Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MEET THE BLAINVILLE-BOISBRIAND ARMADA


The team's new nick name "Armada" means "force,
cohesion, union, pooling of forces....like a fleet of ships
ranging in combat"

Meet the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the QMJHL's newest team.

Last month the Montreal Juniors franchise sold to new owners who relocated the team from Montreal to Blainville-Boisbriand. The group who purchased the team included Quebecor Media (roughly 70%), plus a mix of past and current NHLers (about 30%); Joel Bouchard, Daniel Briere, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ian Laperriere.

Joel Bouchard was an assistant coach with the franchise during the past two seasons in between his time as an analyst with RDS. The deal was said to be driven by Bouchard who will also act as the team's President and Governor.

The team will play out the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau which is located in Boisbriand, QC. A couple of years ago Bouchard played a significant role in the construction of the building.

The team's jersey will be predominately black and white along with some dim grey trim. The team's logo will feature a large "A", the first letter in the team name, "Armada". The "A" will be accompanied by a small "BB" which is short for......you guessed it, "Blainville-Boisbriand".

Bouchard and company explained the term "Armada" means; force, cohesion, unity, and the pooling of forces....like a fleet of ships entering combat".

The Armada hit the ice as early as this August 19th, playing in their first pre-season game vs. Drummondville.

Blainville Boisbriand will play a total of 6 pre-season games, including 4 games on home ice. Here's a complete list of the team's pre-season schedule:

1) Fri 2011-08-19 Blainville-Boisbriand BLB @ Drummondville DRU 19:30
2) Sat 2011-08-20 Blainville-Boisbriand BLB @ Gatineau GAT 19:00
3) Sun 2011-08-21 Gatineau GAT @ Blainville-Boisbriand BLB CESR Boisbriand 15:00
4) Sat 2011-08-27 Drummondville DRU @ Blainville-Boisbriand BLB CESR Boisbriand 19:00
5) Thu 2011-09-01 Rouyn-Noranda ROU @ Blainville-Boisbriand BLB CESR Boisbriand 19:00
6) Fri 2011-09-02 Val-d'Or VDO @ Blainville-Boisbriand BLB CESR Boisbriand 19:30


Photo Credit: http://www.lhjmq.qc.ca/

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

KIRILL KABANOV SIGNS 3 YEAR ENTRY LEVEL CONTRACT WITH NYI

Kirill Kabanov dominated in the QMJHL
playoffs last season scoring 20 PTS in 15 GP.
Kirill Kabanov is a happy camper. After signing a 3 year entry level contract with the New York Islanders this week he was thrilled and posted the following comments via his Twitter account (@kabanov17):

"Finally....so happy...))  to be part of the Islanders organization"

"Thanks to everyone...)) so excited...))"

"my god. so happy!!!! to be orange and blue and I proud to be part of Islanders organization"

He then went on to attach a picture of his draft day and referred to it as "the best day of my life".

Kabanov was drafted by the New York Islanders in the 3rd round of the 2010 NHL entry draft. For most of the year leading up to that draft he held a top ten position in most draft rankings. But after a rocky year in the headlines Kabanov slipped all the way to number 65 overall. Earlier that year Kabanov left the eventual QMJHL champions in the Moncton Wildcats. He also didn't play with team Russia at the WJHC as expected.

After being traded to the Lewiston MAINEiacs last season Kabanov got his game back on track. During the year he scored 28 points in 37 games. But it was the playoffs where Kabanov really stepped up. He scored 8 goals and added 12 assists for a total of 20 points through 15 games, and played a major part in the Lewiston MAINEiacs upsetting the number 2 ranked Montreal Juniors in round number 2. Lewiston lost to the Saint John Sea Dogs in round 3. The Sea Dogs went on to win the QMJHL title and the Memorial Cup Championship. 

After the playoffs, news broke that the MAINEiacs would fold their franchise and their players would be divided up among the 17 other QMJHL franchises for the follow season. So Kabanov and teammate Jesse Tanguay ended up being selected up by the Montreal Juniors (now to be relocated to Boisbriand, 35 KM north of the city).

In a recent tweet Kabanov wrote, "...probably gonna go to Montreal...))". For the sake of the fans of this franchise, let's hope that happens because Kabanov really would be a joy to watch.

To follow Kirill Kabanov on twitter look up @kabanov17

To follow HockeyPoints on twitter look up @hockeypoints

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RED WINGS DRAFT XAVIER OUELLET IN 2ND ROUND

Ouellet scored 8 goals and added 35 assists for 43 points and 
earned a +27 plus minus rating through 67 games last season.
Xavier Ouellet is one of the newest members of the Detroit Red Wings.

The Montreal Juniors' 17 year old defensemen was selected by Detroit in the second round (48th overall) of the NHL entry draft last weekend in Minnesota.

Picking up Ouellet gives the Wings 3 players who have graduated or currently play in the Montreal Juniors (now Boisbriand) franchise; centerman Louis-Marc Aubry and right winger Trevor Parkes being the other two.

Ouellet is a puck moving defenseman who thrives offensively and is capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. Last season the Juniors often used Ouellet at the top of the powerplay umbrella playing along side Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, defenseman Charles Landry.

Ouellet will need two more years of Junior seasoning for his game to be ready to challenge for a spot at the pro level. Since he's a '93 born kid, he'll play as an 18 year old this year and a 19 year old in 2012-2013. Ouellet will likely challenge for a spot on Canada's 2013 WJHC roster. After his Junior career he'll need at least one season in the AHL to solidify his game and be re-evaluated at the pro level.

Ouellet has a solid work ethic and is stronger than his size may suggests. He's a tough kid too. Not afraid to drop his gloves to defend a teammate Ouellet is often successful at delivering hits to his opponents as they speed down the boards.

Ouellet is projected to be a bottom three defenseman with offensive upside.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

JOEL BOUCHARD TO BUY / RELOCATE MONTREAL JUNIORS

Joel Bouchard and his ownership group are
may be the next owners of the Montreal
Juniors
Much has developed during the past 4 weeks surrounding the Montreal Juniors franchise. There was some news I learned of today which merrit a report. So here it is:

Pending sale and potential relocation of the franchise:

Accoring to an article posted by RDS, Montreal Juniors owner Farrel Miller has sold the franchise to RDS Analyist / Montreal Juniors Assistant Coach / Ex NHL player Joel Bouchard and his ownership group. The deal is reportedly worth $4 million. The deal has not yet been approved by the league's Board of Govenors. Should the deal be approved, the Bouchard group would re-locate the franchise to Boisbriand, QC, approximately a 40 minute drive from the Verdun Auditorium where the Juniors currently play. An effort would be made to relocate as early as the upcoming 2011-2012 season. Miller bought the franchise back in the spring of 2008 for $3 million. There is no indication of if the team would change it's name or what it would be called however I would expect the new ownership group to re-brand.

Kirill Kabanov:

A couple of weeks ago the Lewiston Maineiacs folded and the Montreal Juniors acquired two of their players from the league wide dispersal draft. Centerman Jess Tanguay and flashy right winger Kirill Kabanov, a highly toughted New York Islanders prospect, were acquired by Montreal. I'm excited to watch Kabanov play next year (hopefully out of the Verdun Auditorium). He has top notch talent and was lights out in the playoffs this spring for Lewiston. Kabanov can dazzle like the best of them and will bring great entertainment value to the fans who watch him play, similar to the way players like Angelo Esposito, Luke Adam, Jake Allen and Louis Leblanc have done over the past 3 seasons.

Roster changes:

Even with the acquisition of Kabanov and Tanguay, the Juniors still have plenty of work to do before next season. With so many veteran players moving on (Leblanc, Parkes, Meilleur, Berube, Chouinard, Gouchie, etc...) and others being traded during the draft last week (Rose & Landry), there are many holes to fill. The biggest question will start with who returns as the overagers. One thing is for sure, this team will be loaded with young players who may or may not be ready for QMJHL action.

More news to come.....

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

POST MORTEM (FINALLY)

The Juniors couldn't beat a younger, less experienced club in the
Lewiston MAINEiacs.
Now that you're all done whipping the tears off your cheeks, let's get started and look at why the Montreal Juniors failed so badly in the playoffs this year.
Some critics have said the Juniors were simply out-coached. Others say the team's best players didn't show up to play. There are those who point to the man between the pipes. While others blame injuries, most notably to star left winger Viktor Hertzberg.

I don't blame any area specifically, but I do consider each of the above reasons for why Montreal fell on their faces so hard and so fast.


A lack of (proper) focus:

Let's start at the top. Coaching. Was it completely the fault of coach Pascal Vincent that his troops lost in round two? Of course not. At least not entirely. Earlier this year Vincent was quoted as saying this was the best team (on paper) he had the pleasure of coaching during his entire 12 years of coaching in the QMJHL. And that's probably true. But as Pascal and company learned the hard way, it's about what you have on paper, but what you have on the ice. And Vincent was a big reason why the product on the ice was never as good as the product he had on paper.

So what could Vincent have done better? Well, from my unprofessional armchair quarterback position, I'll say this; the group lacked both focus and motivation.

Why a lack in focus? All season long the team talked about staying focused, focused about their ultimate goal....winning the Memorial Cup. Wait a minute. Did you say winning the Memorial Cup?!?!? Who cares about the Memorial Cup if you can't even win more than 1 series in your own league! You need to win 4 series just to get a ticket to the Mem Cup, remember??? Point is, it's great to aim high, but in this sport sometimes it's better to follow the good old boring cliche and just; "take it one game at a time". Montreal was caught up in so much hype thinking of what was to come "tomorrow" that they forgot about what they needed to achieve "today".

Why the lack in motivation? I can't really answer that question to be honest, but I do note this. There were players on this team who greatly underperformed this year, for example; Philippe Lefebvre and Charles-Olivier Roussel. Are the players to blame for their sub-par performances? Maybe partially. But in my mind, the coach is also to blame. How was Vincent and his team never able to get a handle on these players. Both were veterans in the league and had already enjoyed greater success elsewhere, Roussel in Shawinigan and Lefebvre in Drummondville. But why not Montreal? Bottom line: Vincent wasn't able to get enough out of two of his top players, nor was he able to get the best out of his team. 

Where were the top players?:

At the forward position, it's not like the Juniors didn't have the offense to beat Lewiston. If you look at the offensive numbers for most players, it becomes clear offense was not the problem. Rather, it was the defensive play of the team that lost the series. To give a few examples; Jeremy Gouchie was a minus -5. Trevor Parkes was a minus -4. Louis Marc Aubry was a minus -3. Extremely uncharacteristic of these veteran players to play so poor defensively.

And where was J-F Berube (more on him later)? I hate hinting blame on a goalie, but common! Look at the numbers. A 3.76 goals against average and a .868 save percentage isn't going to help any team win a series.

Goaltending:

Okay. More on Berube. Like I said, I don't like to pick on goalies. But really, much like his peers, Berube was never at his best in this series. But it wasn't so much his numbers that hurt the team. It was more so the timing of certain goals that were surrendered, helping cripple his team in the process. Berube allowed untimely goals in this series that either lost games (in the last minute of play) or that gave Lewiston quick 2 goal leads, earned off quick back to back tallies. Was Berube fighting an injury that hindered his play? We'll never know for sure. But either way, when you only keep your opponent down to 2 goals once in six tries, it's not a good thing.

Injuries:

The Juniors had a few key injuries during the playoffs. None more important that the concussion injury to left winger Viktor Hertzberg. Before the playoffs Hertzberg was playing along side Louis Leblanc and Trevor Parkes. The line was dynamite but unfortunately for Montreal it never saw life in the post-season. Had Hertzberg played he may have been the difference the team needed to win a game or two, which would have changed the series.

The team had a few other injuries. Most notably to rookie forward J-C Laflamme and veteran forward Philippe Fontaine.

Looking back.....

All in all, this team will be remembered as a great team on paper, one that enjoyed a strong regular season but one that could never get it together during the playoffs. It really is too bad. But it is what it is.

Looking forward.....

Get ready for the re-build.

From Langkowi, Malaysia - I'm out!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

MONTREAL JUNIORS KNOCKED OUT

The Montreal Juniors have been knocked out of the QMJHL playoffs much earlier than expected after loosing to the Lewiston MAINEiacs in 6 games. That's right, in a year where expectations were built up so high, it's now game over for the Juniors.
The series against Lewiston will be remembered as a series where the Juniors just couldn't seem to get their game plan working for them. They were out worked, out skated and out scored by a younger and seemingly more motivated group of MAINEiacs.

To give you a sense of how Montreal never really got things going think about this. In all six games, Montreal either lost, or if they won, they had to do so in overtime. Here's a summary of the final scores throughout the series:

Game 1: Montreal wins 6-5 (OT)
Game 2: Lewiston wins 6-2
Game 3: Lewiston wins 2-1
Game 4: Lewiston wins 4-1
Game 5: Montreal wins 5-4 (OT)
Game 6: Lewiston wins 6-3

Lewiston scored 27 goals which averages 4.5 goals scored per game against Montreal. The Juniors meanwhile only averaged 3 goals scored per game for a sum of 18 goals. Not even close.

In my next blog I'll write more about this series and raise questions about what is to come that must be asked heading into the off-season. in the off-season. That post will be my last before I pull an 8 week disappearing act to re-allocate my energies to other areas of my life.....my upcoming wedding.

Until then.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

CAPTAIN CHOUINARD LEADING THE WAY FOR MONTREAL

First off let me start by saying that I feel like a huge slacker these days. Well, not really. In preparation for my fiance's wedding this May, I've been working hard both at the office and during evenings at home with event planning, etc....needless to say, planning this wedding has taken over my life. I'm obviously excited for the big day. But I also can't wait for all the rushing around to be over with! Okay.....back to what matters to my readers. Hockey.

Round 1 is over! The Juniors steam rolled over the Halifax Mooseheads in round #1, winning in four straight games that included two shutouts for goaltender J-F Berube.

Some of the highlights from round one; Louis Leblanc scoring a a goal per game pace (4 goals scored in 4 games played). Jeremy Gouchie's 7 points (2G and 5A) which leads the team in playoff scoring. And how about goaltender J-F Berube? He finished the series with 2 shutouts, a .955 save percentage and a 1.35 GAA.

We can't snub the flashes of excellence we saw from the Halifax side either. Super rookie Martin Frk was a pleasure to watch. He dazzled the Montreal crown with his shifty moves and crafty play. It's amazing to think this kid is only draft eligible in 2012. Should go top-5 or top-10 max. He's definitely one of the best 17 year olds I've ever seen in the Q......imagine the damage he could do if he had real line mates?

My MVP for Montreal in round 1 was team captain Nicolas Chouinard. He was excellent and did everything a team captain needs to do to help his team win hockey games. In game 1 Chouinard led the way offensively, scoring 1 goal and adding 2 assists. He treated every shift like his last, hitting everything that moved. He was named the game's 1st star.
 
Game 2 wasn't much different. Chouinard scored again and added an assist, giving him a total of 5 points through the first two games of the series, making him Montreal's leading point getter at the time. He was named the game's 2nd star.
 
When the series shifted to Halifax for rounds 3 and 4 Chouinard didn't register any points but he still finished the series as the team's 2nd leading scoring. Here are the Juniors top 5 scorers after round 1:

1. Jeremy Gouchie (2G, 5A, 7P, +7)
2. Nicolas Chouinard (2G, 3A, 5P, +4)
3. Louis Leblanc (4G, 0A, 4P, +2)
4. 4 players tied at 4 points (Lefebvre, Parkes, Meilleur, Ouellet)

Next up is Lewiston in round #2. Playoff predictions to be released shortly before puck drop.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

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Friday, March 25, 2011

QMJHL PLATOFFS - ROUND 1 PREDICTIONS (CONT...)

Yesterday HockeyPoints unveiled our prediction for the Montreal (2) / Halifax (15) series. Today we look at the remaining 7 match ups. Not only have we predicted who will win and in how many games, but we've also explained the main reasons why. Let's start with an easy one:

Saint John (1) vs. Cape Breton (16):

Saint John is coming off one of the best seasons of all time by any QMJHL team. Loaded with plenty of depth throughout their entire lineup the Sea Dogs are blessed with skill, speed and grit. Among others, Jonathan Huberdeau has been on fire all season and will surely take his game to another level this spring as he did last year. Sorry to say, Cape Breton doesn't stand a chance.
Prediction: Saint John Sea Dogs win in 4 games.

Montreal (2) vs. Halifax (15):

See yesterday's entry.
Prediction: Montreal wins in 4 games (currently leading series 1-0).

Quebec (3) vs. Val D'or (14):

Don't be surprised if Val D'or give Quebec a bit of trouble but at the end of the day Quebec will come out on top. Patrick Roy won't let his team loose control of the series to the point where they'd face elimination.
Prediction: Quebec wins in 5 games

Drummondville (4) vs. Chicoutimi (13):

Sean Couturier and company will drive the pace of every game in the series. The Voltigeurs play both an intense and consistently discipline style which will guide them to victory. Chicoutimi's only chance of winning the series is if star rookie goaltender Christopher Gibson stands on his head and steals a bunch of games.....4 to be precise.
Prediction: Drummondville wins in 5 games.

Gatineau (5) vs. Rimouski (12):

Maybe the most underrated team heading into the post season, Gatineau is likely to defeat Rimouski without too much trouble. Goaltender Maxime Clermont will shut the door behind perhaps the league's top blueline group. QMJHL regular season scoring leader P-M Devos will lead the team's offensive drive. Rimouski's only chance is to try and win low scoring games.
Prediction: Gatineau wins in 5 games.

Acadie-Bathurst (6) vs. Victoriaville (11):

While Bathurst is the light favorite heading into this series, watch out for the Tigres of Victoriaville as their team is no walk in the park. They can be as explosive as they are implosive (gulp). If VIC are to upset they'll need Pillip Danault to be at his best. The 17 year old draft eligible prospect has been excellent all year and his game is built for the post-season.
Prediction: Acadie-Bathurst wins in 6 games.

Shawinigan (7) vs. P.E.I. (10):

While most analysts will predict Shawinigan to win this series due in large part to their gritty and physical style of play, watch for P.E.I to try and match that intensity. We may see an upset here. Led by gritty winger and 1st round pick Philippe Paradis the Rocket will not go down without a fight.
Prediction: Shawinigan wins in 6 games.

Lewiston (8) vs. Moncton (9):

Alright. Almost every year there's some kind of upset. This series will be our "upset" pick.....even though the Wildcats are not exactly chopped liver. After winning the Presidents Cup last season and still competitive this year, Moncton will prevail under the leadership of coach Flynn and star defenseman Brandon Gormley. The Pheonix Coyotes 1st rounder in 2010 earned over a point per game this season and is excellent in all facets of the game. Also, mark my words.....Lewiston's penalty issues will be their death in the post-season.
Prediction: Moncton wins in 7 games.

Enjoy the action in round #1!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFFS - ROUND #1 PREDICTIONS


17 year old Halifax Mooseheads forward Martin Frk
enjoyed a successful rookie season, finishing the year
with 22 goals and 50 points in 62 games played. Good
enough for 4th place in league wide rookie scoring. 
Today and tomorrow HockeyPoints will release its predictions for which teams will win each series in round #1 of the QMJHL playoffs.

The playoffs kick off tonight with game #1 of the Montreal-Halifax series being played in Montreal. The other series start tomorrow night.

Today we'll start by placing our bets on the Montreal Juniors / Halifax Mooseheads Series:

Montreal is the clear favorite here. Don't make any mistake about that. The Juniors finished the season with 102 points (2nd overall among the QMJHL's 18 teams), which is more than double the 45 points Halifax were able to earn (good enough for 15th overall league-wide).

Offensively, the Juniors have the edge. They scored 263 times this season for an average of  3.86 goals scored per game (4th best in the league). Meanwhile the Mooseheads recorded only 186 goals for an average of 2.73 goals scored per contest (15th best league wide).

Examining the defensive side of the game, the numbers again look to be in Montreal's favor. Montreal allowed only 185 goals against throughout the year for an average of 2.72 goals against per game (ranking 3rd best in the Q). Halifax was scored on 262 times for an average of 3.85 goals against per game (14 best in the Q).

Further, Jean-Francois Berube's goals against average finished the season at 2.60, good enough to rank him 4th best among league goaltenders.

During the season Montreal and Halifax met three times, with Montreal winning each game by scores of 5-3 (in HAL), 5-2 (in MTL) and 2-1 (in MTL).

Overall Outlook:

The Juniors' deep group of veteran player will be too much for the younger Mooseheads players, especially while under the playoff pressure cooker. Even with forwards Viktor Hertzberg and Philippe Fontaine on the IR likely for most of round #1, the Juniors will be too much for Halifax to handle.

Prediction:

Montreal wins in 4 games.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

JUNIORS TO BATTLE THE MOOSEHEADS


Juniors scoring goal vs. the Halifax Moosehead earlier this season.
The Juniors finished the season with a record of 46 wins, 12 losses, 5 overtime losses and 5 shootout losses, earning themselves 102 points in the Q standings which ranked them 1st overall in the Telus West division and 2nd overall throughout the entire QMJHL standings.

This means Montreal will face the 15th overall ranked Halifax Mooseheads in round one of the playoffs. Halifax finished the season with a record of 20-43-2-3, which landed them in 5th place out of six teams in the Maritime division.

The Halifax franchise is both owned and coached by former Montreal Canadiens star Bobby Smith who took over control of the bench earlier this season.

Halifax is one of four QMJHL teams bidding to host the Memorial Cup in 2012 therefore their team is built to peak next year and not this spring. But that doesn't mean this series will be a walk in the park for Montreal...

The Halifax roster is built with loads of young talent, a group of players highlighted by 17 year old super Czech prospect Martin Frk (that’s right – no vowels in his last name) and 16 year old Luca Ciampini, born in Montreal.

The Mooseheads have 2 NHL affiliated players. Konrad Abeltshauser was drafted in the 6th round (164th overall) of the 2010 draft by the San Jose Sharks and Sawyer Hannay who was drafted in the 7th round (205th overall) of the 2010 draft by the Vancouver Canucks. Both players man the blueline for Halifax.

Game #1 of the best-of-seven series starts this Thursday night in Montreal, with the puck dropping at 7:05pm. Here's a complete list of the series schedule:

Game 1: Thursday March 24th @ 7:05pm ET (in MTL)
Game 2: Friday March 25th @ 7:05pm ET (in MTL)
Game 3: Tuesday March 29th @ 6:00pm ET (in HAL)
Game 4: Wednesday March 30th @ 6:00pm ET (in HAL)
Game 5: Friday April 1st @ 6:00pm ET (in HAL)
Game 6: Sunday April 3rd @ 3:05pm ET (in MTL)
Game 7: Tuesday April 5th @ 7:05pm ET (in MTL)

Note that due to travel time considerations, the Juniors would play game 5 in Halifax (if necessary) and games 6 and 7 would be played in Montreal.

Here's a list of the match ups league wide:

Saint John (1) vs. Cape Breton (16)
Montreal (2) vs. Halifax (15)
Quebec (3) vs. Val D'or (14)
Drummondville (4) vs. Chicoutimi (13)
Gatineau (5) vs. Rimouski (12)
Acadie-Bathurst (6) vs. Victoriaville (11)
Shawinigan (7) vs. P.E.I. (10)
Lewiston (8) vs. Moncton (9)

HockeyPoints will be releasing our Round 1 Playoff Predictions later this week. Last year we predicted 7/8 first round winners correctly and 14/15 winners correctly for the entire playoff bracket. Our mistake? You guessed it! Picking the Juniors in the 1st round. They blew a 3-1 series lead to Gatineau before loosing in double OT of game 7. Wish me luck in going 15 / 15 this year.....but I don't think it'll be easy.

Until the next entry.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

HERTZBERG FINDS CHEMISTRY WITH LEBLANC



Left Winger Viktor Hertzberg has
found great chemistry with centerman
Louis Leblanc.
Viktor Hertzberg has been enjoying some serious success ever since his arrival in Montreal.

Hertzberg was acquired in early January on trade deadline day. The Juniors sent Czech born Denis Kindl and a couple of high draft picks to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in exchange for Hertzberg.

Since joining the Juniors Hertzberg has 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 17 games played. That blends well with his +8 plus/minus rating and only 2 penalty minutes.

A left winger, Hertzberg was exactly what the Juniors needed. He was immediately paired up with centerman Louis Leblanc, along with David Rose who lined up on the right wing side. But after the Juniors experienced a 3 game loosing streak, Montreal coach Pascal Vincent decided to change things up and moved Trevor Parkes onto the team’s top line in place of David Rose.

The Hertzberg-Leblanc-Parkes trio has been together for the last 4 games and demonstrated great chemistry. The numbers tell the story on their own:

Hertzberg (4GP, 2G, 3A, 5PTS, +3)
Leblanc (4GP, 1G, 2A, 3PTS, +4)
Parkes (4GP, 4G, 2A, 6PTS, +6)
Totals (4GP, 7G, 7A, 14PTS, +13)

If the line continues its strong offensive output Vincent will likely keep it together for the playoffs which should NHL scouts plenty of opportunities to evaluate Hertzberg for the upcoming NHL entry draft. Playing alongside 2 of Montreal's high profile NHL affiliated players won't hurt either. Leblanc is a 2009 1st round pick of the Montreal Canadiens and Parkes earned himself a 3 year entry level contract with the Detroit Red Wings last summer.

Hertzberg was featured this week on the QMJHL website. In the interview he talks about his experience in the QMJHL, specifically with the Montreal Juniors. You can view the video here: Viktor Hertzberg QMJHL Interview.

Since the team moved to Montreal back in 2008, Hertzberg is the first Swedish born European player to suit up for the franchise.

Speaking of Sweden......

Hertzberg wasn’t the only Swede in the Verdun Auditorium last week. Two of his buddies had flown in from Sweden to support Hertzberg and were easy to notice in the crowd during games against Drummondville, Baie Comeau and Rimouski.

They were hard to miss given the large Swedish flag they were waiving as they repeatedly chanted “let’s go Juniors” and "Hertzberrrrrrrrrrg!!!". Their flag had Hertzberg’s name spelled across the horizontal stripe and his number 27 was stitched along the top and bottom of the flag’s verticle trim.

Both said enjoyed their stay in Montreal. They said they love the city, it's women, and Montreal Juniors hockey. Maybe they’ll come back and visit again next year…..assuming Hertzberg might return as a 20 year old player???

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish (photo of Hertzberg), HockeyPoints (photo of Swedes) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ONTARIO BOYS ADD KEY ELEMENTS TO JUNIORS ROSTER

#2 Matt Provost
Oakville, Ontario
#4 Alex Micallef
Fort Erie, Ontario
#12 Dylan Anderson
Greely, Ontario
#19 Trevor Parkes
Fort Erie, Ontario
Convincing players to play major junior hockey isn't always easy for a number of reasons. In most cases, the young men who opt to play major junior are forced to make a number of life altering decisions.

Are they willing to live away from home with a billet? Are they comfortable focusing on an intense hockey schedule and school studies at the same time? What about moving far away from their family and friends to live in foreign cities such as Baie Comeau, Rouyn Noranda or Cape Breton?

All these questions factor into a players decision. Looking around the league there are some teams that are better equipped to attract players than others. Montreal is one of those cities who have an advantage and the Juniors have demonstrated an ability to attract a number of strong players from Ontario looking for an opportunity to play major junior.

So why has Montreal been so successful in this realm? Well....

If school is near the top of a player's list of priorities, Montreal has plenty to offer at both the Cegep and University levels.

If players want to be close to home, Montreal has that too as its situated very close to the Ontario boarder and has various means of travel with convenient departure schedules.

There's the bilingual factor too. Montrealers are fluent in both French and English making it an easier transition for Ontarioites to move to Montreal compared to, say, Chicoutimi.

On top of it all and compared to other cities in the QMJHL, Montreal is arguably the most desirable in terms of being a nice place to live. Perhaps that's a big factor as well?

Either way, Montreal has done a tremendous job at successfully attracting four quality Ontario born players to their team. Defenseman Matt Provost and right winger Trevor Parkes joined the Juniors during the 2009-2010 season, while both defenseman Alex Micallef and centerman Dylan Anderson entered into the mix this season.

All four players are considered key components of Pascal Vincent's roster. Let's look at each player a little more, where they're from and where they played before the joined the Montreal Juniors this season.

#2 - Defenseman, Matt Provost
Hometown: Oakville, Ontario
Born: 1992, junior age = 18
Size: 6'0", 191 lbs
Stats:
2008-2009: Played for the OJHL's Streetsville Derbys (42GP, 0G, 10A, 10PTS, 43PIMS)
2009-2010: Played for the QMJHL's Montreal Juniors (52GP, 2G, 3A, 5PTS, 40PIMS, +2)
2010-2011: Playing for the QMJHL's Montreal Juniors (57GP, 4G, 9A, 13PTS, 35PIMS, +9)

You might as well call him the Mark Streit or Dustin Byfuglien of the Montreal Juniors. While he doesn't have a Swiss background and he isn't 6 foot 5 inches tall, Provost is a reliable player and capable of playing both defense and forward. In 2008-2009 he played in the Ontario Junior A Hockey League before making the jump to the Juniors roster last season as a 17 year old defenseman. His game provided the Juniors with a steady influence on the blueline and he earned himself regular ice time. This season Provost has had an opportunity to split his ice time between defense and right wing as coach Pascal Vincent continues to struggle with the challenge of managing his lineup because of injuries roster depth. Provost plays a responsible two way game. He is a physical player too. This is demonstrated through his checking capabilities and willingness to drop the mitts to defend his teammates (click here to watch Provost coming to the defense of goaltender J-F Berube after he is run over by Sain John Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau). Offensively Provost has a quick whip to his shot and is known for making crisp passes in transition. Many around the league consider Provost a #3 or #4 type defenseman, but with the Juniors depth "issue", he probably won't see that type of responsibility until next season after the veteran players move on.

#4 - Defenseman, Alex Micallef
Hometown: Fort Erie, Ontario
Born: 1992, junior age = 18
Size: 6'0", 195 lbs
Stats:
2008-2009: Information unavailable
2009-2010: Played for the OJHL's Villanova Knights (38GP, 3G, 29A, 32PTS, 39PIMS)
2010-2011: Playing for  the QMJHL's Montreal Juniors (40GP, 2G, 7A, 9PTS, 34PIMS, +9)

Similar to Provost, Micallef finds himself in a tough position. On the average team in the Q, he'd be considered a #4 defenseman, but with the Juniors deep roster he's constantly fighting to stay in the lineup. Micallef joined the Juniors this season after playing in the Ontario Junior A Hockey League with the Villanova Knights last year when he earned almost a point per game. Not too shabby for a defenseman. Micallef is known to rip low hard shots from just inside the opponents' blueline which is a great asset to have if he ever gets a chance to quarterback the power play. When he eventually gains power play time (probably next season) you will definitely see his numbers improve. While his offensive skills are already very strong, he still needs to work more on his foot speed in his own end to improve his defensive game. Micallef brings an element of toughness to the roster as well. While he isn't as well known for his hitting as much as Provost, he does know how to throw the gloves to the ground. Here's our favorite youtube clip of Micallef, dropping the gloves with one of the league's top brawlers and ex-Montreal Junior defenseman, Dillon Donnelly (click here).

#12 - Centerman, Dylan Anderson
Hometown: Greely, Ontario
Born: 1991, junior age = 19
Size: 6'2", 187 lbs
Stats:
2008-2009: Played for the OHL's Ottawa 67's (51GP, 0G, 4A, 5PTS, 12PIMS, -10)
2009-2010: Played for the OHL's Ottawa 67's (23GP, 0G, 1A, 1PTS, 2PIMS, -6)
2010-2011: Playing for the QMJHL's Montreal Juniors (61GP, 10G, 14A, 24PTS, 18PIMS, +10)

Anderson played the majority of the last two seasons with the OHL's Ottawa 67's before making the jump to the QMJHL for a fresh opportunity. The addition of Anderson to the Juniors roster has been such a positive that it's hard to imagine how things didn't work out for him in Ottawa. Perhaps a regular shift was all Anderson needed to turn the page in Montreal? He has centered the 3rd or 4th line for most of the season and is used as a defensive specialist by coach Pascal Vincent, both on the penalty kill and whenever the Juniors are hard pressed to win a key faceoff in their own zone. In fact, Anderson's faceoff skills are so great that his winning percentage of 56.50% ranks 7th overall in the league amongst players who have taken 500 face-offs or more. Funny enough, two other Juniors have better winning percentages than Anderson. With a face-off winning percentage of 58.79%, Aubry ranks 3rd overall in the league, while at 57.0% Gouchie ranks 5th overall. Offensively, Anderson is effective because he drives the net and looks for rebounds to score goals. Here's a perfect example (watch here - Anderson goal is scored at 2:36 of the video). Down the stretch you can expect to see Anderson continue to fill an important bottom 6 forward role during the team's playoff run.

#19 - Right Winger, Trevor Parkes 
Hometown: Fort Erie, Ontario
Born: 1991, junior age = 19
Size: 6'2", 185 lbs
Stats:
2008-2009: Played for the GOJHL's Fort Erie Meteors (52GP, 23G, 20A, 43PTS, 34PIMS)
2009-2010: Played for the (66GP, 27G, 20A, 47PTS, 34PIMS, +19)
2010-2011: Playing for the (56GP, 29G, 27A, 56PTS, 30PIMS,  +22)

The addition of Trevor Parkes has truly been a remarkable find on the part of Pascal Vincent and his scouting staff. Three years ago Parkes was passed over by OHL scouts because he was considered far too small at that time to play in the provinces' top junior league (he was 5'7" and 155 lbs....3 years later he's 6/2" and 185 lbs). So Parkes found a spot on the roster of his local junior team with Fort Erie in the Greater Ontario Junior B Hockey League. His strong two way game caught the eye of the Juniors and a camp invite followed just prior to the 2009-2010 season. Last year Parkes finished 2nd on the team in goals during the season (27 goals in 66 games played) and 1st on the team in goals in the post-season (6 goals in 7 games played). Then last summer the Detroit Red Wings signed Parkes to a 3 year two-way entry level contract which must have encouraged Parkes to work even harder to prepare for this season. Through 56 games this year Parkes is leading the Juniors in both goals (29) and points (56). Parkes' style of game is loved by the scouts. He uses his big frame well to drive the net and protects the puck well in the process. He has a great set of hands and a quick and accurate shot. He finishes his checks and is a very strong skater both on the fore-check and on the back-check. To see a clip of Parkes in action, check out this youtube clip (watch here) which highlights a hat trick he earned last season against Lewiston.

That's all for now.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

ROUGH WEEKEND FOR THE JUNIORS

Montreal did not have a successful weekend. They lost
against Rouyn Noranda 5-1 and to Val D'Or 3-2. Both
teams rank near the bottom of the Q standings.
The Montreal Juniors didn't exactly experience the most enjoyable weekend. If you haven't already heard, here's what went down during the past three days.

On Friday, RDS' QMJHL guru St├ęphane Leroux released a controversial blog containing his opinion about the management of the Montreal Juniors front office. Leroux's words will without a doubt create a stir around the city and the league but the Juniors can only hope the news generate more followers heading into the Q playoffs. The timing of Leroux's blog is strange considering the Juniors success this season. You'd think he'd wait until the off season to share such a fierce opinion. I'm sure Leroux made these comments with good intentions in an effort to push the Juniors to improve their operations in areas he has identified as weaknesses. But he did so by making some very strong statements. If I was him I'd probably be ducking my head around the Verdun Auditorium during the next few games.

The next piece of bad news came on Saturday during the team's bus drive up to Rouyn Noranda. Somehow the team bus found itself suck in the snow and the players reportedly (again by RDS - see report here) had to push the bus back onto the road. This resulted in the Juniors loosing 25 minutes of travel time. To make matters worse, this event couldn't have occurred at a more inconvenient time. One of Leroux's comments in his blog was about how the Juniors shouldn't be driving so far (Montreal to Rouyn Noranda) on game days in order to help avoid issues such as this.

Finally, on the ice (which is what this blogger really cares about), Montreal had their worst back to back performances of the year. On Saturday they lost to Rouyn Noranda 5-1 and on Sunday they lost to Val D'Or 3-2 in shootouts. To put that in perspective, Rouyn Noranda is the last place team in league standings, ranked 18th, while Val D'Or sits in 14th place. The Juniors still rank 2nd overall in the Q.

In more positive news.....

....Louis Leblanc is heating up at the right time. With only 5 regular season games remaining before the playoffs Leblanc is playing through his best run of the year. In his last 8 games, he has 8 goals and 7 assists. Much of Leblanc's success relates to the chemistry he has developed with his linemates, LW Viktor Hertzberg and RW David Rose, both of whom are also producing big numbers during the past three weeks. Hertzberg has 5 goals and 9 assists during this time, while Rose has 3 goals and 7 assists.

Looking forward to the playoffs.....

....Montreal is on pace to square up against the Halifax Moosehead in the first round. The Q has changed their playoff format this season which now looks like this:

Of the 18 teams in the league, teams ranked 1-16 make the playoffs.

In the first round:
#1 vs. #16
#2 vs. #15
#3 vs. #14
#4 vs. #13
#5 vs. #12
#6 vs. #11
#7 vs. #10
#8 vs. #9  

In the second and third rounds:
The highest ranked winning team from the round prior plays against the lowest ranked winning team from the round prior.

Then in the final, we all know what happens. The last two teams standing battle it out for the Cup.

That's all for now.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

Thursday, February 24, 2011

VIDEO Q&A WITH MONTREAL RW J-C LAFLAMME


17 year old rookie RW J-C Laflamme
has enjoyed his first year in the Q. He
adds energy, speed and skill to the
Montreal Juniors lineup.
Right winger Jean-Christophe Laflamme is a rookie with the Montreal Juniors this season. Born in '93 Laflamme is considered a 17 year old player, making him one of the youngest forwards on the Juniors roster (Marcoux, Ouellet and Clarke being the only other '93 born players on the team).

Laflamme is off to a good start to his Junior career. Because Montreal is a team with lots of depth up front, Laflamme has spent most of his ice time jumping between the 3rd and 4th line this year and has seen virtually no power play time. Despite this limited opportunity Laflamme has recorded 7 goals and 6 assists through 32 games played. He also holds a good plus/minus rating of +5 and has earned 16 penalty minutes to date.

The best way to describe Laflamme in two words is "fast" and "fearless". Laflamme is a speedy winger and isn't afraid to play a physical game. Not one bit. Although he's listed at 5'8" and 170 pounds, he is often seen laying out big hits along the boards and in the open ice.

Actually, another way to describe Laflamme is to compare him to ex-Montreal Juniors winger Matthew Brenton who played in Montreal during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons. His speed, intensity, strong two way game and scoring touch are very similar to the level of Brenton. All that plus he's got that knack for laying out the big hits.....at least a couple times every game. We've noticed this enough to give him a nickname too, which is: "LAFLAMME THE BATTERING RAM"!

We spoke with Laflamme last week in Shawinigan. Unfortunately he was watching that game from the stands because he's recovering from surgery on his foot to repair a laceration to a tendon he suffered 2 weeks ago. Despite the injury J-C was in good spirits and is eager to return to the lineup. Estimated return: 6-8 weeks (appx. April 10th). Enjoy the video:



Filming & Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

VIDEO Q&A WITH MONTREAL CENTERMAN JEREMY GOUCHIE


Jeremy Gouchie is a key piece of the
Montreal Juniors offense this season
Last weekend we caught up with Montreal Juniors centerman Jeremy Gouchie who is one of three 1990 born players on the team's roster this season. Gouchie has been playing in the QMJHL for 4 seasons including 3 in Montreal.

Last year Gouchie led Montreal in scoring with 25 goals and 40 assists for 65 points in 67 games played. And he's producing big numbers yet again this season with 17 goals and 32 assists in 57 games to date, even despite the Juniors having much more depth on board to share the team's offensive responsibilities this time around.

Gouchie has been centering the Juniors 2nd line this year (although on many nights they have been the team's best line), playing between left winger / Montreal Canadiens prospect Philippe Lefebvre, as well as right winger / Detroit Red Wings prospect Trevor Parkes.

But Gouchie is not only counted on for his offensive capabilities. Head coach Pascal Vincent often uses Gouchie on the penalty killing unit when his team is shorthanded. He has also been used to play against the other team's top offensive players. On more than one occasion this season Gouchie's line was paired up against the QMJHL's leading scorer, Philip-Michael Devos.

We asked Gouchie to share his thoughts about the Montreal Juniors season this year, the impact of the new players that were added during the trade period, the leadership in the dressing room, the progress of prospect Xavier Ouellet, the impact of team captain Nicolas Chouinard, and much much more. Enjoy!



Video Work: Ron Lemish

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Monday, February 21, 2011

LOUIS-MARC AUBRY BACK IN LINEUP FOR JUNIORS


Louis-Marc Aubry missed 2 months
of action before returning to the lineup
last Thursday in a 4-3 win over LEW.

Louis-Marc Aubry looks as though he hasn't missed a beat of action. Last Thursday Aubry returned to the lineup after missing 2 months worth of games due to a hand injury.

Back on December 17th Aubry was hit by a shot in the offensive zone. The damage? A hand injury that was bad enough to keep the 6'4" centerman out of the lineup for a 60 day term.

On Friday night Aubry scored the Juniors first goal against the Quebec Remparts. Using his big frame Aubry was able to muscle his way in front of the opposition's net, reach around a Remparts defenseman and backhand a loose puck past Remparts goaltender Louis Dominique.

Coach Pascal Vincent used Aubry to center the team's 3rd line between energetic right winger Nicolas Chouinard and tough guy left winger Raphael Pouliot.

Having Aubry back in the lineup gives the Juniors a huge boost at the center position. He's a big body that not only plays a strong defensive game, but also who can add more production to an already deep offense. In only 25 games this season Aubry has scored 12 goals and 9 assists for 21 points. Further, his strong two way play is reflected in his plus/minus rating of +10.

Aubry's return also gives Montreal a greater presence in the face off circle. He leads the Juniors with an impressive 58.3% face off winning percentage. Look for Vincent to use Aubry and Gouchie (the Juniors other face off specialist) together on the same line when there's a faceoff deep in the Juniors zone late in a game.

Line Combo Update:

With Aubry returning to the lineup this weekend and with Rose and Hertzberg healthy again, the Juniors finally have an injury free team (well, almost.....J-C Laflamme is out for 6 weeks with a laceration to a tendon in his foot). Here are the forward line combinations we saw during the past two games:

1st line: Hertzberg (19), Leblanc (19), Rose (19)
2nd line: Lefebvre (19), Gouchie (20), Parkes (19)
3rd line: Pouliot (19), Aubry (19), Chouinard (20)
4th line: Fontaine (19), Anderson (19), Provost (18)

NOTES: These were the line combinations on Friday. On Saturday, in order to keep everyone involved, both Anderson and Provost were substituted with Michael Clarke (17) and Alex Lemieux (18).

INJURIES: Rookie right winger J-C Laflamme (17) will sit out for the next 6 weeks after suffering a tear to a tendon in his foot.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #1

Today HockeyPoints presents the final entry of a five part series. In this piece we present our choice for who is the best contending team heading into the 2011 QMJHL playoffs.

During the last 4 entries we pick the Drummondville Voltigeurs at #5, the Quebec Remparts at #4, the Gatineau Olympiques at #3 and the Saint John Sea Dogs at #2. Now it's time to unveil our #1 pick:

#1 - The Montreal Juniors:

So I received some hate mail this week from a few of my followers in the maritimes, specifically the Saint John Sea Dogs region. picking the Montreal Juniors #1 was difficult to do for a number of reasons. Not only are they the team I follow most, but they also trail Saint John in both the QMJHL overall standings and the CHL Top 10 rankings....needless to say, my selection doesn't look so good. So why did I choose Montreal over Saint John? Let me tell explain.

Much of the decision cam down to one major factor; maturity. My opinion is that Montreal have more of it than Saint John. So what is maturity? Age and experience.

When you look down the Juniors roster you'll notice it’s filled with a lot of talented players, many of who are 19 years old and older. For the most part, it's these players who will be counted on most when the going gets tough. The Juniors are deep with these players throughout their roster.

Up front they’ve got Gouchie and Chouinard who are 20 years old. In terms of 19 year old they have Lefebvre, Parkes, Aubry, Fontaine, Rose, Anderson, Hertzberg and Leblanc. On defense Meilleur rounds out the Juniors group of 20 years olds, while Roussel, Landry and Beauchemin are each 19 years old. Between the pipes J-F Berube is another veteran with 19 years of age. That totals 15 players who are 19 years old or more….and many of those players are the core players who will be counted on by the Juniors.

Conversely, when you look at many of the players who make up part of the Sea Dogs core you notice many are under the age of 19. Top scorer Jonathan Huberdeau is only a '93 born 17 year old. Second leading scorer Zach Philips is 18 years old, as are Stanislav Galiev, Tomas Jurco and Nathan Beaulieu.

I see this as a major differentiator that may not be noticed over the course of a long regular season but will be proved in the post-season.

So if Montreal is a better team, why are they behind Saint John in the QMJHL’s overall standings? Here’s my two part answer to that question:

1) Injuries – Montreal has had bad luck this season in terms of being able to stay healthy. Aubry has only played 22 games to date. Leblanc, Rose, Hertzberg, Lefebvre, Fontaine and Landry are others who missed a fair share of games throughout the season. Just the other day rookie forward Jean-Christophe Laflamme suffered a laceration to a tendon in his foot. So as you can see, the Juniors should have bought season tickets to the CLSC this year because the injury bug seems to be flying around!

If the Juniors didn’t have these injuries I think it’s fair to say they’d be a few points higher in the standings.

2) Division Rivals – You don’t have to do a lot of research to realize Montreal plays in a more competitive division than that of Saint John. This matters because the league schedule is weighted in such a manner where teams play inter-division rivals more often than non-division opponents. The Juniors schedule includes more games against the likes of Gatineau, Shawinigan and Drummondville. Three very strong teams. Whereas the Sea Dogs biggest competition is who? Acadie Bathurst? Probably. Moncton, Cape Breton, Halifax and PEI don’t present serious threats.

This too has an impact on the standings. What if Montreal and Saint John switched divisions? Would Saint John still be far atop the standings? I’m not so sure.

Montreal has all the tools they need for a successful championship run. Up front and down the middle the Juniors are strong with Leblanc, Gouchie, Aubry and Anderson filling up the four centerman positions.

Hertzberg and Rose, Parkes and Lefebvre, and Chouinard and Pouliot fill up the winger positions on three of the four lines. Fontaine, Laflamme, Clarke and Lemieux rotate in and out of the lineup to fill the winger positions on the team’s fourth line. Matt Provost, normally a defenseman, has also seen time at forward this season. He forechecks well and is effective at screening the goalie.

On the back end, the Juniors will look to Meilleur, Roussel, and Landry to lead the way in the playoffs and eat up lots of ice time. Ouellet continues to evolve into a strong top four defenseman for the Juniors, while Narbonne, Provost, Beauchemin and Micallef provide sufficient depth.

Charles-Olivier Roussel remains a huge X factor. He’s played better and better as the season has evolved but I still think there's more room for improvement for his game. If Roussel can play his “A” game the Juniors will be in top shape on the blueline.

In goal JF Berube should carry most of the load unless he suffers and injury or needs a slight rest. He started the the season a bit rusty but has been on top of his game in the new year.

Overall outlook:
 
Montreal's roster is complete with every component a QMJHL team needs to win the Preseidents Cup. On paper they're the most complete team in the league, both from a talent point of view and from a maturity point of view. The question which remains to be answered is whether or not the Juniors can bring it all together when it counts most. The team will need to be healthy, somthing they haven't had much luck with this year. JF Berube may need to steal a couple of games if the rest of the team ever has an off night.
 
There's one month remaining until the playoffs begin. Get ready to watch some of the best hockey of the year! 
 
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #2

Today at HockeyPoints we continue our five part series which looks the top contenders heading into the QMJHL playoffs. So far we've chosen the Drummondville Voltigeurs at #5, the Quebec Remparts at #4 and the Gatineau Olympiques at #3. Next up is the a very controversial pick at #2:

#2 - The Saint John Sea Dogs:

Oh boy, am I ever going to hear about this one. At #2 (and not #1) we're ranking the Saint John Sea Dogs. I can already sense the hate mail that will appear in my inbox. To make it easier for you, here's my email address! Or, feel free to vent your disagreement on the HockeyPoints forum. I've started a topic on the forum called QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - Top 5. Please chime if you're interested!

So yes, I've ranked the Sea Dogs as the 2nd best team in the Q heading into the playoffs. Not the 1st best, I know, I know. How could I you ask? Well, even though they're currently the top team in the QMJHL standings......and even though they're the #1 ranked team in the CHL....and even though they went to the Cup final last year......and will probably earn a spot in the Q final again this year....and next....I still decided to rank them 2nd!

So who's #1 you ask? We've picked the Montreal Juniors and tomorrow's post will be all about that. Call me a "homer" if you must but I'm not. I have my reasons and will get to explain those evenutually. I just have a feeling that in a seven game series Montreal would drown the Sea Dogs.

Anyway, back to the Saint John. They have a phenomenal roster and it's built for a long playoff run.

Starting with the forwards, Saint John is stacked. And you don't need to look too far down the league's list of scoring leaders to see why. Draft eligible forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Philips both rank among the league's top 5 scorers. Huberdeau, a 17 year old centerman, has 80 points through 51 games while Philips has 75 points through 51 games. Both players have dominated the Q all season long and are expected to be selected during the first round of this summer's NHL entry draft.

Both wingers, the Sea Dogs Euro players rank up there with the best in the business.

Stanislav Galiev, an 18 year old left winger and a 3rd round draft pick in 2010 of the Washington Capitals, has 47 points through 48 games. Galiev uses a longer stick than most players and has that Alex Semin type whip in his shot. When he's on, he's on and is a true game changer.

Then there's Tomas Jurco. Also a '92 born player Jurco has a late birthday and is therefore playing in his draft season this year. Jurco is another Sea Dog who has an opportunity to go in the first round of the 2011 draft however his play has slowed and he will likely drop to the second round pick as a result of his slowed play. A right winger, Jurco has 45 points in 44 games this year and is a threat each and every game.

20 year old centerman Michael Kirkpatrick and 19 year old left winger Steven Anthony round out the team's top 6 forwards and bring leadership to the table. Kirkpatrick has 64 points through 49 games played, while Anthony has 48 points in 46 games.

The list of bottom six forwards is filled with excellent role players ranging from centerman Stephen MacAulay to rough and tough guy / team captain Mike Thomas. Alex Beaureguard, Ryan Tesink, Scott Oke and Danick Gauthier round out a few other notables.

On the back end Saint John is led by two horses. Simon Despres and Eric Gelinas.

Despres is enjoying a terrific season, his fourth in the league. He represented Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships last month and has earned a point per game in the Q with 32 points in 32 games. Despres is a big kid at 6'4" and 225lbs and is arguably the best defensemen in the Q when considering his complete game. Despres is a 1st round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins and almost made the team out of training camp this year.

Gelinas was Saint John's big acquisition during the trade period this year. He was struggling with Chicoutimi although he seems to have regained his sound game with the Sea Dogs. This is evidenced by his plus/minus rating which is +18 in only 13 games with the Sea Dogs. At 6'4" and 201lbs Gelinas too brings a lethal combination of size, grit and skill. Through 48 games played he has 33 points. Gelinas is a 2nd round pick of the New Jersey Devils.

Nathan Beaulieu ranks as the Dogs' 3rd best defender but may have the best upside of them all. Like so many of his teammates, Beaulieu is highly touted for the upcoming NHL entry draft and may even go in the top 10. Beaulieu is a strong skater and confident with the puck. He has 38 points in 51 games played and is counted on in all situations.

Goaltenders Jacob DeSerres and Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault will guard the net for Saint John. Both goalies have NHL camp related experience having each been drafted. DeSerres by the Philadelphia Flyers and Corbeil-Theriault by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Overall outlook:

The Sea Dogs could win the QMJHL championship. I really believe that. However, everyone knows their team is built to peak in 2012 and I just don't see them matching the Montreal Juniors maturity level in order to pull through in the clutch. They're strong in all areas of their roster and very well coached. Can the young stars (Huberdeau, Philips, Jurco and Beaulieu)step up to the plate and deliver to play above expectations? If they do, they'll win. If they don't, you can bet they'll be back to win in 2012!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #3

Last week HockeyPoints released the start of a five part series which looks at who we believe are the top 5 Presidents Cup contenders heading into the QMJHL playoffs. The Drummondville Voltigeurs fit into the #5 slot and we plugged the Quebec Remparts into the #4 position. Here's our pick for #3:

#3 - The Gatineau Olympiques:

With Mr. Benoit Groulx at the helm the Olympiques may be the best coached team in the league. Since his return to Gatineau the Olympiques have flourished. They've enjoyed their success this season despite their captain Hubert Labrie (who also may be their MVP) suffering a long term injury which sidelined him for the entire season thus far. For those of you who don't remember Labrie, he's the one who scored the flukey playoff ending goal last year against the Juniors in double OT of game #7. So heart breaking!

Defense is a major strength for Gatineau. In goal they have a top 5 goalie in the league with Maxime Clermont. The New Jersey Devils draft pick has a 2.61 goals against average and a .897 save percentage through 40 games this year. He has been known to step up in big games when needed most and does well when facing a lot of shots.

On the back end, Hubert Labrie is a fierce competitor and a superb shut down defenseman. He hits well and plays an ultra tough game. He can step up offensively as well. Last year in the playoffs Labrie scored 7 points in 11 games through two rounds. The Dallas Stars draft pick is expected to be back in time for the playoffs. If he is, that'll be a huge boost.

After that Gatineau has Nicolas Deslauriers who may be the top performing defenseman in the league this season. He's missed about 20 games but has scored an impressive 33 points in 34 games this year. With Deslaurier and Labrie the Olympiques are equipped to match up against anyone.

Gatineau's 3rd best defenseman is Adam Janosik, an 18 year old Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd round 2010 draft pick. Janosik plays a strong all around game and has a quick/strong release from the point. He's often seen paired with Deslauriers on the powerplay and remains a scoring threat at all times. Janosik has 26 points in 45 games this year.

Mathieu Gagnon rounds out the team's top four defensemen. He's enjoying a strong season for an 18 year old with 27 points earned through 52 games played.

Up front Gatineau have a well rounded group of forward with a nice mix of size, skill, speed and intensity.

At the trade deadline Gatineau acquired the league's leading scorer in Philip-Michael Devos. He leads the league with 87 points through 53 games played. He's a fantastic play maker and strangely he seems religious about playing the Tomas Holmstrom position (in front of the net) on the power play. If Gatineau are to be successful in the post-season Devos will need to be in top shape because when he's good, he's very good and can dictate the pace of a hockey game.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is another scoring threat. The draft eligible center man has been putting up big numbers all year. He sits 2nd on the team's list of point getters with 62 points in 53 games played. Despite his small frame, Pageau does well shifting through traffic and fools opponents with his slick stick handeling moves and a quick right handed release.

Winger Tye McGinn ranks 3rd in team scoring with 56 points in 39 games played. But the 6'4" winger brings more to the table than his scoring ability. He ranks 1st on the team with a +27 plus/minus rating (no other player can even boast a +20 rating) and plays a very well rounded game. He hits and fights too, bringing a mixed bag of tricks to the Olympiques attack.

Overall outlook:

The Olympiques will need to play a strong, team oriented, defense first game in order to stop their opponents while capitalizing on their offensive opportunities if they want to go far. Their focus, discipline and intensity levels are made for the post season. Consider Gatineau a final four team, hands down!

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #4

Yesterday we introduced our five part series about who HockeyPoints believes are the top 5 Presidents Cup contenders heading into the QMJHL playoffs. We ranked the Drummondville Voltigeurs at #5 and are now our pick at #4:

#4 - The Quebec Remparts:

Patrick Roy's squad plays with a usual intensity. The leadership group consists of 20 year olds Jonathan Audry-Marchessault who leads the team in scoring (73Pts in 51GP), Joel Champagne who's currently 2nd in team scoring (64Pts in 51GP) and smooth skating defenseman Alex Wall who ranks 3rd among defensemen scoring league wide (37Pts in 47GP).

After that the Remparts have speedy left winger Ryan Bourque (47Pts in 35GP) who is always a threat. Couple him with slick European born left winger Tomas Filippi (46Pts in 46GP) and the Remparts have two of the most dynamic wingers in the league. For those of you who haven't seen Filippi play this season, he truly is a treat to watch. As an 18 year old junior aged player he is very capable of taking over a game and can be electric to watch when he up his game.

In terms of gritty players who can have a strong impact in the playoffs, the Remparts have that too. Roy's younger son, Frederick Roy, plays on the edge game in and game out. He's a constant distraction for most opponents and throws them off their game......but he also draws many penalties as a result. Roy contributes offensively as well. He has 43Pts in 48GP this season. Matt Brown is another player who can play against other teams' top lines and adds an underrated physical presence to the Remparts lineup.

On defense Mikael Tam, Vincent Bernard and Martin Lefebvre round out the rest of Quebec's top four defensemen. Along with Alex Wall, the four combine for a +99 plus/minus rating.

Overall outlook:

Ultimately the Remparts success will depend on how far their competitive side will carry them. Roy is an emotional coach and this can both help or hinder his team depending on the situation. He'll need to push the right buttons at the right time for his team to be successful in the post-season.

Next up we'll unveil our 3rd ranked team.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #5

We're almost a full month past the QMJHL trade deadline therefore the final rosters are set for the playoff season. Over the course of this week, HockeyPoints will take a look at the league's top 5 playoff contenders and how they stack up against each other in preparation for a playoff run. We start today with number #5.

#5 - The Drummondville Voltigeurs:

With top prospect Sean Couturier leading the way anything is possible. The Volts are lead by Couturier who has 24 goals and 71 points in 41 games played this season. Most importantly he carries a +36 plus/minus rating and therefore has a dominant impact at both ends of the ice. If Drummondville are to upset any of the higher ranked teams Couturier would be a major reason for that.

Third year captain Marc-Olivier Vachon is still contributing offensively with 17 goals and 41 points in 48 games played this year. The experience gained by Vachon during the 2009 Presidents Cup and Memorial Cup runs make him invaluable to Drummondville. This captain will need to be at his best.

Right winger Ondrej Palat rides shotgun to Couturier on the team's #1 line and has 32 goals and 72 points in 44 games this season. He's been getting hotter and hotter all season long and his offensive production is very impressive. Evidence of this is clear as he scored points in 30 of his last 32 games played.  With Couturier, Palat ranks among the league's top 5 point getters.

Wingers Jonathan Brunelle (15G and 45Pts in 51GP) and Pier-Antione Dion (18G and 30Pts in 51GP) provide the Volts with energy and depth scoring from the wing position. Both play with an intense style of game that will be most valued during the playoff grind.

On defense Drummondville looks to Jean-Philippe Mathieu to spark their offense. He's enjoying a fine season with respectable while producing 10 goals and 33 points in 51 games played.

Overall outlook:

The Voltigeurs playoff success will rely on their ability to play a structured, hard working game. They must play disciplined and stay out of the penalty box. When playing 5 on 5 they're able to compete with the best teams in the league. The Guy Boucher influence still runs strong in the veins of this team and it'll need to be pumping at full tilt come March if Drummondville wishes to raise the Presidents Cup in 2011.

Tomorrow we'll unveil the #4 ranked team.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

QMJHL - RELOCATION RUMORS

This chart maps out where all 18 QMJHL franchises are currently located. The map was made after the 2007-2008 season and includes statistics on each city's total population and average attendance.
Rumors are swirling around the QMJHL regarding the future of 3 franchises potentially leaving their current cities. The teams in question are the Acadie Bathurst Titan, the Lewiston MAINEiacs and the P.E.I. Rocket.

Last week RDS reported the rumour about the PEI Rocket and a relocation to Sherbrooke, QC. Both Serge Savard SR. and JR have since denied the ownership group have any intention to relocate the team and stated their priority is to remain in Charlottetown, PEI. They're currently working with the city in order to renew the arena lease. The only obstacle I see in the team moving to Sherbrooke is the city's already dedicated fan base to the LNAH's Saint-Francois de Sherbrooke. But I'm sure with the right marketing group involved this challenge could be overcome.

The word "relocation" is nothing new for the Lewiston Maniacs who submitted their proposal to relocate to Boisbriand, QC, back in January of 2009. Because Boisbriand is located within the Montreal Juniors' territorial region, the Juniors were able to block the proposal. This time around, the rumour is Lewiston would relocate to Summerside, P.E.I.. If this were to happen, the P.E.I Rocket would almost surely be on the move because the Savards have already said they don't believe the province is prepared to support 2 QMJHL franchises. A huge downside of Lewiston packing their bags would be a loss of the American fan base. Those who follow the QMJHL and the MAINEiacs are die-hard hockey fans however it's been tough for the ownership group to grow this fan base even through extensive marketing exercises because of the harm that's been done over the past few years with their "we're leaving" and "we're staying" mixed messages.

The third, and most likely team to move is the Acadie Bathurst Titan. Attendance is miserable and there isn't much of a population to draw from to begin with. The city most likely to be on the receiving end of a move is St. John's, NFLD. That's right, St. John's. The same city that sold a franchise to Montreal only 3 year short years ago. So why go back to the rock? Well, the prospective ownership group has apparently come to terms with the city on a more affordable arrangement which would allow the team to be profitable this time around. The Mile One Center is a class A+ hockey arena and is a perfect rink for major junior tean. The only obstacle here remains travel costs and finding a solution for this would need to be part of the re-structured partnership between the owners, city and the league. I love the city of St. John's and the province of Newfoundland therefore I hope this rumor comes true.

As of now, all three teams have denied their intentions to pack up and leave their current markets. We'll follow the news on this and hope to know more in early February.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

XAVIER OUELLET AND ALEX LEMIEUX RANKED BY CENTRAL SCOUTING

Central Scouting's mid-season rankings has Xavier Ouellet
(#16) as the 39the best North American skater.
NHL Central Scouting released their mid-season rankings last week and 2 Montreal Juniors appeared on the list.

Defenseman Xavier Ouellet was ranked # 39 among North American skaters and right winger Alex Lemieux was ranked # 201.

Ouellet's high rank comes at no surprise. In only his second season with the Juniors Ouellet has exploded offensively with 5 goals, 27 assists for 32 points in 44 games. Although he's only 17 years old and Montreal's youngest defenseman, Ouellet usually plays on the team's 2nd defenseman pairing with 19 year old Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Charles Landry. The two have shared time on the power play this season as well. Ouellet currently sits 6th overall among defenseman point getters. And he's the only '93 born defenseman among the top 40 top scoring d-men.

Ouellet is participating at this week's CHL top prospect's game and skills competition in Toronto. He was assigned to team Bobby Orr therefore we can expect him to return even better than before!

Although Ouellet is ranked 39th among North American skaters, once the European skaters are considered, plus the goalies from both sides of the pond, we should expect Ouellet's overall ranking to land somewhere in the 50s or 60s. Compute that thinking into a 30 team draft and that means Ouellet will likely be drafted either towards the end of the second round or the start of the 3rd.

Could that change? Absolutely. If the Juniors win the QMJHL playoffs and compete in the Memorial Cup, you can bet his stock will go up. That's the added benefit of playing with a championship team. You're viewed as a player that can be a key piece to the championship puzzle.

Lemieux is ranked 201st among NA skaters. That's a tricky place to be. He'll need to pick up his game during the tail end of the season and the playoffs if he wants to be noticed more by the scouts. Again, if you consider the Europeans and goaltenders Lemieux's raking is probably closer to 250th overall. As a young depth forward on strong team, a deep playoff run may help Lemieux even more so than Ouellet.

Lemieux was acquired by the Juniors after having a "falling out" with his previous team, the Halifax Mooseheads. Lemieux started the season on a hot streak and scored 10 points in his first 13 games played. But in his next 26 games, including 5 with Montreal, he's only scored 1 point.

But lemieux brings a valuable element to the table....physical play. Although he's not the biggest player on the team, it sure doesn't show. I've only seen him play a handful of games in the Juniors uniform but I can tell you this; the guy doesn't back down from nobody. He hits everything that moves and is willing to drop the gloves with players who tower over him in height. If there was an NHL comparable I would compare him to Darcy Tucker.

From a league perspective it looks like a strong year for the Q. Six QMJHLers were ranked ahead of Ouellet and were all listed in the top 30 North American skaters list:

#2 Sean Couturier (Drummondville)
#4 Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John)
#9 Nathan Beaulieau (Saint John)
#12 Zack Philipps (Saint John)
#23 Philip Danault (Victoriaville)
#24 Thomas Jurco (Saint John)

The top ranked North American goalie from the QMJHL was Christopher Gibson (Chicoutimi) at #2 overall.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

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