troy Vance also turned a partial season in the QMJHL into an NHL draft selection. Starting the year in the EJHL, the New York native joined the Victoriaville Tigres for 23 games over the second half of the year and didn’t look out of place. His steady play led to Dallas picking him up in the fifth round.
After two seasons with the Val d’Or Foreurs, Olivier Archambault is joining a new junior team to start the 2011-12 season. A fourth round pick by the Montreal Canadiens, Archambault will be joining Drummondville in the upcoming year. In fact, the speedy scoring winger might find himself lining up alongside of Sean Couturier.
If Couturier does play a fourth season in the QMJHL, his other line mate will no doubt be Ondrej Palat. Drafted as a 19-year-old by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 7th round, Palat scored 39 goals last season riding shotgun with Couturier. Should the duo pair up again with Palat as an over-ager, his numbers could take another leap.
The QMJHL at the NHL Draft (by the numbers):
QMJHL Players drafted (with HF Top 10 rankings)
3- Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Florida Panthers (HF Rank #1, HF Mock Draft #5)
8- Sean Couturier (Drummondville Voltigeurs) – Philadelphia Flyers (HF Rank #2, HF Mock Draft #4)
17- Nathan Beaulieu (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Montreal Canadiens (HF Rank #3, HF Mock Draft #13)
26- Phillip Danault (Victoriaville Tigres) – Chicago Blackhawks (HF Rank #6)
28- Zack Phillips (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Minnesota Wild (HF Rank #4, HF Mock Draft #17)
35- Tomas Jurco (Saint John Sea Dogs) – Detroit Red Wings (HF Rank #5, HF Mock Draft #30)
48- Xavier Ouellet (Montreal Junior) – Detroit Red Wings (HF Rank #8)
49- Christopher Gibson (Chicoutimi Sagueneens) – Los Angeles Kings (HF Rank #7)
71- David Honzik (Victoriaville Tigres) – Vancouver Canucks (HF Rank #9)
76- Logan Shaw (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) – Florida Panthers (HF Rank #10)
87- Jonathan Racine (Shawinigan Cataractes) – Florida Panthers
90- Alexandre Grenier (Halifax Mooseheads) – Vancouver Canucks
96- Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Gatineau Olympiques) – Ottawa Senators
102- Yannick Veilleux (Shawinigan Cataractes) – St. Louis Blues
108- Olivier Archambault (Drummondville Voltigeurs) – Montreal Canadiens
183- Dillon Donnelly (Shawinigan Cataractes) – Colorado Avalanche
202- Brent Andrews (Halifax Mooseheads) – Nashville Predators
208- Ondrej Palat (Drummondville Voltigeurs) – Tampa Bay Lightning
Notable QMJHL players not drafted:
Gabriel Bourret, D – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Jason Cameron, C – Saint John Sea Dogs
Guillaume Cloutier, D – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Samuel Henley, LW – Val d’Or Foreurs
Aidan Kelly, C – Saint John Sea Dogs
Maxime Lagace, G – PEI Rocket
Jean-Francois Leblanc, C – Val d’Or Foreurs
Scott Oke, LW – Saint John Sea Dogs
Players selected (QMJHL Team)
5 – Saint John
3 – Drummondville, Shawinigan, Victoriaville
2 – Halifax
1 – Baie-Comeau, Cape Breton, Chicoutimi, Gatineau, Montreal, Val d’Or
0 – Acadie-Bathurst, Moncton, PEI, Quebec, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda
Players selected (NHL Team)
3 – Florida
2 – Colorado, Detroit, Montreal, St. Louis, Vancouver
1 – Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay
0 – Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Edmonton, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Toronto, Washington, Winnipeg
Players selected (Position)
7 – Defenseman
5 – Center
5 – Left Wing
3 – Right Wing
2 – Goaltender