Top 20 QMJHL Prospects for 2008

By HF Staff

The 2008 draft class from the QMJHL is not expected to be as strong as it has been in recent years. After four first-round selections in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, there’s a strong chance that no player from the Q will hear his named called on Friday evening. The NHL Central Scouting’s scout Kim Houston noted that "The strength of the draft is more in the Ontario League and out west. This is probably the weakest year in the Q since I’ve been working with Central Scouting. The strength of the draft for the Q is probably the goaltenders this year."

1. Nicolas Deschamps, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Height: 6’0; Weight: 179 lbs.; DOB: January 6, 1990

Deschamps has, over the course of the QMJHL season, emerged as the top draft-eligible prospect in the league, surpassing many highly-touted prospects along the way. In his rookie season with Chicoutimi, Deschamps quickly asserted himself as a valuable two-way player for the middling Sagueneens, moving up the depth chart quickly after a bit of a slow start to his QMJHL career. By November, people were beginning to realize that Deschamps might be an offensive threat, when he posted a stretch of 16 points in 11 games, and won the QMJHL Rookie of the Month award (an honor he would pick up one more time over the course of the season).

Deschamps finished his rookie season as the top rookie scorer in the league, notching 24 goals and 67 points (and outpacing such highly-touted draft-eligible offensive talents as Mikhail Stefanovich, Kelsey Tessier, Philippe Cornet, and Patrice Cormier in that regard). He brings excellent two-way play and great offensive instincts to the table. While he does have decent size, he is not all that physical, but he is also not easily intimidated. While he is not dominant in any particular aspect of his game, it is his all-around ability and strong skating ability that make him a threat.

As Central Scouting’s Kim Houston explained, "He’s the guy I had highest on my list. He just stood out, every shift. He skates like a pro, handles the puck, makes good decisions, everything he did was almost perfect. I was just so impressed…He was probably for me, the most complete player out of the players I’ve seen."

2. Maxime Sauve, C – Val D’Or Foreurs
Height: 5’11; Weight: 170 lbs.; DOB: January 30, 1990

A speedster, Sauve‘s stock rose dramatically after a mid season trade that saw him leave the Quebec Remparts and land with the Val D’Or Foreurs. A complimentary player with the Remparts, Sauve was front and center with the Foreurs and expected to carry much of the offensive load. He rose to the challenge, posting point-per-game numbers in Val D’Or and finished the year second on the team with 26 goals and 65 points in 70 games. He continued by leading the team with five points in four playoff games as the Foreurs were swept out handily in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs.

Houston describeed him as a player who "knows what to do with the puck when it’s on his stick from the blue line in." He continued by saying that Sauve is "very nifty, there’s so many things to like about him. If you’re looking for offense, he can be a guy that you could take for his offensive ability." But he noted that Sauve still needs to work on his strength and his ability to fight through checks. But the final word on Sauve is simply that "his skills are so enticing."

3. Mikhail Stefanovich, C/RW – Quebec Remparts
Height: 6’2; Weight: 200 lbs.; DOB: November 27, 1989

Stefanovich entered the QMJHL as one of the top-rated new imports, having been chosen by the Quebec Remparts with their first-round selection. With excellent offensive ability, but also with relatively high expectations, much pressure would be on Stefanovich’s shoulders to produce. And produce he did.

Seeing big minutes for the Remparts almost immediately, Stefanovich was a threat in the offensive end, generating numerous chances with his excellent stick-handling ability and hockey sense, and converting many feeds with his quick release. The problem was the irregularity of these offensive outbursts. Still, he managed to finish his first season in North America leading all QMJHL rookies with 32 goals, and he finished second in points with 66. The QMJHL named Stefanovich the recipient of the Mike Bossy Award, given to the best professional prospect for the upcoming draft, as deemed by the league.

Stefanovich has a great blend of skill and size, but it is how he uses both aspects that have caused him to slip down the rankings over the course of the season.

4. Kelsey Tessier, C – Quebec Remparts
Height: 5’9; Weight: 172 lbs.; DOB: January 16, 1990

It’s easy to discredit Tessier based on his size. At 5’9, Tessier faces yet another challenge to add to the list of things that prospects have to overcome and improve on in order to live out their dream of making it to the NHL. However, Tessier makes up for that limitation by possessing a skill set that led to him breaking into the Quebec Remparts lineup immediately after being drafted in 66th overall in the fourth round in 2006. Tessier was impressive in his rookie season with 23 goals and 50 points in 63 games. He also followed that up with a goal and six points in five playoff games.

The expectations were even higher entering into his second year in the league and he rose to the occasion. In 68 games, the diminutive forward posted 36 goals and 81 points to lead the Remparts in scoring. He added to those totals with eight goals and 15 points in 11 playoff games. A leader on and off the ice for the Remparts, Tessier is dead set on disproving those who might write him off due to his stature.

Though his size and his ability to fight through checks remains a concern, as Houston noted, "He can score goals and that’s something, that’s a hard thing to teach."

5. Peter Delmas, G – Lewiston MAINEiacs
Height: 6’2; Weight: 175 lbs.; DOB: February 16, 1990

Lewiston was already set between the pipes for the foreseeable future with the top goaltender in the league in Jonathan Bernier in, when they selected Peter Delmas in the QMJHL Entry Draft. Delmas made the team as the backup goaltender out of training camp, with the expectation that he would not see much playing time. Delmas, however, ended up being thrown into the fire in the second half of the season, after Bernier was out of the line-up for several weeks with a chronic ankle injury. The rookie Delmas stepped in admirably, calm and cool under pressure.

Delmas came into this season, his second in the league with heightened expectations, and while he did not take the next step further to make his case for being a first-day draftee at the 2008 draft, he still did not have much of a fall-off from his rookie season. Once again splitting time with Bernier, he finished with a .500 record and another sub-3.00 goals against average.

Delmas plays an excellent positional game to the rink in the butterfly style, and shows great composure between the pipes, not getting easily rattled. Houston noted it is his "coachability" that attracts him to Delmas, saying "He’s a kid that is just like a sponge, he loves when you tell him something, he’ll go out and he’ll work on it and he’ll try to incorporate it into his game, because he wants to be a better player, he wants to be a better goaltender."

Houston continued, "Technically, he is probably the best goalie coming out of the Q into the draft this year. His skills are just the old saying of doing more by doing less, I think he does that very well."

6. Yann Sauve, D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Height: 6’2; Weight: 209 lbs.; DOB: February 18, 1990

On paper, Sauve looks like he could fit right in among the top 2008 eligible blue liners. He was the first overall pick by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the 2006 QMJHL Draft and he stepped right into the lineup, posting 15 points in 60 games as a 16-year-old and drawing rave reviews for his mature game.

Expectations were high on the Rigaud, Quebec native entering the 2007-08 season and he seemed to shrink slightly under the spotlight. The anticipated progression from his rookie season did not appear. Sauve continues to be a strong two-way defender who shows flashes of greatness and of putting it all together, but the promise of much more remains. In 69 games this season, he posted six goals and 21 points, adding another goal and three points in 14 playoff bouts.

Though Sauve hasn’t grown as expected, he remains a top prospect coming out of the QMJHL. As Houston explained, "I had a high opinion of him last year, thinking that as a 16-year-old he was going to be a good prospect and I think he’s going to develop into a pretty solid defenseman. I think he’s kind of curtailed a bit."

7. Jacob Lagace, LW – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Height: 5’11; Weight: 192 lbs.; DOB: January 9, 1990

Lagace was – like Deschamps before him — another 17-year-old selection by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Like Deschamps, Lagace made an impact in the Chicoutimi line-up in his rookie season, making the squad out of training camp.

The hard-nosed, strong-skating winger ended up posting 62 points in his rookie campaign, good enough to place him fourth among rookie scorers, seeing the bulk of his time on the top two scoring lines, and playing in all special teams situations (particularly in the second half of the season). He also joined his teammate Deschamps on the league’s All-Rookie Team.

Lagace displays a great work ethic on the ice, playing a game that is larger than his relatively small frame. He shows great maturity, and strong decision-making ability with the puck, possessing the ability to carry the puck, and an understanding as to when to make the pass. It remains to be seen if he will be able to play the same sort of game at the next level, as his relative lack of strength and small frame may inhibit his physical game.

8. Patrice Cormier, C – Rimouski Oceanic
Height: 6’1; Weight: 199 lbs.; DOB: June 14, 1990

No matter what the outcome at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, it might be safe to say that Cormier would rather forget this past year. After a strong rookie season, where he built of his fifth overall selection at the 2006 QMJHL draft to post 21 points in 53 games, Cormier suffered through an injury-filled draft year.

It started with a burst appendix that waylaid his summer training and led to him missing the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. The missed training soon set the stage for a concussion, which put him out of the lineup for a month. Upon his return, it wasn’t long before he was out with injury, first with one shoulder, then out again with the other. All told, Cormier played 51 games and posted 18 goals and 41 points.

It wasn’t until the playoffs that the New Brunswick native was finally healthy enough to be able to showcase his skill-set. In nine playoff games, Cormier dominated the ice physically and offensively, posting four goals and nine points. When healthy, Cormier has the makings of a power forward, blending size, strength, skill and determination in a dangerous package.

9. Philippe Cornet, C – Rimouski Oceanic
Height: 6’0; Weight: 180 lbs.; DOB: March 28, 1990

Like his teammate Cormier, Philippe Cornet also suffered through some injuries in his draft year. A foot injury limited him to 23 goals and 49 points in 61 games for the Rimouski Oceanic, although he was healthy for their playoff run, when he scored three goals and had six points in nine games. All told, it was a strong improvement over his rookie season when he had 21 points in 46 games after being selected second overall in the 2006 QMJHL draft.

A scoring forward with a natural touch around the net, Cornet often finds himself fighting for both the puck and positioning along the boards. Though he frequently loses those battles at this stage in his career, as he gets stronger, that effort will pay off.

An important part of the young core in Rimouski, a lot will be expected out of the Val-Senneville, Quebec native in the upcoming season. The Oceanic will be hosting the Memorial Cup and thus are guaranteed a berth in the CHL championships.

10. Jake Allen, G – St. John’s Fog Devils
Height: 6’1; Weight: 175 lbs.; DOB: August 7, 1990

No player made greater strides from this year’s QMJHL draft class in the second half of the season than Allen, who burst onto many draft radars after a strong finish to the regular season, as well as his tournament performance after the elimination of his St. John’s Fog Devils from the playoffs.

Serving as the backup to German import netminder Timo Pielmeier, Allen was called to step in between the pipes when injuries struck. Things did not go all too smoothly for Allen, as prior to Jan. 1, he had posted a record of only three wins and eight losses, giving up four or more goals eight times. He improved while playing irregularly over the course of the second half and finished with a record of nine wins, eight losses and four ties. His improved second half led to his invite to backstop Canada’s Under-18 squad. It was in Russia where Allen would make his biggest splash, leading Canada to a clean sweep of all seven games, picking up two shutouts in the process, posting an astounding .948 save percentage, and leading Canada to the gold medal.

Allen may have a hard time maintaining the burgeoning expectations stemming from his stellar Under-18 performance, but the pressure will still be there next season. Pielmeier has been traded away, and the Fog Devils have moved to the largest hockey market in the league. Allen will be the starting goaltender for the Montreal Junior, and will be under the microscope.

11. Kevin Poulin, G – Victoriaville Tigres
Height: 6’1; Weight: 202 lbs.; DOB: April 12, 1990

Prior to this season, there was talk that Poulin may have been the top goaltender for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The third overall pick in the 2006 QMJHL Draft, he performed strongly in his rookie season, appearing in 24 games. This led to the Victoriaville Tigres handing him the reins for the 2007-08 season.

Unfortunately, Poulin was unable to build off his rookie season and struggled with consistency in his larger role. Appearing in 67 games, he posted a record of 18-23-3 with a unenviable GAA of 3.75 and a save percentage at .885. At times, it appeared Poulin was almost fighting the puck, due to poor technique and positioning.

The Montreal native’s saving grace is his athleticism and speed in the net, which allows him to react quickly and get himself out of some of the trouble that his positioning gets him into. Those physical attributes are the same reason why scouts still have hope for him, despite his struggles this year. If a team can get a goaltending coach to settle him down and help him mesh his technique and athletic ability together, he could live up to his early-season billing.

12. Jordan Southorn, D – PEI Rocket
Height: 6’2; Weight: 170 lbs.; DOB: May 15, 1990

A big, rangy defender selected in the first round of the 2006 QMJHL Draft by the PEI Rocket, Jordan Southorn played a complimentary role in his rookie season. He appeared in 58 games and finished with five goals and 10 points, playing limited minutes.

He was asked to step into a larger role with the club in the 2007-08 season and responded with a 12-goal, 31-point effort over the course of 69 games that saw him lead all defensemen on his team in scoring. Though despite these statistics, there are still many questions about the Pointe-Claire, Quebec native and he is decidedly raw.

"He’s very inconsistent," Central Scouting’s Houston explained. "Sometimes there’s some plays where you watch him and you think ‘geez, that was a nice play, pretty smart’ and other times, it’s like ‘What the hell was he thinking?’ Just in terms of playing with confidence and playing with authority, he doesn’t do that. I think his skill-set is good, but his mind, his focus, it has to be on, consistency between every shift and he doesn’t have that."

13. Joel Champagne, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Height: 6’3; Weight: 212 lbs.; DOB: January 24, 1990

The third member of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens to appear on the list, Champagne made Chicoutimi out of his first training camp, but was used sparingly in his rookie season, being limited to six goals and 16 assists in 62 games.

Seeing an increased role for Chicoutimi in his sophomore season, the big center man began to use his size more effectively. He earned increased ice-time as a result of his solid two-way play and willingness to get involved physically. Champagne proved to be a dominant face-off man, often serving as the pivot that the Chicoutimi coaching staff looked at to win the key late-game face-off. He also began to get involved offensively, finishing his second season with 18 goals and 40 points, good enough for sixth on the team, as well as posting an impressive 58% face-off-winning percentage. Champagne was also a participant in the CHL Top Prospects game, utilizing his size in the corners and in front of the net.

Champagne has NHL size, but is still very much a project at this point. He will have to work on improving his foot-speed and his agility, as well as his puck-handling ability in the future. The all-around forward projects to be a solid third-liner who could wreak havoc in front of the net on the power play, should he be able to improve upon the problem aspects of his game.

14. Danick Paquette, RW – Lewiston MAINEiacs
Height: 6’0; Weight: 209 lbs.; DOB: July 17, 1990

Paquette may hold the distinction of being the QMJHL draft eligible that the opposition most hates to play against. Paquette has the dual ability of not only being able to get underneath the skin of the opposition with physical, flip-off-your-cap antagonism, but also can hurt the opposition with his excellent nose for the net.

After spending the bulk of his rookie season playing as an energy-line forward, Paquette began to display his more offensive side in his sophomore season. Playing regularly on Lewiston’s scoring lines, Paquette exploded for 29 goals. Paquette relished his increased role, bringing an energetic game to the ice every night. Still, from time to time his decision-making in regards to his physical play put him in hot water, as he occasionally went over the line with borderline hits. He will have to work on his discipline if he is to make it at the next level, but will have to do so without neglecting that antagonism which has made him an effective player.

15. Steven Delisle, D – Gatineau Olympiques
Height: 6’5; Weight: 209 lbs.; DOB: July 30, 1990

The Gatineau Olympiques selected the towering Delisle with their second round selection in the 2006 QMJHL Draft and he played a safe, shutdown role in his 53 games of action in his rookie year as a depth defenseman.

With the departure of a few key components from the backend of the Gatineau line-up from the previous season and four rookie defensemen in the line-up over the course of the season, Delisle was used more regularly in 2007-08, playing top-four minutes for the Olympiques. The big blue-liner also ended up seeing plenty of power-play time for Gatineau during the regular season, finishing with 29 points (six of which were goals), good enough for second one the team. He also added ten assists in 19 playoff games, using his size and sound decision-making to shut down the offense, and helping his team to the league championship and an eventual Memorial Cup berth.

While Delisle boasts great size, he uses it more for his positional play, rather than throwing his weight around on a regular basis – picking his spots rather than over committing. He would be a great complement to an offensive defenseman in a pairing, providing sound decision-making ability and strong positional play in his own end. The Lévis, Quebec, native is the epitome of a safe selection, provided he keeps things simple.

16. Mathieu Tousignant, C – PEI Rocket
Height: 5’11; Weight: 185 lbs.; DOB: November 21, 1989

Tousignant is one of the few draft eligibles from the QMJHL this season who has appeared in three QMJHL regular seasons – though his appearance in the 2005-06 season was limited to one game (in which he registered his first point). In his first full season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Tousignant saw regular action as the team’s third line center, developing his persona as an antagonist by having to shut down the opposition’s top lines. His ability in that role was strengthened by his good face-off percentage (posting a 56% rating in nearly 800 draws in the 2006-07 season), with the coaching staff entrusting him to win key defensive zone face-offs. He finished his first full season with 33 points, appearing in a full slate of 70 games.

He stepped into a similar role with the Drakkar to start his second full season, but things changed when the Drakkar dealt him to the PEI Rocket and Tousignant was given the opportunity to get under the skin of a whole new cast of teams in his new division. Playing an in-your-face physical game, and sacrificing his body whenever necessary, He ended up with 56 points and 129 penalty minutes in 63 games split between the Drakkar and the Rocket. His competitiveness is the one attribute that Houston raves about, "Every shift it was just consistent with his efforts and he’s just an ultra-competitive kid and I really liked that. He’s got some skills, but it’s just that competitiveness. I think, just because of his competitiveness and his spiciness that he’ll make himself a better player. He wants to be a better player."

17. Mathieu Brodeur, D – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Height: 6’5; Weight: 190 lbs.; DOB: June 21, 1990

A big, solid defender for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Brodeur played an impressive number of minutes in every defensive situation in his rookie season in the QMJHL. Though he posted a sole goal and just seven points in 69 games, Brodeur’s contributions to the game don’t reflect on the score sheet.

Houston described him as "a big guy, and his head, his feet and his hands all work together. He’s not a physical as one might think, but you know he’s going to get stronger, you know he’s going to work hard." Houston went on to explain that "he knows and he reads the defensive zone pretty well and playing in all defensive situations is going to make him a better player next year when he jumps into more offensive situations. He’s got a good shot. His coach was saying he could play the powerplay, but he doesn’t need him there. He’s come a long way and I really like him. He’s used extensively on the defensive side and that’s only going to help him later on."

Born on June 21st, what would be a better birthday present than to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft?

18. Chris Doyle, C – PEI Rocket
Height: 6’0; Weight: 195 lbs.; DOB: March 22, 1990

A prime example of the importance of the draft year, Chris Doyle entered the 2007-08 season with high expectations placed upon him after a strong rookie season. The fourth overall selection in the 2006 QMHL Draft, Doyle had 18 goals and 36 points in 50 games in his rookie season.

Though he finished at a point-per-game with 27 goals and 63 points in as many games in 2007-08, a little more was expected from the Charlottetown native after such a promising rookie campaign. Houston explained it as follows, "I think where he had such a good year as a 16-year-old in the league, I think there were greater expectations of him, maybe he just hasn’t come through. Maybe he’s not the premiere player that we thought he was as a 16-year-old."

A strong skating forward known for his big shot which he gets off frequently, Doyle is part of a young core in PEI that will be called upon to rise to the next level in coming seasons. Houston described him as a player "who is going to develop into a good player. He has a good skill-set; his skills are good, his skating, his puck handling, his shooting. I think he understands the game."

19. Luke Adam, C – St. John’s Fog Devils
Height: 6’1; Weight: 210 lbs.; DOB: June 18, 1990

The St. John’s Fog Devils made a splash in the 2006 QMJHL Draft when they selected the hometown boy Adam with the seventh overall selection. Given the hype and heightened expectations he received upon suiting up for the Fog Devils, it can be suggested that his rookie season was a bit of a disappointment. Displaying raw skill and a bit of an awkward physical game, Adam was limited to only 15 points in 63 games for St. John’s in the 2006-07 season.

Adam rebounded to have an excellent sophomore campaign, playing a sound physical game and improving his decision-making ability. He also started to show the sort of offensive finish that had been expected of him, using his size to his advantage, banging bodies along the boards and wreaking havoc in front of the net, with or without the puck. He led the Fog Devils in both goals and points, with 36 and 66 respectively, and also posted a strong eight points in the playoffs.

Adam oozes skill, but his skating ability is quite a detriment to his all-around game, limiting his game-breaking ability, and also preventing him from being much of a factor in the defensive aspect of the game. Whichever team decides to choose the big forward in the NHL draft will definitely have to address Adam’s foot speed.  Houston believes he will be a surprise in the draft, noting that "he’s a kid that I think is going to be a good solid player."

20. Robert Mayer, G – Saint John Sea Dogs
Height: 6’0; Weight: 184 lbs.; DOB: October 9th, 1989

A much-heralded prospect when the Saint John Sea Dogs selected him in the CHL Import Draft, Mayer did not live up to expectations in his first year of QMJHL hockey. Although he, as one scout noted, "might be the quickest goaltender in the Q", Mayer struggled with consistency and control while playing in a platoon situation with veteran Travis Fullerton.

Previously starring in his native Switzerland, Mayer saw action in 32 games, posting a 16-11 record with a 3.77 goals-against average and a .877 save percentage. At times, it was noted that he tended to over-react to the shooter, taking himself out of the play and also some questions were raised about his mental state, where he appeared to get shaken after a quick goal.

Like Poulin before him, despite his flaws, Mayer’s athleticism makes most scouts feel he has a lot of upside. Though he needs to settle down between the pipes and get help with refining his positioning and technical game, Mayer could recapture the aura that had some thinking he would be among the top goaltenders in the draft.

Other Notables

Mark Barberio, D – Moncton Wildcats
A two-way defenseman playing in a difficult situation with bottom feeder Moncton, Barberio has offensive skills aplenty and the ability to quickly and effectively move the puck out of his own zone. However, some are concerned about his decision-making, especially in defensive situations.

Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
An offensively talented blue liner, Bourdon was named the top defenseman in the league while playing for one of the best teams in the QMJHL. Though great at moving the puck, his lack of mobility is a big concern.

Marco Cousineau, G – Baie Comeau Drakkar

A quick butterfly goaltender, Cousineau was the go-to netminder in Baie-Comeau as they finished second in the QMJHL. Though he sometimes has trouble tracking the puck, Cousineau’s speed and positioning is top notch.

Tomas Knotek, C – Halifax Mooseheads

An offensively-talented playmaker, Knotek finished the year scoring at over a point-per-game pace. But his skating is such a weakness that some question whether he’ll be effective at a higher level.

Alexandre Neron, D – Rimouski Oceanic
An offensively-talented blue liner, Neron struggled at times as the Oceanic were ravaged with injuries. Rebounding to finish the year with 44 points in 69 games, more was expected from the defender with the big shot.

Phil Laugher and Kevin Forbes contributed to this article.