Eight QMJHLers to play in 2004 Top Prospects Game

By Phil Laugher

Eight players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will suit up in the CHL Top Prospects game, taking place January 21st, in London, Ontario. Though this year, the pool of draft-eligible players from the QMJHL is relatively top-heavy. There is still plenty of talent available that will garner more than a brief glance from NHL scouts in the weeks leading up to the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

For the past several years, the Prospects game has been a showcase for some of the highest rated NHL draft-eligible players to show scouts and fans their skills on a nationally televised stage. Present NHL stars Marc-Andre Fleury, Daniel Briere, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Alex Tanguay, Vincent Lecavalier, and Simon Gagne are but a few of the dozens of past QMJHL representatives to have played in this game that have used this national stage as a means to propel themselves into the minds of scouts leading up to the NHL Entry Draft. Six QMJHL forwards, one defenseman, and one goaltender will look to follow in the strides of the aforementioned NHL stars, and use their appearance in the 2004 Top Prospects game to increase their ranking for the upcoming Entry Draft.

Seventeen-year-old Lewiston MAINEiacs sniper Alexandre Picard headlines this year’s crop of QMJHL participants. The Les Saules, Quebec native, who ranked in the top ten in the recently released Central Scouting Mid-Season rankings, will look to show off his dazzling offensive skills in front of a national audience.

Speedy, diminutive Gatineau Olympiques forward Petr Pohl has put up excellent numbers up the score sheet thus far this season, presently the fourth-ranked rookie scorer in the entire league, and is playing on one of the most dominant offensive teams in the entire CHL. He will look to continue his dynamite offensive play. He plays more of a finesse game, shying away from the physical aspects of the game for the most part.

Pohl’s country mate, Czech import and Halifax Mooseheads forward Jan Steber, is known more for his playmaking ability (though he has scored his share of highlight-reel goals thus far this season as well), and will look to drop jaws with his easy, confident puck control. His solid two-way play will not go unnoticed by scouts. His statistics may not be up to par of many of the other players in the Prospects game, but statistics do not always tell the whole story.

Victoriaville power forward Renaud Des Alliers, on the other hand, will look more towards hitting jaws, with his jarring physical play. He showed in the first weeks of the season that when given the opportunity, he proved that he could be an invaluable offensive contributor, as he jumped out to the league’s goal scoring lead for the first month of the year. Offensive players should keep their heads up while cutting across center ice when Des Alliers is on the ice, or they may pay dearly.

Hulking Moncton Wildcats forward Bruce Graham has the size that must make scouts drool, and his offensive skill and physical play only sweetens his appeal. The 6’6″ forward has put up nearly a point a game on a deep offensive Moncton team thus far this season. The combination of size and skill makes Graham a player to watch.

P.E.I. Rocket forward David Laliberte has blossomed offensively in his second QMJHL season, surpassing his goal and point marks of last season by about the halfway point of the 2003-2004 season. He uses his decent size effectively, and has proven thus far that he can play in all situations on a highly competitive P.E.I. squad.

Rimouski defenseman Michal Sersen was selected first overall in the 2003 QMJHL Import Draft for a reason, and has not disappointed. The Slovakian-born Sersen has put up respectable numbers on the Rimouski offensive juggernaut, but his plus-19 is his most telling statistic, particularly as a member of a team that more often than neglects its defensive game.

Shawinigan Cataractes goaltender Julien Ellis, who served as the understudy to Montreal prospect Olivier Michaud and over-ager Michel Bergevin-Robinson for much of last season, has had an excellent season thus far, leading the surprising Cataractes to the fifth best record in the league, and has proved durable over the long haul thus far, while still being considered a rookie. Ellis made headlines last week by winning the CHL’s Player of the Week honors.

Statistics (as of Jan 18, 2003):

Alexandre PicardLewiston MAINEiacs44302858+1364
Petr PohlGatineau Olympiques47171936+510
Bruce GrahamMoncton Wildcats44132336-761
David LaliberteP.E.I. Rocket48181735+334
Renaud des AlliersVictoriaville Tigres44161329+767
Jan SteberHalifax Mooseheads45111223-1028
Michal SersenRimouski Oceanic3151217+1924
Julien EllisShawinigan Cataractes41241112.800.902

Some of the more surprising QMJHL snubs for the Top Prospects game include:

  • the highest-ranked QMJHL player on Central Scouting’s Mid-Season rankings not invited to the Top Prospects game, Halifax Mooseheads antagonist Frederik Cabana (11-15-26);
  • offensively gifted, but injury-rattled Drummondville forward Kevin Mailhiot (12-9-21);
  • diminutive but physical Latvian-born Moncton forward Martins Karsums (23-12-35); and
  • highly talented, but pint-sized Baie-Comeau forward Alexandre Blais (20-22-42).

    The puck drops for the CHL Top Prospects game at 7:00pm on Wednesday, January 21st, at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario.

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