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Parity Reigns in QMJHL with 2017 President’s Cup in Sight

By Mike Beasley on January 27, 2017

The Charlottetown Islanders boosted their defensive line at the Q's trade deadline by adding Colorado Avalanche draft pick Nicolas Meloche (pictured), Carl Neill and Jean-Sébastien Taillefer. (Darrell Theriault)

Trying to predict who will win this year’s President’s Cup is about as clear as mud.

There’s so much parity at the top of the QMJHL standings that it’s difficult to project which team may take the league championship when it’s decided upon in early May. With approximately 25 games remaining in the regular season, six teams are stepping forward as regulars at the top of the QMJHL standings.

The order changes almost nightly but for the most part, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Shawinigan Cataractes, Saint John Sea Dogs, Blainville Boisbriand Armada, Charlottetown Islanders and Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are likely to be the main players in this spring’s postseason.

Rouyn-Noranda and Shawinigan finished 1 and 2 in the 2015-16 final standings. Both clubs went on to meet in the President’s Cup final, with the Huskies winning the series 4-1 and representing the QMJHL at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

Last year, the Val-d’Or Foreurs, Gatineau Olympiques and Moncton Wildcats were in the equation as contenders. This season, all three clubs are in the bottom tier of the league.

Rouyn-Noranda and Shawinigan have the nucleus of their teams back again and should be a lock to be play into the later rounds of the post season.

The Huskies are quietly going about their business of winning hockey games without any big names and huge stats. They can however boast having the goaltender with the most wins after 42 games. Samuel Harvey led the league with 21 W’s in 33 starts. His 2.45 GAA is fourth best among Q goalies. The club’s leading scorer is Jean-Christophe Beaudin, with 22-36-58 points, followed by another returnee from last year’s championship squad, Antoine Waked (24-29-53pts.).

The Huskies’ strength is at the back end, led by defencemen Jeremy Lauzon and Philippe Myers, who helped Canada win silver at the recent IIHF World Junior Championships.  

The Cataractes are no slouches as well allowing the fewest goals against (109) in the QMJHL after 42 games. Goaltender Mikhail Denisov carries the load for Shawinigan with 33 starts, a 2.43 GAA and 19-13 win-loss record.

Shawinigan D Samuel Girard, who was a late cut from Canada’s World Junior Team, was leading the league in even strength assists with 43 and 22 power play helpers after 42 games.

Up front, there had been rumours that the NHL New York Islanders were contemplating sending F Anthony Beauvillier to Shawinigan to close out the season but it appears not.

The Cats will have to rely on Denis Yan (28-22-50pts) and Girard to lead the charge offensively. Shawinigan score by committee, with six players in double digits.

Saint John looks very strong this season with a solid core of star power starting in net with Alex D’Orio and his league leading 2.31 GAA.

The Sea Dogs were active at the trade deadline and became significantly better when they acquired G Callum Booth, F Julien Gauthier and veteran D Simon Bourque.

Offensively, Mathieu Joseph, Matthew Highmore, Spencer Smallman and Bokondji Imama are having outstanding seasons. In addition, D Thomas Chabot should play a huge role in the Sea Dogs’ postseason after being named the MVP at the 2017 WJC.

Blainville-Boisbriand has been hovering near the top of the Q standings for much of the season. At the trade deadline, they made a huge statement by acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois from Cape Breton. 

The Armada have a great one-two combo in nets featuring Francis Leclerc and Samuel Montembeault. Both netminders are in the Top 4 in GAA and save percentage, which is the main reason the club had given up only 112 goals in 43 games.

Armada head coach Joel Bouchard has his team play with structure and intensity every night. BBA have all the key ingredients for a long playoff run.

Pay attention to the Charlottetown Islanders, they loaded up at the trade deadline with several key pickups. The team has eight NHL draft picks on their roster with several notables including forwards Daniel Sprong (Pittsburgh), Filip Chlapik (Ottawa) and Alex Dostie (Anaheim).

The defence corps was improved greatly with the additions of D Nicolas Meloche (Colorado) and Carl Neill (Vancouver), one of the league’s top scoring rearguards.

Charlottetown also shored up their goaltending situation when they picked up Mark Grametbauer in a trade with the Gatineau Olympiques.

The second year netminder is a solid addition and will give the Islanders a formidable goaltending duo along with Matthew Welsh.

The high scoring Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are another team with President’s Cup possibilities. 

The Screaming Eagles are staying in the pack atop the standings. Their biggest challenge has been keeping pace with the big dogs (Saint John and Charlottetown) in the Maritimes Division.

The Screaming Eagles like to score as indicated by their 180 goals after 46 games. Overage F Giovanni Fiore was the league’s leading goal scorer with 36 tallies in 38 games. Fiore is Cape Breton’s go-to guy on the power play and was clicking at 23.4%.   

There may be a couple of underdogs that could surprise like the Acadie-Bathurst Titans, Chicoutimi Saguenéens or Drummondville Voltigeurs, with head coach Dominique Ducharme at the helm.

But when the dust is settled, the 2016-2017 QMJHL Champion is sure to be crowned in one of the six most probable locations.

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By Mike Beasley| January 27, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior
Keywords:  QMJHL

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