Since the Canada/Russia Super Series began in 2003, the QMJHL has a record of 9-5 against the visiting Russians. Out of the three CHL leagues, this is by far the worst record, with the WHL dropping a single game back in 2007 and the OHL never losing to Team Russia. Over the same period of time, the QMJHL has supplied the fewest players to Hockey Canada’s international efforts in building Team Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Although the QMJHL is often thought of as the weaker sister league to its fellow leagues farther west, the impact of their players at the international level should not be dismissed. Once again this season, the QMJHL should be able to provide at least one of Team Canada’s goaltenders, as well as have some strong candidates to join the team both on the blue line and up front.
Here’s a look at the QMJHL’s offerings for the 2010 Canada/Russia Super Series. The series begins November 8th with Team QMJHL facing the Russians in Saint John, New Brunswick. They will play again on November 10th in Drummondville before Team Russia moves on to the OHL and the WHL.
The QMJHL is famous for their goaltenders and this season seems to be no exception with four quality net minders selected to face the Russians. Headlining the goaltenders is Olivier Roy. An Edmonton Oiler prospect, Roy is the only goaltender among those who attended last year’s selection camp eligible to play this season. An early favorite to be the starter for Team Canada this year, Roy has done little to diminish that notion with a strong start to the season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. One of the top goaltenders in the league, Roy has an 8-5 record with a 2.50 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. The Titan are second in their division and fifth in the league. Originally scheduled to play in both games, Roy is now only going to play in Saint John. Roy also played in Hockey Canada’s Development camp over the summer.
Sharing the duties in Saint John with Roy is J-F Berube. A Los Angeles Kings prospect, Berube plays for the Montreal Junior, currently the fourth best team in the league. Though Berube’s record of 8-2-0-1 is impressive, his goals against average is just a 2.92 and his save percentage clocks in a .881. Berube also played in Hockey Canada’s Development camp over the summer.
Acknowledging that Roy is the favorite out of the four QMJHL goaltenders, the more impressive duo might be found in the Drummondville game where Maxime Clermont and Louis Domingue will share the duties. Clermont just one day might be the heir to Martin Brodeur’s starting job with the New Jersey Devils, but for now, he’s one of the best goaltenders in the league with a 9-3-1-2 record and a stingy 2.16 goals against average to go along with a .928 save percentage. Domingue, on the other hand, was not initially selected to play in the series, but the strong play of the Phoenix Coyotes prospect forced his way in as a late addition. His 12-2-0-1 is the notable statistic, having won 12 games straight to start the year before suffering his first loss. Meanwhile he has a 2.25 goals against average and a .902 save percentage.
Although not normally known for their defensemen, the QMJHL sent three defensemen to the Selection Camp last year and one of them, Marco Scandella played for the silver medal winning team.
The other two, Brandon Gormley and Nicolas Deslauriers are the highlights of Team QMJHL this season and both attended Hockey Canada’s Development camp over the summer. Gormley, an 18-year-old has been a standout for the Moncton Wildcats since his rookie season two years ago. With eight goals and 18 points in 14 games, perhaps the most impressive thing to note about the Phoenix Coyotes prospect is that he is just as solid in his own end as he is offensively.
The smooth skating Deslauriers can also contribute at both ends of the ice. Now playing the Gatineau Olympiques, the Los Angeles Kings prospects might be a long-shot to make Team Canada but he has four goals and 17 points in 17 games this year.
Simon Despres has a solid chance at cracking Team Canada’s line-up after failing to break into the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The former first round draft pick won’t play in the Super Series due to injury, but the Saint John Sea Dog defender has three goals and 13 points in 11 games for the top team in the league. He did participate in the summer Development camp.
Nathan Beaulieu and Xavier Ouellet are both draft eligible players this season and while they might be a couple of years away from challenging for a World Junior roster spot, the experience of playing in the Super Series can only help them and their draft stock. A standout for the Saint John Sea Dogs, Beaulieu’s a strong skating two-way defender who plays a mature game beyond his years and impressed many at the Development camp. Meanwhile, Xavier Ouellet is an offensive blue liner for the Montreal Juniors who is one of the top scoring defensemen in the league.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Charles-Olivier Roussel are both two-way defenders, who have been drafted, by the Buffalo Sabres and the Nashville Predators respectively. Both players also made an appearance at Hockey Canada’s summer camp. A member of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Gauthier-Leduc, at 18, is eligible to compete for a spot next year as well. Meanwhile, Roussel has been only average to start the season with the Montreal Juniors.
Rounding out the group is Ryan Kavanagh, an undrafted 19-year-old from the Rimouski Oceanic who leads all QMJHL defensemen in scoring. Kavanagh will only play in the first game in Saint John. Jean-Philippe Mathieu, an undrafted 19-year-old from the Drummondville Voltigeurs will only play in the second game in front of the home crowd in Drummondville.
All four of the five QMJHL players who attended last season’s Selection Camp ultimately made Team Canada, however all five of them have now moved on to the pro ranks.
Of the players in the Super Series, Sean Couturier is the key name to watch. Not only is he the QMJHL’s best chance for a forward on Team Canada, but the Drummondville Voltigeurs forward is also considered by many to be the top prospect eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. With 14 goals and 33 points in 23 games, Couturier is third in league scoring after winning the scoring title last season. Couturier played in Hockey Canada’s summer camp.
Louis Leblanc also participated in the summer camp and was chosen to attend last season’s Selection Camp, but that was as an NCAA player. Now making the leap to the Montreal Junior in the QMJHL, the Montreal Canadiens prospect will miss the Super Series due to injury. The former first rounder has 12 goals and 26 points in 16 games.
Fellow Montreal Junior teammate Louis-Marc Aubry, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, will also miss the Series due to injury, but the burly two-way forward is a long shot to challenge for the World Junior roster. The same goes for teammate Philippe Lefebvre, a Montreal Canadiens prospect. Showcasing a scoring touch with the Junior, Lefebvre was scheduled to play in just the Saint John game, but might see action in both due to the injuries to other players. Rounding out the Montreal Junior contingent is Trevor Parkes, an undrafted 19-year-old known for his two-way play.
Michael Bournival might be the hottest player entering into the Super Series. In the past eight games, the Colorado Avalanche prospect has eight goals and 16 points for the Shawinigan Cataractes. A hard-working two-way player, Bournival is exactly the kind of player who could surprise.
Couturier isn’t the only draft eligible player on Team QMJHL. Johnathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips are a pair of Saint John Sea Dog players both eligible for next year’s draft. Huberdeau, a big playmaker leads the Sea Dogs in scoring with 14 goals and 28 points in 21 games. The rough and tumble Phillips and his 13 goals and 23 points in the same number of games places him third on the team.
Victoriaville’s Phillip Danault also hopes to hear his name called early at next summer’s draft and after being named an injury replacement for Louis Leblanc, a strong showing at the Super Series can only help his efforts.
Philippe Paradis has already seen his NHL rights move from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Chicago Blackhawks with a stop in Toronto with the Maple Leafs for good measure. In 16 games, the PEI Rocket winger has eight goals and 18 points. Despite being a former first rounder, his chances to break Team Canada’s roster is a definite long shot.
The rest of the forward ranks is a mish-mash of undrafted players who are unlikely to play at the upcoming World Juniors. Moncton Wildcats forward Alex Saulnier is the top scoring of the bunch, with nine goals and 29 points in 22 games.
Victoriaville’s Brandon Hynes has a goal scoring pedigree, already posting 13 so far this season. Chicoutimi’s Guillaume Asselin is a scoring forward, as is Jonathan Lessard of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Rounding out the group is Jonathan Brunelle, a Drummondville Voltigeurs forward who will just play in the second game in Drummondville.
Two QMJHL players will play for Team Russia during the QMJHL portion of the Super Series.
Left winger Stanislav Galiev was selected at the 2010 draft by the Washington Capitals and currently plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs. In 17 games with the Sea Dogs, he has nine goals and 15 points, with four goals coming on the powerplay.
Defenseman Artem Sergeev is a 2011 draft eligible in his first year in North America. Playing for the Val D’Or Foreurs, Sergeev has a goal and nine points in 19 games.