Jackets Junior Season In Review
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Aaron Johnson – D – Rimouski Oceanic
Johnson had his best season to date during the 2001-2002 campaign with the Rimouski Oceanic. In his third season with the club, Johnson has put up very impressive numbers from the back end. As seems to be the trend with most Blue Jacket prospects, Johnson put up career highs in a variety of categories. Games played(68), goals(17), assists(49) points(66), PIM(172), power-play goals(6), plus/minus(+28), and points-per-game(0.97) were all new career highs established by Johnson this season. His +28 was a team high, a striking +17 higher than his nearest teammate, Thatcher Bell, who was +11.
Johnson played a much more physical style this year than in seasons past, and was much more aggressive. His offensive game continued to develop as well, improving from his 53 points from the 2000-2001 season. This season, Johnson finished just 4 points out of 2nd place in defensemen scoring in the QMJHL. His defensive responsibilities have greatly increased as well. All in all, this was an excellent season for Johnson, and the Blue Jackets scouts must be laughing at the plethora of talent they have on the blueline coming through the CHL.
Pascal Leclaire – G – Montreal Rocket
Strangely enough, taking a glimpse into Leclaire’s past in terms of statistics when he was with the Mooseheads, this season with the Montreal Rocket doesn’t look like a complete bust. Leclaire finished strong, with a 3.29 GAA, 15-23-4 record, and an .895 SV%. Leclaire set a new career high in games played with 45, 10 more than his previous total. His best SV% in a season came in his rookie year, a .901% mark not far off this seasons .895%. His GAA was his best since his rookie season as well, with his 3.29 GAA much better than 3.58 and 3.57 of his previous two seasons.
Leclaire’s ability was under the microscope when he was the starting goalie for the Canadian Junior squad in the World Junior Championships. His strong play throughout the tournament was overshadowed by a lapse in the gold medal game which saw him buckle under the pressure and allow a couple weak goals, continuing the idea that Leclaire cannot win the big game for his squad. However, Leclaire was selected in the first round by the Jackets for a reason, and despite constantly being in the public eye having each shot he faces analyzed, Leclaire has handled himself very well, and is one of the few reasons the Montreal Rocket are in the post-season.
Louis Mandeville – D – Halifax Moosehads
Tracking Louis’ progress throughout the season was certainly interesting, especially being in contact with him for over half the season. Mandeville finished up a strong campaign tying a career high in games played(70), and setting career highs in goals(7), assists(46), points(53), points-per-game(0.76), penalty minutes(109), and plus/minus(+34). Mandeville finished 7th in league scoring among defensemen with his 53 point campaign, and also finished 7th in plus/minus with his +36 rating. Top honors in the two categories went to Danny Groulx with 112 points(42 more than 2nd place), and Jonathan Bellemare who finished the season at +43.
This season by and large is considered a success for Louis Mandeville. He finally established himself as a top defenseman, and as his playing time increased, his ability improved immensely. He’s shown dramatic improvements in nearly every category imaginable, and his role within the team has become much more important.