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A Scout's Life: 'Q' the comeback

Fifteen-year-old pivot Jean-Francois Plante of the Magog Cantonniers in Quebec midget triple-A could be a high pick in the upcoming QMJHL draft.

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Fifteen-year-old pivot Jean-Francois Plante of the Magog Cantonniers in Quebec midget triple-A could be a high pick in the upcoming QMJHL draft.

“I would summarize this year’s draft as no consensus on the first six guys.” – Quebec League chief scout.

The unique QMJHL, famously known for its history of churning out top-tier goalies like Martin Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury and Roberto Luongo, didn’t have the best showing at the 2008 NHL draft.

For the first time in the history of Canada’s most eastern CHL league, not a single ‘Q’ grad was taken in the opening round. But based on the caliber of midget-aged players about to be drafted into the league, don’t expect that course to continue.

“I don’t see it as a trend yet because the crop year is going to be very exciting,” said one scout for a QMJHL team.

With the amount of talent to sift through and select from, there will always be quality players coming from the ‘Q.’ Strangely enough, though, the 2009 QMJHL draft class is light on goalies. Once the circuit’s calling card, there is simply no top-end talent at the goaltending position in this midget draft.

Asked if there were any goalies worth mentioning, one scout hesitantly replied, “Uh, no.”

This year’s QMJHL draft is going to be a tricky proposition for each team’s management. There are some good players available to be sure, but the draft lacks the select few players who have separated themselves from the pack. There are no clear-cut blue-chippers, so if you ask 20 different scouts for draft lists, you’re likely to get 20 completely different lineups.

“If I was (talking to scouts in previous years) and said, ‘Let’s list your top 18 kids’ and got five different scouts, we would hit on 14 or 15 of them, but this year there is no consensus franchise player,” one scout said.

So while the ‘Q’ doesn’t have a Daniel Catenacci as a sure-fire first overall pick like the Ontario League has, here is a rundown of players scouts think could go early in the Q’s May draft. These minor midget-aged players can be found shooting out the lights for their minor hockey teams and on the pages of THN.com’s Thursday feature, ‘Prep Watch.’

Brent Andrews: “He’s a kid who really has all the tools; big power forward, skates well, shoots well, very noticeable on the ice. Probably the one thing that’s still out; he played as a minor midget two years ago as a 14-year-old, but he probably doesn’t have the seasoning he hoped for. The question surrounding the next step of his development is how well he plays with his linemates.”

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Aiden Kelly: “He’s a player out of Saint John, New Brunswick. Out of the players from Atlantic Canada he probably has as good a hockey sense as anyone in the draft. He has good size, but his skating has been an area of discussion and issue. He’s got so much of the offensive instincts, but his skating is an issue. This goes back to that lack of consensus No. 1 – hey, if he could skate you’d have a consensus first round guy. It’ll be interesting to see how teams react to his skating.”

Pierre Durespos: “He’s a defenseman in Moncton and is one of the best quarterback defensemen in the draft. He runs a great power play in Moncton, skates well, shoots well, decent size, he’s not the little guy.”

Jean-Francois Plante: “When you’re trying to separate players in a draft you have to figure out who can pass and who can get to the pass. Plante can do both and is pretty good in the defensive zone for his age, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have to improve there to continue his development. He’s good in the corners and he has a decent skill set to boot.”

The QMJHL, a one-of-a-kind league because of its reach across culture and language from Quebec into the Maritimes, has graduated pools of everything from No. 1 tenders to smooth-skating snipers.

And though last year’s representation on the NHL stage was sub-par, don’t expect the league to go away in terms of graduating NHL talent anytime soon. The ‘Q’ continues to be just as important to the future of the game as the other two Canadian major junior leagues.

A Scout's Life is a weekly look at the world of minor and pro scouting throughout North America. Each week we'll talk to different scouts from all levels of the game, getting a first-hand perspective of the different aspects of talent evaluation.

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