Top 10 NHL draft-eligible QMJHL prospects for 2012

By Kevin Forbes
Photo: Charles Hudon is one of the top-rated draft-eligible forwards in the QMJHL. Through 33 games with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Hudon has 17 goals and 25 assists. (Photo courtesy of Dave Connell/HF)

At the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 22 QMJHL players were selected including five players picked in the first round. Highlights included the Saint John Sea Dogs boasting five draft picks, including four in the first 35 picks. While the 2012 class of QMJHL draft eligibles may not be as top-heavy, there’s still a fair amount of talent coming from the eastern-most CHL league.

This list presents a quick look at some of the top draft eligibles available for the 2012 draft. The "curse" of the 2012 draft with top prospects around the world suffering from injury is in full effect in the QMJHL, with many players missing significant time over the first half of the season. As such, this list could change dramatically before season’s end.

1. Mikhail Grigorenko, C – Quebec Remparts
6’2, 191 pounds. May 16th, 2994

Adjusting well to his first year in North America, Mikhail Grigorenko is de-facto top prospect for the QMJHL this year. In fact, according to some, he may challenge fellow Russian Nail Yakupov for first overall in the draft.

Selected second overall in the CHL Import Draft this summer, Grigorenko immediately stepped into a top line spot with the Quebec Remparts. After tallying an assist in his first regular season game, he was held scoreless for the following two games before embarking on a seven game point streak where he potted nine goals and notched 18 points. Incredibly, those two games at the beginning of the year without a point is the Russian’s longest pointless streak so far this year. After 36 games into the season, he has 25 goals and 58 points on his stat line to lead the Remparts and all rookies in scoring, as well as placing him fourth in the league.

A talented forward at 6’2 and 191 pounds, Grigorenko’s best attribute might be his offensive awareness and vision. He has the ability to slow down the play and find an open player or create an offensive chance where one might normally exist. Though not an overly physical player, he’s not afraid to use his size to his advantage, both protecting the puck and creating room for himself offensively. Playing as a center for Quebec, it’s possible his pro future might see him move to the wing, but no matter where he lines up, his great hands and offensive acumen should be his ticket to a bright future.

Grigorenko will have the opportunity to showcase his talents on the international stage in the coming weeks as the 17-year-old will play for Team Russia at the World Juniors.

2. Martin Frk, RW – Halifax Mooseheads
6’0, 198 pounds. October 5th 1993

After a promising QMJHL debut last season that saw Martin Frk finish fourth in the QMJHL in rookie scoring with 22 goals and 50 points in 62 games, much was expected for the 2011 campaign. When the Mooseheads acquired wunderkind center Nathan MacKinnon during the off-season, those expectations went through the roof as fans and scouts alike pondered the possibilities of the two pairing up on the ice.

Unfortunately, that pairing has only happened twice so far this season. A pre-season concussion delayed Frk’s start to the season until the beginning of December, while a shoulder injury to MacKinnon has had him in and out of the line-up over the past month. In the seven games that Frk has played so far this year, he has a single goal.

As he continues to recover from the concussion and focus on getting his game back, Frk has turned down the opportunity to play for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors. However, due to CHL eligibility rules, he may also miss further games with the Mooseheads while the World Juniors take place.

At his best, Frk is an offensive winger who doesn’t mind the rough stuff and already possesses an NHL-caliber shot. But there is plenty of room for improvement as well, notably with his skating. So far, Frk’s ranking in most scouts’ eyes has held steady, but if he’s able to return and show that he’s taken a step forward developmentally, it can only help him further.

3. Charles Hudon, LW – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
5’8, 165 pounds. June 23rd, 1994

It could be easy to look at Charles Hudon’s game and dismiss him. At 5’10 and 171 lbs, the second-year Sagueneen isn’t the largest player on the ice, nor is he the fastest or overly physical. But that ignores the truth: in the face of any questions about his game, Hudon simply continues to accumulate points at an astonishing rate.

After being named as the QMJHL rookie of the year last year with 23 goals and 60 points in 63 games, Hudon has improved even more in his sophomore effort. In 33 games so far this year, he has 17 goals and 42 points, leading Chicoutimi.

Blessed with great vision and hands, Hudon is equally capable of scoring a goal or setting up a teammate. He has a knack for finding open ice and being in the right place at the right time. More importantly, he could be only scratching the surface of his potential. If he can improve his skating or get stronger, he’ll be even more dangerous on the ice.

4. Raphael Bussieres, LW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar
6’0, 175 pounds. November 5th, 1993

Already playing in his third QMJHL season thanks to a late 1993 birth date, Raphael Bussieres has benefited from the extra development time prior to his draft year. After starting his Q career with the Moncton Wildcats, Bussieres has played the last two and a half years with the Drakkar and is a key contributor for Baie-Comeau.

Listed at 6’1 and 192 lbs, Bussieres plays an all-weather game and shows a willingness to drive to the net. Possessing slick hands and great offensive acumen, his game may have been considered a bit raw as recent as last season, but he’s made strides to put all the pieces together and thus has been a much more dangerous player on the ice.

In 32 games so far this season, Bussieres has scored 15 goals and has 35 points for the Drakkar, placing him third on team in scoring. After tallying 17 goals and 39 points in 66 games last season, he’s well on his way to surpassing his career highs. Finally with talent surrounding him in Baie-Comeau, Bussieres is hitting his stride at exactly the right moment.

5. Francois Tremblay, G – Val D’Or Foreurs
6’2, 201 pounds. August 29th, 1994

After sharing the net minding duties last season as a 16-year-old rookie for Val D’Or, Francois Tremblay has taken over the role full-time this year for the Foreurs. Facing plenty of rubber behind a middling team, Tremblay is proof in motion that the development of a good goaltender is plenty of action.

Attracting the attention of Hockey Canada over the summer, he participated in their goaltending development camp after posting a 5-10-2-2 record in 26 appearances with a .869 save percentage and a 3.91 goals against average. Despite the less than eye-popping statistics, Tremblay’s combination of size and positioning is the crux of what the buzz is about.

At 6’2 and 201 pounds, the Baie-Comeau native covers the net well and his speed and athleticism helps improve his chances even more. So far this season, he’s appeared in 34 games and has posted a 12-17-0-3 record with a 3.63 goals against average, a .881 save percentage and two shutouts. Although the QMJHL may not be producing goaltending talent at the same rate as they were in the 1990s, Tremblay is great indication that the cupboard is far from bare.

6. Denis Kamaev, RW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
5’10, 180 pounds. March 6th, 1994

The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies might possess the second worst record in the QMJHL, but there’s a glimmer of hope behind the woeful record. Their roster is dotted with young talent which bodes well for the Rouyn-Noranda’s future. Denis Kamaev is one of those burgeoning prospects, having joined the team this season as a rookie import player.

At 5’10 and 180 lbs, Kamaev is far from the biggest skater on the ice, nor is he the faster, but he possesses dynamic offensive talents that make him an exciting player. With slick hands and outstanding vision on the ice, Kamaev has produced early and often for the Huskies with 12 goals and 37 points in 40 games.

Perhaps most enticing is the young Russian’s potential. Kamaev will continue to improve as he adjusts to the North American game and added strength will not only make him more effective in traffic, but should also make him quicker on the ice. All things considered, his raw talent and the possibility it holds is hard to ignore.

7. Francis Beauvillier, LW – Rimouski Oceanic
6’0, 165 pounds. October 22nd, 1993

Starting his QMJHL career with the Lewiston MAINEiacs, Francis Beauvillier joined a stable of young talented players in Maine, with promising potential for the future. Last season, the center scored eleven goals and finished with 25 points in 57 games. However, the shuttering of the Lewiston franchise scattered the MAINEiacs roster across the league and Beauvillier landed with the Rimouski Oceanic. So far this season, he has 12 goals and 18 points in 40 games.

A late 1993 birthday with three seasons under his belt, Beauvillier’s scoring stats have improved only modestly over those years, with his points-per-game going from .43 as a rookie, to .44 last season to .46 this year. But he has the skills and potential to be much more. A speedy scoring forward, Beauvillier’s hands and drive makes him dangerous from almost anywhere on the ice, but he needs to continue to get stronger to be more effective.

8. Justin Hache, D – Shawinigan Cataractes
6’1, 184 pounds. January 10th, 1994

Justin Hache’s ticket to the 2012 Memorial Cup is already stamped as a member of the Shawinigan Cataractes, but where he ends up in the NHL draft is up to him. After playing a part-time role for the Cataractes last season, Hache is being counted on to play major minutes this year.

Although he put up six points in his first seven games this season, Hache only has a total of two goals and eleven points in 31 games so far this season. A two-way player, Hache is solid in his own end and makes a good first pass out of the zone. Lining up at 6’1 and 184 lbs, the New Brunswick player is a leader on and off the ice and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty. He sees time in all situations for the Cataractes and the increased exposure that will come from playing in the Memorial Cup can only help his draft stock.

9. Andrew Ryan, LW – Halifax Mooseheads
6’2, 193 pounds. January 15th, 1994

Another player who has suffered through injuries in the first half of the season, Andrew Ryan missed the first two and a half months of the season with a broken ankle. Much was expected from Ryan prior to the season, after being selected as one of the top prospect to play in the NHL’s development camp over the summer alongside teammate Martin Frk.

Not making his season debut until mid-November, Ryan is looking to build substantially off his rookie campaign that saw him tally eleven points in 48 games. A combination of size and skill, Ryan plays a power forward type game and is not afraid to throw his 6-2, 195 pound frame around on the ice. In 15 games played so far, Ryan has four goals and six points, but a more consistent effort as he continues to make up for lost should yield even larger results.

10. Ryan Culkin, D – Quebec Remparts
6’1, 182 pounds. December 25th, 1993

Starting his rookie season in a part-time role for the Quebec Remparts, Ryan Culkin was a regular contributor by season’s end, appearing in all 18 playoff games. This progression can also be seen when comparing this year to his freshman effort.

After tallying six goals and eleven points in 40 games last season and adding another five assists in the post season, Culkin already has 15 points on the season after 38 games, with five goals. Two of the goals come on the power play, where Culkin plays a key role distributing the puck. With solid size at 6’1 and 182 lbs, Culkin is a solid and dependable player at both ends of the ice. The Quebec Remparts are one of the top teams so far this year in the QMJHL and Culkin eats major minutes on the blue line for the club.

Honorable Mentions:

Dillon Fournier, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
6’1, 160 pounds. June 15th 1994

Selected first overall in the 2010 QMJHL Entry Draft, Dillon Fournier should rightfully be higher on the list, but injuries have placed that status in question. Suffering a dislocated shoulder earlier in the month, Fournier has opted to hold off having surgery until after the season is over. Surgery would have meant a six-to-eight week recovery time, but it remains to be seen what level of play the puck-moving blue liner can sustain for the rest of the season.

Brandon Whitney, G – Victoriaville Tigres
6’5 191 pounds. May 11th 1994

At the onset of the 2011 season, the Victoriaville Tigres were tapped to be one of the top teams in the QMJHL with Vancouver Canucks prospect David Honzik capably handling duties between the pipes. But Honzik has faltered and that has opened up the opportunity for rookie Brandon Whitney. A big goaltender at 6’5, Whitney has lost just a single game in regulation this season with 12 wins to his credit. If Honzik continues to struggle, expect the duo to split time for the remainder of the season.

A Second Look:

After being passed over for the NHL draft last season, Sven Andrighetto of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Tomas Hyka of the Gatineau Olympiques opted to come to the QMJHL in an effort to chase their pro hockey dreams. Andrighetto, an 18-year-old Swiss player is currently third in rookie scoring with 22 goals and 45 points in 37 games, but his diminutive size might scare scouts off. Hyka would also benefit from added size and strength but the 18-year-old Czech isn’t slim on talent with 13 goals and 34 points in 30 games, placing him second on his team in scoring.