The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League saw 27 of its players get picked in the 2004 NHL Draft, a decrease of 11 over the stellar year in 2003. Even more disappointing is the division between those taken in the three first rounds and all the others. Indeed, 23 were picked in the later rounds, an awful turn of events for a league known for its offensive wizards and butterfly goaltenders. One of the picks was Martin Vagner, selected in the last round by Carolina. The Gatineau defenseman was Dallas’ first round pick in 2002. On the first day, only Alexandre Picard, from the Lewiston MAINEiacs, was drafted by Columbus eighth overall. It was the first time since 2000 that only one player is selected in the first round.
The total of four QMJHL players selected in the first three rounds is the worst since the creation of the entry draft formula in 1979. The annual average of players selected in those three rounds is nine for this period. There were 17 and 14 respectively in 1998 and 2003. Three of these four draftees are either from the Atlantic provinces or Europe. Only Picard originated from the province of Quebec. Seven 2003 draftees were from Quebec, including the first round trio of Fleury, Bernier and Pouliot. The NHL draft tendency shows that every good year is followed by a decrease for the QMJHL. Next year should be better for the league, with already two high profiles players in Sidney Crosby (Rimouski) and Guillaume Latendresse (Drummondville).
1999: 20 taken from the QMJHL out of 272 players = 7.3%
2000: 21/293 = 7.1%
2001: 26/289 = 9.0%
2002: 23/290 = 7.9%
2003: 38 /292 = 13.0%
2004: 27 /291 = 9.3%
From Quebec: 15
From New-Brunswick: 4
From Newfoundland: 3
From Czech Republic: 3
From Latvia: 1
From Slovakia: 1
Despite the fact that few QMJHLers were drafted in the first three rounds, another negative aspect is that none were goaltenders. Year after year, the QMJHL has been able to produce athletic and quick goalies, from Hall Of Famer Patrick Roy to 2002 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner Jose Theodore, from Vezina Nominee Roberto Luongo to 2003 1st round pick overall Marc-André Fleury. Unfortunately, this year is the worst ever as far as goalies are concerned. The first selected goalie born in the province of Quebec was Loic Lacasse in the sixth round by none other than Montreal, a team with a surplus of goaltenders. That is the lower pick ever. In addition, the first QMJHL goaltender was selected by San Jose in the fourth round, 129th overall. Jason Churchill, from Newfoundland, is the lowest drafted goaltender since André Racicot (fourth round, 83rd overall, Montreal) in 1989. For the first time since 1995 with Dan Cloutier and Jamie Storr, Team Canada Junior will start without a goaltender coming from the Q.
A total of three centers, 11 wingers, seven defensemen and six goaltenders were selected from the QMJHL. The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Philadelphia Flyers both drafted three players while Minnesota, Montreal and the New York Rangers took two. Unlike last year, the Toronto Maples Leafs decided to grab one QMJHLer. Ottawa was the only Canadian team to draft none from the Q. It was a big weekend as usual for the Gatineau Olympiques, who saw three youngsters get selected for the first time and one for the second time. Below are detailed summaries from the first two rounds and then a list of every player in subsequent rounds.
Birthdate: October 9th 1985
Place Of Birth: Les Saules, Quebec
Position: Left Winger
Team: Lewinston MAINEiacs
Drafted: Columbus Blue Jackets, 1st round, 8th overall
Alexandre Picard, the MAINEiacs leader on and off the ice, is known as a complete player throughout the league. He might not be sensational in one certain aspect, but he can do pretty much everything on the ice. Columbus got themselves a young and hardworking kid who will soon enough be a very nice complement to Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev. Picard can play a physical game, unlike a lot of players in the Q. He finds ways to score pretty easily and is hard to knock off the puck. However, he’s not different from other Q players in that he will need to develop his defensive game a lot more if he wants to succeed in the National Hockey League. He was invited for Team Canada Summer Camp, where he will have plenty of time to demonstrate his skills to the Canadian Hockey staff. He will once again be Lewiston main weapon, logging a lot of minutes and playing in every situations. He’s still at least two or three years away from the NHL. Columbus has a good training staff which should do wonders for Picard.
An NHL scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft, “He didn’t really know how to speak English until this year so being in Maine really helped him out there. He’s a different skater but it’s amazing how similar he is to Ryan Smyth. He’s faster than people think he is. He plays on a poor team so I think if he played with guys who could give him the puck he would have been a bit more heralded. He didn’t put up huge numbers because he didn’t really have a lot of help but that’s let him go a bit under the radar as far as media and hype go. He’s gritty, he can score, he can kill penalties, and he plays with a lot of passion and those are all great qualities right there. Wolski and Picard, their skating isn’t the greatest but all they do is create offense.”
Birthdate : December 2nd 1985
Place Of Birth: Moncton, New-Brunswick
Team: Moncton Wildcats
Drafted: New York Rangers, 2nd round, 51st overall
You don’t find 6’6” hockey players every day. With that in mind, the New York Rangers were pleased to select Bruce Graham with Montreal’s second rounder from the Kovalev trade. Graham finished fourth in scoring with Moncton, just in front of fellow linemate Martin Karsums. Surrounded by Steve Bernier, Karl Gagné and Konstantin Zakharov, he was a major part of the WIldcats success throughout the entire year, centering the second line. On the other end, Graham will have to be more consistent since he wasn’t able to get a single playoff goal while scoring 24 times in regular season. With the departure of some veterans, he will become the main focus and offensive force next year. He wasn’t invited to Canada Summer Camp, which could motivate him a lot.
The Rangers have a good mix of prospects, but none could make as much of a difference as Graham, who could become a force in three or four years. Look for him to lead his team to the Q finals once again.
An NHL scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft, “Bruce Graham is a big center and for his size he’s a really good skater and has soft hands. It’s taken him a little while to get his bearings and to figure out his ability. He definitely needs to get stronger. He’s got a lot of raw ability. He sees the ice well and distributes the puck well. He has the potential of being a really good two-way guy. He doesn’t really lack anything other than strength but he’s not outstanding in any one thing either. He does everything pretty well and he doesn’t do anything really bad so he’s a safe pick who you could project as being a big centerman.”
Birthdate: February 26th 1986
Place Of Birth: Riga, Latvia
Position: Right Wing
Team: Moncton Wildcats
Drafted: Boston Bruins, 2nd round, 64th overall
|2001-02||Prizma ’83 Riga||Latvian League||6||4||1||5||4|
|2002-03||Vilki Riga||Latvian League||–||7||5||12||14|
The Boston Bruins were in need of skilled players for their system when they were up for their first selection of the day. With their first round pick dealt to Washington in the Gonchar trade, they had to be cautious with their pick. Coming from Riga, Lativa, Martin Karsums impressed a lot of scouts with his stickhandling and hockey sense. He is very dangerous when he controls the puck and he can create scoring chances in every situation. His small side doesn’t affect him that much. Moncton’s fifth place player in points, he nearly got a point per game in his first season here. Boston got themselves an offensive wizard who could be compared to last year’s Petr Vrana. Karsums was even better throughout the playoffs, earning 17 points in 20 games, leading his team along Steve Bernier and Karl Gagné. He will need some time to adjust to North America and especially make the most of his size, but be assure that Boston will do everything they can to let Karsums demonstrate his offensive talent in the future.
An NHL scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft, “Karsums is skilled. He’s a good skilled little guy, with a good touch and a good shot. He’s playing at the CHL level with that size and he’s playing well because he’s a talented kid.”
Birthdate: November 26th 1985
Place Of Birth: St John’s, Newfoundland
Position: Left Wing
Team: Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted: Tampa Bay Lightning, 2nd round, 65th overall
Mark Tobin was drafted by a team where he will fit perfectly. Known for his dedication, he will get in your face if you try something with one of his teammates. He might not be the greatest scorer in his team, but he has more heart than anybody else. He is exactly the kind of hockey player that coaches love to develop. Tobin is a good two-way player who gives everything on the ice. With the Oceanic, he was suited for the third line and did a good job with it. He might play on the second line next year with some veterans leaving. He was a monumental piece of Rimouski playoff road, as he was able to get some points off the sheet and play a defensive role. Tobin is not much of a project, he definitely has a good chance of becoming a sound third liner for Tampa Bay. Tobin still has times to develop his game and be a little more offensive. He has a nice future ahead of him.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot (Edmonton) on his teammate: “Mark is big, strong and very good around the net. He is also very hardworking. He possesses average speed and is excellent in the corners. He will have to develop his footstep and his hands. He has a good potential.”
107. NASHVILLE – NICK FUGERE, LW, GATINEAU
114. MINNESOTA – PATRICK BORDELEAU, LW, VAL D’OR
124. PHILADELPHIA – DAVID LALIBERTÉ, RW, PRINCE EDWARD
129. SAN JOSE – JASON CHURCHILL, G, HALIFAX
130. PITTSBURGH – MICHAL SERSEN, D, RIMOUSKI
133. COLUMBUS – PETR POHL, RW, GATINEAU
143. LOS ANGELES – ERIC NEILSON, RW, RIMOUSKI
161. MINNESOTA – JEAN-CLAUDE SAWYER, D, CAPE BRETON
171. PHILADELPHIA – FREDERIK CABANA, C/RW, HALIFAX
173. CALGARY, ADAM PARDY, D, CAPE BRETON
181. MONTREAL, LOIC LACASSE, G, BAIE COMEAU
189. VANCOUVER, JULIEN ELLIS-PLANTE, G, SHAWINIGAN
198. COLUMBUS, JUSTIN VIENNEAU, D, SHAWINIGAN
203. ANAHEIM, GABRIEL BOUTHILLETTE, G, GATINEAU
208. EDMONTON, STEPHANE GOULET, RW, QUEBEC
216. NEW JERSEY, PIERRE-LUC LEBLOND-LETOURNEAU, LW, BAIE COMEAU
232. PHILADELPHIA – MARTIN HOULE, G, CAPE BRETON
247. NEW YORK RANGERS – JONATHAN PAIEMENT, D, LEWISTON
252. TORONTO – JAN STEBER, C/LW, HALIFAX
268. CAROLINA – MARTIN VAGNER, D, GATINEAU
276. NEW YORK ISLANDERS – SYLVAIN MICHAUD, G, DRUMMONDVILLE
277. ST LOUIS – JONATHAN BOUTIN, RW, SHAWINIGAN
278. MONTREAL – ALEX DULAC-LEMELIN, D, BAIE COMEAU
Guy Flaming, Holly Gunning and Simon Richard contributed to this report.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.