QMJHL: Season preview

By Ryan Milley

West Division

West Division


Gatineau Olympiques


The former Hull Olympiques are coming off a championship
season. The team is returning a big part of their championship core in 2002-03
leading scorer Maxime Talbot and second leading scorer Jean-Michel Daoust.
Czech rookie Petr Pohl will be counted on to make up a lot of the offense lost
when star winger Mathieu Brunelle signed with Philadelphia. The defense has
taken a big hit with the graduation of Tyler Reid from the Q as well as the
sudden death of defenseman Jeff Smith. Returning defensemen Martin Vagner,
Dominic D’Amour, and Doug O’Brien will be counted on to log a lot of minutes
once again and sophomore David Tremblay will have to prove himself as a
legitimate No. 1 QMJHL goaltender.


Prediction: 1st overall, West Division. 3rd overall, QMJHL.


Shawinigan Catarctes


Shawinigan had a great second half of the season
and playoffs after trading away No. 1 goaltender Olivier Michaud and all star
defenseman Jean-Francois David. Pascal Pelletier, the 10th highest
scorer in the 2002-03 season was acquired over the summer and joins a solid
forward group that includes the Cataractes top 2002-03 scorers Benoit Mondou,
Jimmy Cuddihy, and Mathieu Gravel. Jonathan Jolette was acquired to anchor the
young defense core that includes promising rookie Jean-Philippe Paquet and
sophomores Justin Vienneau and Nicolas Desillets. In goal, Canadian U18
netminder Julien Ellis will be counted on to carry the bulk of the load this


Prediction: 2nd overall, West Division. 5th overall, QMJHL.



Val d’Or Foreurs


The Foreurs were swept from the playoffs in four straight
games by the eventual league champions from Hull in the QMJHL’s semi finals
last season. Val d’Or will be counting on returning forwards Shawn Collymore,
Jonathan Charette, and Artem Kozitsyn to lead the offense. 2003 European pick Alexander Kozhevnikov is an impact forward but may play the
season in the AHL. The defense is anchored by 20-year-old Mathieu Dumas and is
young and promising with big things expected in the future from the third
overall pick in the QMJHL Midget draft Luc Bourdon. In goal, Maxime Daigneault
returns for his fourth season in the Q and should be out to prove that he can
be consistent and lead his team over 72 games.


Prediction: 3rd overall, West Division. 7th overall, QMJHL.



Drummondville Voltigeurs


Drummondville had a terrible 2002-03 season finishing with
the second worst record in the QMJHL and missing the playoffs, however some new
players have been brought in to improve the team. Louis-Philipe Martin and
Martin Slovak were acquired from Baie-Comeau and Cape Breton respectively to
improve the offense. Pierre Morvan and Guillame Berube were brought in to prove
experience up front and second overall Midget draft pick Guillame Latendresse
comes in to the Q with very big expectations and winger Kevin Mailhot will be
counted on to improve on his 25 goal rookie season. On the blueline Samuel
Gibbons and Michel Charette were brought in to help bring along the younger
players such as Andre Joanisse and Jules Melanson. In goal, returning starter
Sylvain Michaud will be pushed by 19-year-old Latvian rookie Ervin Mustukovs
for the No. 1 spot.


Prediction: 4th overall, West Division. 8th overall, QMJHL.


Rouyn-Noranda Huskies


The Huskies had a decent 2002-03 season and had an early
exit losing in four straight to Hull in Round 1 of the playoffs. Up front, the
team will need returning forwards Guilio Scandella, Alexandre Bolduc, and Brent
Aubin will be counted on to lead an inexperienced forward group. Overager
Michael Couch will be counted on to lead youngsters Jean-Claude Milot and
Louis-Simon Allaire on the blueline. Overage goaltender Mathieu Poitras returns
to play along with sophomore Philipe Roberge.


Prediction: 5th overall, West Division. 10th overall, QMJHL.


Victoriaville Tigres


The Tigres had a solid season in 2002-03 tying for first in
their division but their season was ended by a stunning sweep at the hands of
the Shawinigan Cataractes in the first round of the playoffs. Up front, there
is not a lot of depth after the top line of Guillame Fournier, Simon St.Pierre
and Josef Fojtik. The blueline could be improved if Jesse Lane decides to play
in the Q this season however Mario Scalzo will probably end up carrying a weak
defense group in front of returning goaltender Daniel Manzato who had a hot and
cold 2002-03 season.


Prediction: 5th overall, West Division. 13th overall, QMJHL.



East Division


Chicoutimi Sagueneens


2002-03 was intended to be a big year for Chicoutimi. But
the Minnesota Wild had other plans and decided to keep Q superstar Pierre-Marc
Bouchard in the NHL leaving a hole to big to fill in Chicoutimi’s lineup.
However, with a large returning cast this season Chicoutimi is expected to be
among the league’s best. Forward Simon Courcelles comes over from Lewiston to
join an experienced group including returnees Yvan Busque, Francis Lemieux, Yan
Gaudette and Mathieu Melanson. On the blueline Nicolas Marcotte and Rosario
Ruggeri will be counted on to log a lot of minutes. In goal, Jeff
Drouin-Deslauriers returns for his third Q season.


1stoverall, East Division. 4th overall, QMJHL.



Rimouski Oceanic


Rimouski was the worst team in the CHL last season. Rimouski
traded away practically all of their veteran talent early last year in order to
go after the No. 1 overall pick in the QMJHL draft, and they succeeded. After a
few discussions Rimouski convinced superstar prospect Sidney Crosby to play in
the QMJHL. Crosby will join a solid forward group including Marc-Antoine
Pouliot, Dany Roussin, Danny Stewart, Danick Jasmin-Riel and Zbynek Hrdel. The
defense will get an injection of talent from the first overall pick in the CHL
Euro draft Michel Sersen and Jean-Michel Bolduc acquired from Quebec to go
along with talented returnees Patrick Coulombe and Philipe Lauze. Guillame
Lavallee was acquired from Halifax to provide experience in goal.


Prediction: 2nd overall, East Division. 6th overall, QMJHL.



Lewiston Maineiacs


The former Sherbrooke Castors become the Q’s second ever
American-based franchise with hopes of lasting longer than the three months the
Plattsburgh Pioneers did before folding. Lewiston will count on returnees Alex
Bourret and Vladislav Balaz to step up and provide some offense as well as
overagers Remi Bergeron and Gabriel Balasescu to provide some experience for
the youngsters. On the blueline, Richard Stehlik and Francis Trudel will lead a
solid group. Matt Davis was acquired from Moncton to become the No. 1 man
between the pipes and will finally get a chance to prove himself as a legit No.
1 puckstopper in the QMJHL.


Prediction:  3rd
overall, East Division. 11th overall, QMJHL.



Quebec Remparts


Quebec is in a rebuilding mode after hosting the 2003 Memorial Cup.
Owner Patrick Roy has taken a large role with the team after retiring from the
NHL and made himself General Manager. Roy has brought many American players
into camp hoping they can provide a spark to his young club. Up front, Quebec
is led by overager Robert Pearce and returning impact scorer Josh Hennessy and
Europeans Vladmiris Kutny and Vaclav Fiser and big things are expected from
rookies Simon Courcelles, Stephane Goulet and Alexandre Imbeault. The defense
core is very young, Evan Shaw and Christian Brideau will be counted on to lead
rookies Joey Ryan, Andrew Andricopoulos, and Nathan Welton. Jean-Michel
Filiatrault will hope to have a solid sophmore season in goal after a great
rookie season.

Prediction: 4th overall, East Division. 15th overall, QMJHL.


Baie-Comeau Drakkar

The Drakkar went all out in 2002-03 to try and get to the Memorial Cup,
however their run was ended in the league semi-finals at the hands of the
Halifax Mooseheads. Up front, overager Robin Leblanc and Jean-Francois Jacques
are counted on to lead a young and inexperienced group that includes Midget
scoring star Alexandre Blais and Europeans Michael Lukac and Martin Krayzel. On
the blueline, the Drakkar are hoping defenseman Maxime Fortunus will return to
the QMJHL this season so they can trade him to help speed up the rebuilding
process. Overager Luis Tremblay will be counted on to provide experience for
youngsters such as Patrick Simard and Maxime Belanger. In goal, youngsters
Julien Walsh and Loic Lacasse will have to provide amazing goaltending for this
team to do anything this season.


Prediction: 5th overall, East Division. 16th overall, QMJHL.


Maritime Division

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

Cape Breton finished the 2002-03 season with the third worst record in
the league and were gone from the playoffs after a four game sweep by the
Halifax Mooseheads. But the 2003-04 season promises to be very difference.
Thanks to trades made during the 2002-03 season, Cape Breton was able to
acquired many impact players at the Midget draft. Up front, returning top two
scorers Steve Dixon and Kevin Asselin are joined by star forwards
Francois-Pierre Guenette, Jean-Francois Cyr, Marc-Andre Bernier, Michael
Tessier and Karl Fournier. On the blueline Swiss defenseman Tim Ramholt joins a
cast including Alexandre Picard who was acquired from Halifax as well as
returnees Gregory Hoffe and 17-year-olds Jean-Claude Sawyer and Vincent Zaore.
In goal Cape Breton hopes all star goaltender and the NHL’s No. 1 overall draft
pick Marc-Andre Fleury returns from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and if not Martin
Houle will be given the chance to be the No. 1 goaltender.

Prediction: 1st overall Maritime Division, 1st overall QMJHL.

Moncton Wildcats

Moncton had a great 2002-03 season finishing fifth overall and is
returning most of their core with a few new additions. Up front, the best power
forward in the Q Steve Bernier is joined by Karl Gagne and Europeans Konstantin
Zakharov and Martin Karsums as well as 20-year-old Mathieu Betournay their
third and fourth lines are also strong. On the blueline, James Sanford will
carry the offense while Nathan Saunders, Mathieu Wathier and Thierry Douville
provide strong defensive play and toughness. In goal, Corey Crawford is one of
the best in the league, but needs to prove he can raise his game to a higher
level in the playoffs.

Prediction: 2nd overall Maritime Division, 2nd overall QMJHL.

Prince Edward Island Rocket

Charlottetown PEI will be the new home to the former Montreal Rocket.
The forward group is solid with Montreal Canadien draft picks Cory Urquhart,
Maxime Lapierre, Michel Lambert and Jimmy Bonneau counted on to lead the group.
Veterans Pierre-Andre Bureau, Fabiel Laniel and European Jonathan Persson also
should be strong players for the Rocket. On the blueline the team will rely on
20-year-olds Brent Maclellan, Steve Pelletier and Tyler Noye to help bring
along the youngsters, Island native Jeff MacAuley will be a player to watch
this season as well. In goal 16-year-old rookie Ryan Mior will share the load
with Sebastien Nolet.

Prediction: 3rd overall Maritime Division, 9th overall QMJHL.

Acadie-Bathurst Titan

The Titan are rebuilding after a couple of great seasons. The forward
group will be led by returnees Patrice Bergeron and Thomas Beauregard and
rookies Mathieu Roy, Marc-Andre Cote, Jordan Clendenning as well as the Q’s top
fighter Jonathan Tremblay. The blueline will rely on Bruno Gervais to have
another great season, while youngsters such as Mathieu Carle, Juraj Leska, and
Jonathan Yergeau develop. In goal, the defending CHL top goalie Adam Russo has
decided to play in the Q as a 20-year-old.

Prediction: 4th overall Maritime Division, 12th overall QMJHL.

Halifax Mooseheads

Because of trades made in 2002-03 to allow the team to go on its most
successful playoff run ever, Halifax has lost a lot of talent. Up front,
returnees Petr Vrana, Fredrick Cabana and 20-year-old Derrick Kent will be
counted on to lead the way. Top draft pick Kenzie Sheppard and European pick
Jan Steber also come in with a lot of hype. The blueline returns 20-year-olds
Steve Villeneuve, Randy Upshall and Bobby Clarke as well as 18-year-old Jimmy
Sharrow. In goal, Jonathan Boutin will have to come up with many huge nights to
try and get this team into the playoffs.

Prediction: 5th overall Maritime Division, 14th overall QMJHL.

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