QMJHL Top 20 prospects, drafted and undrafted

By Kevin Forbes

Although the QMJHL is often viewed as the lesser brother in the CHL compared to the OHL and the WHL, the Q continues to produce quality NHL prospects. In fact, some of the top rookies this season in the NHL have QMJHL roots, including Michael Frolik from the Florida Panthers, Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers and Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Top 20 QMJHL prospects features 10 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Six of the players listed are undrafted, representing a bright future for the league. In fact, three of the listed players are not draft eligible until 2010. The players listed come from 12 of the 18 franchises in the QMJHL and 11 NHL organizations. The Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks each have two prospects on the list.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Patrice Cormier, C
2. Brandon Gormley, D
3. Kevin Marshall, D
4. Simon Despres, D
5. Dmitri Kulikov, D
6. Mikhail Stefanovich, RW
7. Ben Duffy, C
8. Olivier Roy, G
9. Jake Allen, G
10. Alex Grant, D
11. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D
12. Maxime Sauve, C
13. Maxime Clermont, G
14. Marco Scandella, D
15. Logan MacMillan, LW
16. Angelo Esposito, C
17. Dmitri Kugryshev, RW
18. Chris Didomenico, C
19. Nicolas Deschamps, LW
20. T.J. Brennan, D

1. Patrice Cormier, C – Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted 54th overall, 2nd round in 2008 – New Jersey Devils

After entering into the league to much hype and high expectations, Cormier struggled through injuries and inconsistent in his first two seasons. The New Jersey Devils draft pick has enjoyed a healthy and highly successful third season in the QMJHL and has watched his stock take off because of it. Not only did he appear in a career-high 54 games, he also posted career highs in nearly every statistical category. His 23 goals tied him for third on the Rimouski Oceanic, while his 51 points placed him fifth overall in team scoring. Perhaps Cormier’s most dominant performance came during the 2008 World Juniors, where his hard-hitting play was an important part of Team Canada’s fifth straight gold medal win. With Rimouski hosting the Memorial Cup this year, Cormier will have another opportunity to showcase himself on a big stage.

2. Brandon Gormley, D – Moncton Wildcats
Eligible to be drafted in 2010

Finishing his first season as a 16-year-old rookie for the Moncton Wildcats, there is a lot of promise in Gormley’s game. The young blue liner was the first player selected in the 2008 QMJHL Entry draft and immediately stepped into a big role with the Wildcats. Finishing the season with seven goals and 27 points in 62 games, Gormley improved steadily throughout the year and ended as the fourth in the league in scoring by rookie defenders. Playing for best defensive team in the QMJHL (with a league-low 149 goals against, 34 goals less than the team in the No.. 2 spot), Gormley will have plenty of eyes on him in his draft year next season.

3. Kevin Marshall, D – Quebec Remparts
Drafted 41st overall, 2nd round in 2007 – Philadelphia Flyers

Marshall specializes in the business of making the lives of his opponents difficult. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect never backs down whether it is dropping the gloves, delivering a crushing hit, making a solid pass out of the zone or scoring a quick goal. Over the course of his four-year QMJHL career, Marshall has developed into the complete package and has picked up a league championship along the way (with Lewiston in 2007). Now a member of the Quebec Remparts and on a quest for his second President’s Cup, Marshall was third on the team in defensive scoring with nine goals and 38 points.

4. Simon Despres, D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Eligible to be drafted in 2009

Despres is a model for development and progression in junior hockey. After a safe and solid rookie campaign in 2007-08, putting up 14 points in 64 games, the Laval native stepped into a larger role for Saint John in his sophomore season. The first overall selection in the 2007 QMJHL Entry Draft more than doubled his output with two goals and 32 points in 66 games, while becoming the go-to defender for the Sea Dogs. It was his strong and steady play that allowed the team to deal away veterans like Alex Grant and Pascal Amyot without worrying about the repercussions it would have on the team’s defensive play. Despres looks to be the top QMJHL prospect eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

5. Dmitri Kulikov, D – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Eligible to be drafted in 2009

If the first season of an Import player consists mainly of him getting acclimatized with the North American culture and the different type of play seen on this continent, then QMJHL teams should be extremely worried about what sort of player Dmitri Kulikov will be when he is fully comfortable with the new surroundings. The Russian blue liner flirted with the league lead in rookie scoring before finishing second with 12 goals and 62 points in 57 games. He finished tied for second in defensive scoring in the league, despite playing in five fewer games than either player ahead of him. A wizard with the puck, Kulikov is just scratching the surface of his potential.

6. Mikhail Stefanovich, RW – Quebec Remparts
Drafted 98th overall, 4th round in 2008 – Toronto Maple Leafs

There was not even a sniff of a sophomore slump for Mikhail Stefanovich. The Belarussian sniper made waves in the second half of his second season, scoring seemingly at will and averaging over a goal a game down the stretch. When the dust cleared, Stefanovich scored 49 goals and added 27 helpers for 76 points in 56 games to lead the Remparts in scoring. He finished third in the league in goals and scored two or more goals in a game an impressive 13 times in 2008-09, including two games where he lit the lamp four times. A Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, Stefanovich has sat for only 17 penalty minutes in 2008-09.

7. Ben Duffy, C – PEI Rocket
Eligible to be drafted in 2010

In a league that has plenty of Import players from overseas, Ben Duffy’s rookie campaign placed him top among the home-grown 16-year-olds in the QMJHL. While his 18 goals and 41 points in 62 games are in no way comparable to fellow rookies like Dmitri Kugryshev‘s 74 points or Sergey Ostapchuk’s 29 goals, the young center also is two years younger than either player. Improving as the season went on, the fifth overall selection in the 2008 QMJHL Entry Draft should be one of the top stars coming out of the QMJHL for the 2010 draft.

8. Olivier Roy, G – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Eligible to be drafted in 2009

To say that Olivier Roy’s second season in the QMJHL was more of the same does a disservice to the strong play of this young goaltender. After taking over the netminding duties for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles early into his rookie season, Roy finished the season with 27 wins in 47 games as well as four shutouts and then played admirably in the Eagles playoff run. Following up on that performance is not an enviable task, but the Amqui, Quebec native was able to improve practically all of his numbers, playing in 54 games with 35 wins and lowering his goals-against-average to 2.80 while raising his save percentage to .906. Roy is one of the top goaltenders eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and despite not turning 18 until after the draft; his resume already comes packed with plenty of experience.

9. Jake Allen, G – Montreal Rocket
Drafted 34th overall, 2nd round in 2008 – St. Louis Blues

Allen really turned heads in the second half of the 2007-08 season with a hot streak that catapulted him into being the first QMJHL player drafted at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he has played in 53 games for the Montreal Junior in their inaugural year, going 28-25 with a 2.86 GAA and a .916 save percentage, while facing upwards of 33 shots a night. The New Brunswick native is already on Hockey Canada’s radar and could be called upon to back stop Team Canada’s World Junior squad in next year.

10. Alex Grant, D – Shawinigan Cataractes
Drafted 118th overall, 4th round in 2007 – Pittsburgh Penguins

Struggling as the captain of the Saint John Sea Dogs to start the year, Alex Grant found a new life when a mid-season trade sent him to the Shawinigan Cataractes. An offensive blue line, Grant scored seemingly at will since joining the Cats with 19 points in his final 23 games. All told, the Antigonish, Nova Scotia product finished the year with 13 goals and 50 points in 60 games, strong enough to see him finish seventh among all defensemen in the league.

11. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted 67th overall, 3rd round in 2008 – Philadelphia Flyers

While most defensemen focus on taking care of business in their own zone first and foremost, Marc-Andre Bourdon is all about putting points up on the board. After placing second among all defensemen in scoring last season in his draft year with 59 points in 62 games, Bourdon was quickly snapped up by the Philadelphia Flyers. Entering into his third season in the QMJHL, he did not disappoint, improving on his numbers with 60 points in just 54 games, finishing fourth among all defenders. His high-scoring ways attracted the attention of the Rimouski Oceanic at the mid-season trade period and the 19-year-old is expected to be a key part of their attack when the club hosts the Memorial Cup later this year.

12. Maxime Sauve, C – Val D’Or Foreurs
Drafted 47th overall, 2nd round in 2008 – Boston Bruins

After spending a season and a half as a member of the Quebec Remparts, Maxime Sauve was sent to Val D’Or in the middle of the 2007-08 season. He quickly benefited from the added responsibility and extra ice time. After putting up over a point per game down the stretch last season with Val D’Or, the 2008-09 season was even more of an improvement. Sauve posted 27 goals and 76 points in 64 games for the Foreurs, leading the club in scoring by more than 20 points. A two-way forward, the 19-year-old is a testament to making the most of an opportunity.

13. Maxime Clermont, G – Gatineau Olympiques
Eligible to be drafted in 2010

Like Olivier Roy before him, Maxime Clermont cemented himself in the starting role with his QMJHL club a full season before his draft year. But unlike Roy, thanks to his late 1991 birth date, Clermont will actually be finishing his third season in the league before he is finally draft eligible. Although the Montreal native has struggled at times behind a somewhat inexperienced Gatineau defense, the young goaltender already has almost 80 regular season games under his belt as well as the experience of winning the QMJHL championship and competing in the Memorial Cup in 2008.

14. Marco Scandella, D – Val D’Or Foreurs
Drafted 55th overall, 2nd round in 2008 – Minnesota Wild

Scandella might be the best example of good things happening to those who wait. Unable to break into the QMJHL until his draft year last season, the Montreal native has begun to blossom into a dominant force on the blue line. Playing in relative obscurity for a bottom feeder like Val D’Or, Scandella blends size, skill and hockey sense into the complete package. In just his second season in the league, the 19-year-old scored 10 goals and had 37 points in 58 games to lead the team in defensive scoring with next defender almost 20 points behind him.

15. Logan MacMillan, LW – Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted 19th overall, 1st round in 2007 – Anaheim Ducks

Another player with his ticket already punched for the 2009 Memorial Cup, Logan MacMillan was acquired by the Rimouski Oceanic during this season’s trading period. Although he has struggled with injuries and scoring inconsistency throughout his four years in the QMJHL, MacMillan has been able to establish himself as a solid two-way forward who doesn’t hesitate to stand up for his teammates. In 43 games this season, split between the Halifax Mooseheads and Rimouski, MacMillan has scored nine goals and has 31 points.

16. Angelo Esposito, C – Montreal Junior
Drafted 20th overall, 1st round in 2007 by Pittsburgh – Atlanta Thrashers

After an impressive rookie season in 2005-06, including a Memorial Cup win, Angelo Esposito has never been able to live up to the hype and high expectations generated from his debut performance. Now a member of his second franchise, both in the QMJHL as well as his rights at the NHL level, the 20-year-old scored 24 goals and had 42 points in 35 games playing in front of the his hometown crowd in Montreal. He also was part of Team Canada’s gold medal performance at the 2009 World Juniors, finally making the team after being cut from camp the previous three seasons.

17. Dmitri Kugryshev, RW – Quebec Remparts
Drafted 58th overall, 2nd round in 2008 – Washington Capitals

Dmitri Kugryshev‘s first season in North America was extremely successful. The young Russian led all QMJHL rookies in scoring with 34 goals and 74 points in 57 games. In addition, his production placed him second on the Remparts in scoring. While he continues to acclimatize himself to North America, Kugryshev was also a member of Russia‘s entry in the 2009 World Junior tournament.

18. Chris Didomenico, C – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Drafted 164th overall, 6th round in 2007 – Toronto Maple Leafs

Highlights of Chris Didiomenico’s third season in the QMJHL saw him win a gold medal as a member of Team Canada at the World Juniors and be traded at mid-season to the league leading Drummondville Voltigeurs. If nothing else, this Ontario native knows how to score, posting 229 points in his QMJHL career of 191 games. Although this season may have been off pace a bit by his standards, he still posted 59 points in 51 games between Drummondville and the Saint John Sea Dogs.

19. Nicolas Deschamps, LW – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Drafted 35th overall, 2nd round in 2008 – Anaheim Ducks

Deschamps was so impressive as a 17-year-old draft eligible rookie that the Anaheim Ducks selected him in the second round. Though he has had some in his sophomore effort, the two-way winger came close to improving on his previous season’s numbers in fewer games. Deschamps finished the year with 24 goals and 65 points in 65 games, to place third on the team in scoring while being a valuable member of Chicoutimi’s special teams units.

20. T.J. Brennan, D – Montreal Junior
Drafted 31st overall, 2nd round in 2007 – Buffalo Sabres

After posting two near identical seasons to start his QMJHL career, Brennan appears to have taken a step back in his third year, with his team moving to Montreal. His first two years saw him put up 16 goals and 41 points each year, while the 2008-09 season ended with the New Jersey native potting five goals and 34 points in 59 games. One knock on the 19-year-old was his play in his own end, but his increased focus on defense has taken a bite out of his totals. With Brennan likely turning pro after Montreal’s playoff run concludes, he remains a work in progress.

Other Notables

Paul Byron, C – Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted 179th overall, 6th round in 2007 – Buffalo Sabres

Jordan Caron, RW – Rimouski Oceanic
Eligible to be drafted in 2009

Joel Champagne, C – PEI Rocket
Drafted 129th overall, 5th round in 2008 – Toronto Maple Leafs

Philippe Cornet, LW – Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted 133rd overall, 5th round in 2008 – Edmonton Oilers

Chris Doyle, C – PEI Rocket
Drafted 141st overall, 5th round in 2008 – New York Rangers

Timo Pielmeier, G – Shawinigan Cataractes
Drafted 83rd overall, 3rd round in 2007 by San Jose – Anaheim Ducks

Kelsey Tessier, C – Quebec Remparts
Drafted 110th overall, 4th round in 2008 – Colorado Avalanche