MacKinnon, Drouin head good crop of QMJHL prospects for NHL Draft

By Kevin Forbes

Nick Sorensen - Quebec Remparts

Photo: Quebec Remparts forward Nick Sorensen just returned to his QMJHL club after competing for silver medalist Sweden at the 2013 World Junior Championship (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The plight of a junior hockey franchise is normally cyclic, with a core group of players starting out, maturing together and competing before eventually graduating from the league.

Strangely enough, the production of NHL first round draft picks from the QMJHL has risen and fallen in a similar fashion to the fortunes of a junior hockey team. Since 2007, the QMJHL has consistently had a poor showing of players selected in one draft year followed up with a particularly strong year. The most recent example would be in the 2011 NHL Draft, where there were five first rounders selected out of the QMJHL, but just a single player drafted in the top 30 last summer.

Continuing with this trend, the 2013 NHL Draft figures to be a bumper year for QMJHL draft-eligibles with this crop of players perhaps being the strongest yet.

There is thought to be at least eight different QMJHL players in the mix to be drafted in the first round, which represents one of the strongest showings out of the league in recent memory. Leading the charge is a pair of Halifax Mooseheads in Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. MacKinnon, the first overall selection in the QMJHL Entry Draft in 2011, has long been considered to be the top prospect of this draft class, but recently his line mate Drouin, who was drafted into the league immediately after him in 2011, has also entered into the conversation of the top players eligible for this year's draft.

This list presents a quick look at some of the top draft eligibles available for the 2013 NHL Draft.

William Carrier, LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
6'1, 198 pounds. December 20th, 1994

Unlike his fellow draft eligibles playing for teams like Halifax and Quebec, William Carrier doesn't have a strong supporting cast to play alongside him and support his bid to be a first round draft choice next summer. Playing for the basement-dwelling Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Carrier instead benefits from seeing plenty of ice time in every situation and playing a leadership role on a young team. Already in his third year in the QMJHL, Carrier plays a well-rounded game and is no slouch offensively. With 16 goals and 42 points in 34 games, he's well on his way to eclipsing last year's total of 70 points. Carrier will compete at the Top Prospects Game as a member of Team Cherry.

Jonathan Drouin, LW – Halifax Mooseheads
5'11, 176 pounds. March 27th, 1995

While MacKinnon has been dealing with the pressure of being the front-runner all season long, his linemate Jonathan Drouin has benefited from the presence of that spotlight shining on the Halifax Mooseheads. Perhaps no other player has improved his stock as significantly as Drouin this season, to the point where it is hard to believe that a little over a year ago, the talented winger was playing Midget AAA in Quebec. Drafted second to only MacKinnon in the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft, Drouin also joined MacKinnon on Team Canada at the World Juniors and opened plenty of eyes with his talents. A wizard with the puck, Drouin has the hands and on-ice vision to make plays that others can only dream about. Despite missing some time this season due to injury, Drouin is one of the most prolific scorers in the league with 19 goals and 48 points in just 24 games. Drouin will also join MacKinnon on Team Cherry at the Top Prospects Game.

Anthony Duclair, LW – Quebec Remparts
5'11, 182 pounds. August 26th, 1995

Out of any player on this list, Anthony Duclair might be the one player poised to make the most noise and jump up the rankings in the second half. Playing for a stacked team in Quebec with a number of other NHL prospects and draft eligible players, Duclair's second season in the QMJHL was hampered early by an ankle injury, quite a blow for a player who relies on his speed to be effective. Returning to the Remparts lineup in early November, Duclair has worked hard to build on a strong rookie season. In 27 games so far this season, he has 15 goals and 35 points. Now healthy, he's poised to have a big second half and a strong showing at the Top Prospects Game as a member of Team Orr will certainly improve his draft stock.

Adam Erne, RW – Quebec Remparts
6'1, 198 pounds. April 20th, 1995

The Mooseheads aren't the only team making headlines in the QMJHL when it comes to the NHL Draft. The Quebec Remparts have their own trio of draft eligible talents who could hear their names called in next summer's first round. Leading the charge is American power forward Adam Erne. A Connecticut native, Erne can run over a player just as easily as he can make a nice move and create an offensive chance. Already well on his way to surpassing last year's rookie totals of 55 points in 64 games, Erne's 20 goals and 53 points in 40 games has him leading the Remparts in scoring, edging Mikhail Grigorenko, the first round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres last summer. Erne will also be attending the Top Prospects Game, and in his case, he'll be playing for Team Orr.

Zachary Fucale, G – Halifax Mooseheads
6'1, 176 pounds. May 28th, 1995

When it comes to young goaltenders, one of the main things that scouts watch for is poise in the net and controlled movement. Zach Fucale has both of those attributes in spades. Handed the starting duties by necessity early in his rookie season last year after Halifax's starter went down with an injury, Fucale's steadiness between the pipes showed a maturity beyond his 16 years of age. This calm demeanor on the ice has continued in his sophomore year as Fucale has led the Mooseheads to the top of the CHL. In 32 appearances this year,