QMJHL Review and Preview

By Ryan Milley

Below is a look at each of the
teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, how their 2002-2003 season
finished, which players are expected to return in 2003-2004, which draft picks
the team holds for the league’s annual draft this Saturday, and what to expect
from the clubs in 2003-2004.

Maritime
Division




Acadie-Bathurst Titan

The Titan are coming off a
crushing game 7 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads in the playoffs. Gone are
overagers Janis Sprukts, JP Cote, and Olivier Filion.

Returning Core: CHL Goaltender
of the year Adam Russo is considering a contract to play in Europe, but
if he’s back he may be the best in the league again. Leading goal scorer Jonathan
Ferland
may return as an overager, as well as rookie sensation Patrice
Bergeron
, captain and impact defenseman Bruno Gervais, Buffalo Sabres
draft pick Michael Tessier, and promising forward Thomas Beauregard.
The Titan will also welcome 2002 draft choice Mathieu Roy to the lineup.
He was tied for the league scoring lead in Quebec Midget AAA this past season.
The Titan are also bringing back the QMJHL’s undisputed fighting champ Jonathan
Tremblay
.

Draft Picks: They
currently own six picks in the top four rounds, their highest being 14th
overall in round one. They have the 40th overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: After two
outstanding seasons in a row the Titan may be looking to rebuild. If Adam Russo
and Jonathan Ferland return, then the club will be two of the most sought after
players in the league. Some great young talent is already in place for the Titan
to be an impact team in 2004-2005.

Cape
Breton Screaming Eagles

The Eagles are coming off of a
tough rebuilding season that saw veterans JP Cote, Stuart MacRae, George Davis
and Steve Villeneuve traded to bring in some youth. Gone are overagers Pierre-Luc
Emond
, Jean Francois Dufort, and Patrick Gilbert.

Returning Core: Team Canada
starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, leading scorer Stephen Dixon,
power forward Kevin Asselin, as well as defenseman Greg Hoffe. The
team will also welcome Marc-Andre Bernier, Alexandre Picard,
and Francois-Pierre Guenette from the Halifax Mooseheads. 2002 European
pick Michal Barinka has also committed to playing in Cape Breton in
2003-2004, but some remain skeptical.

Draft Picks: The Eagles have 11
picks in the top six rounds of the draft, their highest appears to be the 11th
pick, however they have an option to trade a 3rd round pick to
Victoriaville to move up to 9th. They have the 7th overall CHL Import
Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: With
Marc-Andre Fleury returning for his final Q season the Eagles are looking to
load up for a run at the President’s Cup. The team will have a solid group of
exciting players and should be a dangerous club next season.

 Halifax
Mooseheads

The Mooseheads are coming off
their most successful season ever. They went all the way to the QMJHL Finals
before falling to the Hull Olympiques in seven games. The team is losing many
players this season. Gone are overagers Stuart MacRae, Thatcher Bell,
and Brandon Benedict. Milan Jurcina and George Davis also
will not be back after signing contracts with Boston and Anaheim respectively.
Guillame Lavallee has been traded to Rimouski.

Returning Core: Petr Vrana
should be a high NHL pick this summer and is one of the most exciting players in
the league. Fredrick Cabana will only be 17 but after a great playoff he
should be a solid player for the club. Jonathan Boutin will be the
starting goaltender, and Steve Villeneuve and J-F Cyr will be
impact 20 year olds, however both are linked to rumors sending them to Cape
Breton.

Draft Picks: They have two 3rd
 round picks, two 5th
round picks, and two 6th round picks.  Their highest is 36th overall. They have the 16th
overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: Vrana will be
the man to watch in Halifax next season. His supporting cast however may be
weak. Unless GM Marcel Patenaude can find a couple of sleepers in the draft or
as free agents it will be a long season in Halifax for the first time in a
while.

Moncton
Wildcats

The Wildcats are coming off
their most successful season in three years with 37 wins and 89 points. And with
most of their core returning are poised to have a dangerous team. Gone are
overagers Daniel Hudgin, Sebastien Strozynski, and Yannick
Searles
.

Returning Core: Steve Bernier
may be the early favorite for league scoring champ after a breakout season. James
Sanford
was the 2nd leading scorer amongst defensemen. Corey
Crawford
is one of the best goaltenders in the league. Tough guy Thierry
Douville
is being brought in from Baie-Comeau and Karl Gagne and Nathan
Saunders
are also fine players who will help make Moncton a team to fear
this season.

Draft Picks: Moncton has five
picks in the top five rounds, with their highest being 12th overall.
They have the 34th overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: Moncton will
be an early favorite to win the President’s Cup and will be an exciting team
to keep an eye on.

P.E.I
Rocket

The Q comes to Charlottetown
P.E.I in 2003 after some terrible seasons in Montreal both in the standings and
at the box office. The team is already doing well in selling season tickets and
should do well in a new market. Gone are overagers Brett Lutes, Louis
Robitaille
, and Ryane Clowe. Jean-Francois Soucy is a question
mark after signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Returning Core: Cory Urquhart,
Michael Lambert, and Maxim Lapierre return as the teams stars up
front. Jeff Macauley, Tyler Noye and possibly Brett MacLellan
look to lead a solid but unspectacular defense. In goal Jonathan Cayer
will probably be the No. 1 however don’t rule out a trade for a younger
goalie. Young tough guy Jimmy Bonneau will also be a big fan favorite on
the Island with his outstanding fighting skills.

Draft Picks: The team currently
has three picks in the top four rounds and nothing in rounds 5, 6, or 7. Their
highest pick is 7th overall. They have the 19th overall CHL Import
Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: It’s not
yet sure what management will do what this team in a new market. They may look
to win right away but risk losing some fans if they lose early in the playoffs
or trade some veterans for young players who will grow with the fan base. Either
way it’ll be interesting to see how PEI takes to their team and what direction
the team decides to take.

 

East
Division




Baie-Comeau Drakkar

The Drakkar are coming off an
emotional Game 7 loss in the conference finals at the hands of the Halifax
Mooseheads. The Drakkar really loaded up last season and are looking at a
lengthy rebuilding process. Gone are overagers Jean-Francois David, Charles
Linglet
, and Olivier Proulx. Thierry Douville, Louis-Philippe Martin
and Pascal Pelletier will move on to Moncton, Drummondville and Shawinigan
respectively to complete previous trades.

Returning Core: Many question
marks surround the team at the point. Players such as Olivier Michaud, Patrick
Thoresen
, Joel Perrault, and Robin Leblanc may play
professionally or may return to the Q for their overage season. Forward
Jean-Francois Jacques
and defenseman Maxime Belanger are two bright
spots. Alexandre Blais, the teams 2nd pick in 2002, will get a
good chance to make the team however his size (5’4”) will be working against
him.

Draft Picks: They have their 1st
and 2nd, then have nothing until the 5th where they have
two picks. Their highest pick is 16th overall. They have the 46th
overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: Not very
good. There is little depth in the organization after coach and GM Richard
Martel made many huge trades to try and get the team to the Memorial Cup.
Baie-Comeau may be the early favorite to pick 1st in the 2004 QMJHL
draft.

Chicoutimi
Sagueneens

The Sags had a tough season in
2002-2003. Everyone expected them to have a great team but the Minnesota Wild
had other plans and decided to keep Pierre-Marc Bouchard from returning to the
Q. Gone from last season are overagers Christian Larrivee, Jean-Philipe
Briere
, and Alexandre Blackburn.

Returning Core: Jeff
Drouin-Deslauriers
returns as the team’s starting goaltender. Yvan
Busque
, Francis Lemieux, Yan Gaudette, and Mathieu Melanson
lead a solid forward group. Rosario Ruggeri and Nicolas Marcotte
will be the workhorses on a blueline that will need some work. Francis Trudel
is also rumored to be heading to Chicoutimi to complete a trade with Lewiston.

Draft Picks: They pick 4th
overall in round one and have their own 2nd and 4th round
picks. They have the 10th overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: With a good
draft pick at No. 4 and an addition of a solid overager up front this team could
contend for its division championship in 03-04. They’re a team that every
other contender will be keeping an eye on.

Lewiston
MAINEiacs


The Sherbrooke Castors are
moving south of the border, and for the 1st time in nearly 20 years
the Q will have an American franchise, and everyone is expecting this team to
have a longer life then the Plattsburgh Pioneers who only lasted 17 games in the
1984-85  season. Gone from the team
are overagers Jean-Francois Plourde, Louis Mandeville, and David
Chicoine
. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is a question mark after signing
with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks last week and starting goaltender Drew
MacIntyre
may play for professionally.

Returning Core: The team should
return a decent nucleus. Nicolas Corbeil is eligible to pay pro but there
is a good chance he will be back with the team. Sebastien Courcelles,
outstanding defenseman Richard Stehlik, and 2002 1st overall
pick Alex Bourret will be the main reasons for the people of Lewiston to
check out this hockey team.

Draft Picks: Lewiston will have
six picks in the top six rounds, with their highest being 8th
overall. They have the 22nd overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: Because of
the moves made this past season to put a winner on the ice in Sherbrooke,
you’ll likely see a rebuilding process started next season. There will still
be some exciting hockey played in Lewiston, and hopefully the American fans will
support their team.

Quebec
Remparts


The Remparts did a lot of work
to their team this season in an attempt to send a competitive team to the
Memorial Cup. However after losing in round two of the QMJHL playoffs and going
0-3 in their home rink for the Mem Cup I believe their season was a large
disappointment. Gone are overagers David Masse, Karl St. Pierre,
and Fredric Faucher. Timofei Shishkanov, Alexandre Rouleau,
and Aaron Johnson may all play professionally next season. Jean-Michel
Bolduc will head to Rimouski to complete a previous trade.

Returning Core: Josh Hennessy
will be a bright spot on a weak forward group. Remy Tremblay, Vladimir
Kutny
, and Jordan Lavallee will be players to also keep an eye on.
American Evan Shaw should also return for another season, also the team
will have Jean-Michel Filiatrault in goal. Expect 2002 1st
round pick Simon Courcelles to join the team next season.

Draft Picks: They have five
picks in the top six rounds, with their highest being 13th overall.
They have the 37th overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: Quebec will
be a weak team but may be a surprise if they can find a couple of American
players in the draft to report next season. They will not contend but may
surprise some people.

Rimouski
Oceanic


Oceanic was by far the weakest
team in the Q, maybe even the CHL, during the 2002-2003 season. They traded away
many stars for young players and draft picks in an effort to get the No. 1 pick,
and they succeeded. Gone are overagers Daniel Petiquay and Jonathan
Robert
.

Returning Core: The team has
announced that they will select Sidney Crosby #1 overall in the QMJHL
draft and Michal Sersen #1 in the CHL Import draft. These two players
will join a cast of former 1st round picks including Marc-Antoine
Pouliot
, Dany Roussin,  Danick-Jasmin
Riel
, and Jean-Michel Bolduc. Danny Stewart, Patrick
Columbe
, and Philipe Lauze will also be players to watch. The team
has also acquired 20 year old goaltender Guillame Lavallee from the
Halifax Mooseheads.

Draft Picks: They have three
picks in the top 17, seven in the top six rounds, including, of 
course, the No. 1 overall pick. They also have the 1st overall CHL Import
Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: This will be
one dangerous hockey team. They are probably one full year away from being true
contenders but they should compete for their division title next year and will
be a team nobody will want to face in the playoffs.

West
Division

 


Drummondville Voltigeurs



The Volts had a tough season in
02-03, finishing last in their conference and 2nd last overall in the
league. However the team should have a bright future. Gone are overagers Sebastien
Laprise
, Evgueni Nourislamov, and Eric Dagenais.

Returning Core: Leading point
man Vincent Riendeau and leading goal scorer Kevin Maihlot both
return, as does starting goaltender Sylvain Michaud. Louis-Philipe
Martin
comes over from Baie Comeau. The team has stated they’ll pick
highly touted Guillame Latendresse with the 2nd overall pick
however they are open to a trade.

Draft Picks: The team has eight
picks in the top six rounds, with its highest being No. 2 overall.

2003-2004 Outlook: If the team
can find a couple of solid defenseman they could really make some noise next
season. They could be a sleeper if some of their young forwards develop properly
next year and Sylvain Michaud lives up to the hype he had when he entered the
league last season.

Gatineau
Olympiques

The Olympiques enter the
2003-2004 season with a championship banner and a new name. The former city of
Hull is now amalgamated as Gatineau so the team thought it was proper to change
the name from Hull to Gatineau. Gone from the defending league champs are
overagers Eric Lafrance, Tyler Reid, and Jonathan Bellemare.

Returning Core: All but the
three overagers will likely be back. Top line Maxime Talbot, Jean-Michel
Daoust
and Mathieu Brunelle will likely all return for another
season. Martin Vagner, Dominic D’Amour, and Doug O’Brien
lead a solid defense and young forwards Philipe Dupuis and Olivier
Labelle
provide depth up front. In goal David Tremblay will likely
take over as the No. 1 man.

Draft Picks: The team has five
picks in the top four rounds, its highest being 10th overall.

2003-2004 Outlook: Gatineau will
once again compete for the league championship in 03-04. However it will be
tough to replace what the three leaving players brought to the team. They 
will be a powerhouse next season.

Rouyn-Noranda
Huskies


The Huskies had a disappointing
2002-2003 season. Despite having a solid club, they finished with a .500 record
and went out in the 1st round of the playoffs in four straight to the
eventual league champs from Hull. Gone are overagers Jonathan Gagnon, Nicolas
Pelletier
, and Pascal Morency.

Returning Core: Veterans Guilio
Scandella
and Jonathan Jolette will be leaders on a young team. Alexandre
Bolduc
, Philipe Roberge, and Brent Aubin will be players to
keep an eye on.

Draft Picks: The team has eight
picks in the top six rounds, with its highest being 6th overall. They
have the 43rd overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: The Huskies
will be a young team that will heavily rely on its veterans to produce. The
whole team will be relied upon to help shoulder the load because of graduated 20
year old and the league’s 2nd highest scorer Jonathan Gagnon. It
will be a long season in Rouyn-Noranda.

Shawinigan
Cataractes

The Cataractes were expected to
be a top team in 2002-2003, but thanks to some injuries and some veterans not
performing as expected, the team had a disappointing start followed by an
exciting playoff where they swept the No. 2 seed Victoriaville Tigres. Gone are
overagers Michel-Bergevin Robinson, Karl Morin, and Kevin
Deslauriers
.

Returning Core: Leading scorer Benoit
Mondou
will be joined up front by the likes of Jimmy Cuddihy, Mathieu
Gravel
, and Sebastien Gauthier who had a very good rookie season. The
thin defense is led by David Leroux and sophmore Justin Vienneau
will see a lot of ice time. Young Julien Ellis may be given the No. 1 job
between the pipes. Pascal Pelletier will join the team from Baie-Comeau.

Draft Picks: They have six picks
in the top four rounds with its highest being 5th overall. And the
13th overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: The team will
go as far as its defense and goaltending will take it. Currently the defense
looks thin and the goaltending is unproven. Expect a solid season in the middle
of the league and a team that will fight hard against every opponent.

Val
d’Or Foreurs


The Foreurs had a great regular
season finishing 1st in their conference, but they were over matched
in round three as they lost to Hull in four straight. Gone are overagers Pierre-Luc
Laprise
, Benoit Genesse, and Fredric Bedard.

Returning Core: Maxime
Daigneault
the teams star netminder will return for a fourth season with the
Foreurs. Mathieu Dumas, Mathieu Roy, and Didier Bochatay
are all eligible overagers on defense. And the forward group will be led by the
likes of Shawn Collymore, Jonathan Charette and Olivier
Latendresse
.

Draft Picks: They have eight
picks in the top five rounds, multiple picks in rounds 2, 3, and 5. And their
highest pick is 3rd overall. And the 31st overall CHL Import Draft
pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: The team will
be looking to rebuild after a strong season. Expect one or two of the teams
potential overagers to be shopped at the draft for younger players. They’ll be
in games as long as they keep Daigneult, won’t win a lot of games in 2003-04.

Victoriaville
Tigres

The Tigres had a solid regular
season followed by a shocking loss in the playoffs to Shawinigan in four
straight in round one. Gone are overagers Pierre-Luc Sleigher, Pierre-Luc
Daneau
, and Robert Snowball.

Returning Core: QMJHL leading
defenseman scorer Jesse Lane will be the team’s marque name if he
returns for his overage season in the Q. He’s joined on the blueline by Pierre-Olivier
Beaulieu
, and Mario Scalzo Jr. Starting goaltender Daniel Manzato
as well as leading goal scorer Guillame Fournier return to a team needing
to get younger.

Draft Picks: The team has its
own 1st and 2nd, then nothing until round six where they
have two picks. The highest pick is 9th overall. They have the 25th
overall CHL Import Draft pick.

2003-2004 Outlook: The Tigres
had a rough finish to last season and have a lot of question marks heading into
the draft weekend. The team needs to get younger so expect some deals this
weekend with that in mind. Tigres fans will be in for a rough ride with a below
average squad next season.

The annual QMJHL Midget draft
will take place this Saturday, June 7th live via the internet from
Val d’Or, Quebec. To follow the draft live go to the Q’s Official Site at
www.lhjmq.qc.ca.

The CHL Import Draft will take place June 25th
and 26th. Check www.chl.ca
for information on the import draft as it becomes available.