QMJHL top drafted goaltenders

By Kevin Forbes

The QMJHL goaltender factory may not have closed its doors for good, but it is definitely operating under reduced staffing since its heyday in the 1990s. At the peak, it seemed every NHL team had at least one Quebec-born netminder on its roster, often with another one or two elsewhere in their system. But as the Quebec butterfly style of goaltending proliferated, shooters adapted and soon the style fell out of favor, with teams turning their focus more towards players who employ a hybrid style. When coupled with declining numbers of players becoming goaltenders in Quebec, the result is just seven QMJHL goaltenders who currently have their rights owned by an NHL team.

Below is a ranking of the top goaltenders in the QMJHL. Note that only drafted prospects were considered in this listing.

1. Jake Allen, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues, 34th overall (2nd round) in 2008

The first QMJHL player selected in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Jake Allen has been a standout goaltender ever since. A standout performance at the Under-18s helped solidify his draft status, but it is another stint with Team Canada that Allen is best known for. As the starting goaltender for Canada at the World Juniors, Allen backstopped the team to a silver medal. Despite this disappointment, the 19-year-old has been nothing short of impenetrable since returning to the QMJHL. Traded from the Montreal Junior to the Drummondville Voltigeurs while he was away at the World Juniors, the 6’2, 185 lbs goaltender is a key part of Drummondville’s bid to defend their QMJHL title this season. Allen has posted a 14-3 record with the Voltigeurs, with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. In total, the New Brunswick native has put up a 25-14 record with a 2.34 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts in what should be his final season of junior hockey. Allen is signed to an entry-level contract to start next season.

2. Kevin Poulin, Victoriaville Tigres
Drafted by the New York Islanders, 126th overall (5th round) in 2008

When Kevin Poulin took over as the starting goaltender in his NHL draft year, he was being counted on by Victoriaville to be part of a core group of players who would grow together and bring the Tigres back into contention. Fast forward to the 2009-10 season and that progression has come to fruition. The Tigres are among the top teams in the league and thanks to Poulin, have let in the fourth fewest goals this season. It has been quite a journey for the 19-year-old, who earlier in his career depended on his athleticism and speed between the pipes to make a save. Now that the 6’2, 202 lbs netminder has combined those physical talents with the solid fundamentals of positioning, his game has improved dramatically. Since his draft year, he’s lowered his goals-against average and raised his save percentage every season and he is well on his way to posting career numbers this season with a 2.66 GAA and a .914 save percentage. A strong playoff showing should be enough to ensure an NHL contract from the Islanders.

3. Olivier Roy, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, 133rd overall (5th round) in 2009

Much was expected out of Olivier Roy when he burst onto the scene in 2007 and immediately began setting records as a 16-year-old rookie. Although he might never be the next great Quebec goaltender as some deemed him early on, Roy has continued to be a dependable puck stopper for Cape Breton. Just 18 and already in his third season as a starter, Roy is the owner of two of the 10 longest shutout streaks in QMJHL history. He’s also made a name for himself for raising his game when it matters most, with impressive numbers in the playoffs. This is great news for Cape Breton as they find themselves in an extremely strong division that should lead to a battle in the postseason. At 6’0 and 174 lbs, Roy has 29 wins in 49 games this season and has a GAA of 2.61 to go along with a .909 save percentage. He’s also posted a career-high five shutouts so far this season.

4. Nicola Riopel, Moncton Wildcats
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, 142nd overall (5th round) in 2009

All Nicola Riopel had to do was to put up league goaltending records as a 19-year-old for him to get attention from NHL teams. Drafted after being named the league’s top player and setting QMJHL records for the lowest goals-against average (2.01) and the highest save percentage (.931), Riopel was expected to make the jump to pro hockey as a 20-year-old in the 2009-10 season. Starting the season with the Flyers AHL farm team in Adirondack, Riopel’s 4-6-0 record, 3.35 GAA and .893 save percentage was decidedly ordinary and so the decision was made to return him to junior for his overage year. Adding a player of Riopel’s caliber midway through the season has turned an already strong Wildcats squad into the team to beat in the QMJHL. Riopel has put up a sterling record of 17-3 since his return and has posted a 1.94 GAA with a .920 save percentage. The 6’0, 167 lbs goaltender has three shutouts, and recently established the second longest shutout streak in QMJHL history.

5. Jean-Francois Berube, Montreal Junior
Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, 95th overall (4th round) in 2009

In just 20 games as a QMJHL rookie, J-F Berube’s play proved enough to merit being selected in the NHL Entry Draft. After a few more starts in the 2009-10 season, he showed enough to allow the Montreal Junior to feel comfortable sending Jake Allen away to help build for the future. At 18, Berube is part of a core group of players in Montreal who are expected to be a strong team in the 2010-11 season. Despite having less than 60 starts under his belt over the course of his two-year junior career, much is expected from the 6’1, 166lbs netminder, both at the QMJHL level and in his wider potential. So far this season, Berube’s record is 15-20 and his 3.04 GAA and .896 save percentage place him well back from the league leaders, but the groundwork for success is there.

6. Peter Delmas, Halifax Mooseheads
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, 61st overall (2nd round) in 2008

Expected to finish his QMJHL career with his third junior team, Peter Delmas is hoping a strong showing will lead to an NHL contract. Splitting time behind Jonathan Bernier in Lewiston to start his career, Delmas learned well from the former QMJHL standout and was named to the rookie all-star team in his first year. After being dealt to the Quebec Remparts to start the 2009-10 season, Delmas struggled with injuries and eventually landed with the league’s worst team, the Halifax Mooseheads. Despite these complications, Delmas’ fourth season in the league has been a definite rebound from a disastrous 2008-09 year in Lewiston. All tolled, the 6’2, 181 lbs goaltender has a winning record of 20-14 this year with a 3.06 goals-against-average and .902 save percentage. His streaky play has only shown glimpses of the promising potential that was seen earlier in his junior career.

7. Marco Cousineau, Saint John Sea Dogs
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, 83rd overall (3rd round) in 2008

After backstopping the Drummondville Voltigeurs to the QMJHL championship as a 19-year-old, Marco Cousineau found himself back in juniors as a 20-year-old overager, due to the fact that the Anaheim Ducks lack an AHL farm team to give him his first taste of professional hockey. Signed to a three-year NHL entry-level deal, set to start next season, Cousineau’s final tour in the QMJHL has landed him with another league contender in the Saint John Sea Dogs. After starting the season with the PEI Rocket, a mid-season deal placed Cousineau in Saint John and he soon returned to his winning ways. So far, the 6’1, 201 lbs, netminder has a record of 23-16 to go along with a 2.90 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Cousineau’s experience with Drummondville last season, where he went 13-3 in the playoffs should prove to be invaluable for a Saint John team with their eye on the league’s prize.