QMJHL’s top 10 NHL properties at defense all selected at the 2015 NHL Draft

By Kristopher Bras
Thomas Chabot - Saint John Sea Dogs

Photo: Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman and Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot’s points per game average is fifth among defensemen in the QMJHL in 2015-16 (courtesy of Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

 

 

The QMJHL is not exactly known for strong defense, but the league’s defensive corps were heavily repped at the 2015 NHL Draft. All 10 of the defenders chosen at that draft comprise this season’s top-10 QMJHL defenseman—although not in the same order that they were selected last June.

The 2015 NHL Draft was anything but ordinary, and not just because of a couple of blue-chippers named Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. The 10 QMJHL defenseman selected in the draft were well above average, and one more than the number of rearguards selected from the league in 2014 and 2013 combined.

The strength of that crop of rearguards was even more impressive, as each of them leapfrogged the three Quebec defensemen selected in 2013 to make up this entire list.

1. Thomas Chabot, Saint John Sea Dogs
Drafted by Ottawa Senators
1st round (18th overall), 2015

Thomas Chabot is a slick-skating defenseman who is equally adept at making big defensive plays as he is at delivering genius stretch passes and rushing the puck up ice. Since the Ottawa Senators selected Thomas Chabot in the first round (18th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, the young rearguard’s stock has steadily risen.

Chabot impressed on a pairing with Erik Karlsson during Ottawa’s training camp before he was sent back to the QMJHL for seasoning. In 38 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs, he has 34 points (8 goals, 26 assists) while his plus/minus rating has soared to +27.

Chabot’s dynamic growth was celebrated by Hockey Canada when he was appointed to the top defensive pairing at the 2016 World Junior Championship, despite his being a year junior to most of the defensemen in camp. He could force the Senators to make room for him as soon as next season.

2. Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted by Boston Bruins
2nd round (52nd overall), 2015

The QMJHL-leading Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have been one of the most dominant forces in junior hockey all season, and Jeremy Lauzon has a had a huge hand in that. Although he wasn’t taken until 52nd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft, he has since shown that his value was underestimated.

He has 40 points in just 38 games and an impressive +32 rating during a season that has been packed full of extra-curricular activities, such as NHL training camp, the Canada Russia Super Series, and Hockey Canada’s U20 Selection Camp. This spring, he will try to further extend his hockey season with a trip to the Memorial Cup Tournament.

3. Jakub Zboril, Saint John Sea Dogs
Drafted by Boston Bruins
1st round (13th overall), 2015

Jakub Zboril might not have as many points as he did last season, but since returning from an injury at the start of the season, he has been solid. Zboril is a complete player, and could be more ready to step into the NHL than anyone on this list. His influence on Thomas Chabot, whom he has been frequently paired with since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, is undeniable (although Chabot could have more upside).

Zboril has 18 points and a +11 rating through 40 games with the Sea Dogs this season, and joined the Czech Republic at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

4. Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke Phoenix
Drafted by San Jose Sharks
2nd round (31st overall), 2015

Jeremy Roy is yet another solid, two-way defenseman mined from the early rounds of the 2015 draft, this time by the Sharks. Although his 34 points are nine less than the 43 he had in about the same number of games last season, he remains a valuable prospect due to his maturity, poise, and leadership abilities. When Mirco Mueller graduates, Roy will become the best rearguard in San Jose’s system.

5. Nicolas Meloche, Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted by Colorado Avalanche
2nd round (40th overall), 2015

Nicolas Meloche is a difference-making defender who plays with an edge, makes high-percentage plays, and contributes offense regularly. Although he is one of the more intelligent players on this list, his body betrays him—he is a bit clumsy, despite his hockey smarts and smooth stride. Once he grows more accustomed to his 6-foot-3, 205-pound (and still growing) frame, his coordination will improve. Traded to the Olympiques (from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar) midway through the season, he has a combined 33 points in 52 games.

6. Alexandre Carrier, Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted by Nashville Predators
4th round (115th overall), 2015

Alexandre Carrier is a smooth, quick player with creative hands and surprising moves. If he was three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he would have been selected in the first round of the draft last summer. Unfortunately, the availability of sturdier defenseman dropped him down to the fourth round, where the Predators must have been overjoyed to find him available. If he can continue to produce in the tough AHL in a few year’s time, he could climb Nashville’s depth chart very quickly.

7. Guillaume Brisebois, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Drafted by Vancouver Canucks
3rd round (66th overall), 2015

Guillaume Brisebois is an exceedingly intelligent, heads-up player who makes good plays at both ends of the ice, despite being entrenched on one of the league’s worst teams. He returned to the captaincy this season, and is on track to post career-best statistics in both points and plus/minus. His seven goals are already three better than his production last season. He could stand to eat a few sandwiches, but he doesn’t need much strength to be effective.

8. Carl Neill, Sherbrooke Phoenix
Drafted by Vancouver Canucks
5th round (144th overall), 2015

Carl Neill is gifted passer who moves the puck up ice efficiently. He has put up at least 20 points each season in the QMJHL, and has 45 points in 56 games this season. Neill doesn’t always make the best decisions in his own end, however—he has a career plus/minus rating of minus-81 for the Phoenix. If he can learn how to use his size (6’1, 216) to his advantage, he could become a very interesting NHL defenseman.

9. Simon Bourque, Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted by Montreal Canadiens
6th round (177th overall), 2015

Simon Bourque is a very talented offensive rearguard, and he has been making a name for himself this season for the Oceanic without Sam Morin’s long shadow around to dwarf him. His 12 goals, 30 assists and 42 points are double the next highest-producing defenseman on the team in all three categories, and he has helped the Oceanic stay competitive during a season that could have been much worse due to a large number of graduating players.

10. Sergei Boikov, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Drafted by Colorado Avalanche
6th round (161st overall), 2015

As a twenty-year-old, Sergei Boikov does not have quite the same upside as the rest of his peer group, but he could be closer to the NHL than the others. He was a surprise in Colorado’s camp, and the team was very happy to find that he could compete surprisingly well against elite opponents. That is because he is a calm, mature defenseman who is not afraid to hit the deck if need be, and he uses his size well. Although he went undrafted during his first year of eligibility, the dream is still alive.

Follow Kristopher Bras on Twitter via @KristopherBras