2019 NHL Draft: QMJHL Sleeper Picks

10 minutes read

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft was a bounce-back yr for the QMJHL. 4 gamers had been chosen within the first spherical, double the outcomes of 2016 and 2017. Filip Zadina was the primary taken from the league at sixth total by the Detroit Crimson Wings. Noah Dobson practically joined him within the prime ten, going to the New York Islanders on the twelfth spot, and Joseph Veleno closed out the primary spherical, additionally touchdown with the Crimson Wings on the 31st choice.

Associated: 2019 NHL Draft: WHL Sleeper Picks

However a regarding development emerged because the draft wore on. Almost each highly-ranked prospect taking part in within the QMJHL noticed their draft inventory slip. Zadina was purported to go top-three, Dobson was purported to be one of many first defensemen to be picked, and Veleno was projected as a top-15 choice.

Joseph Veleno was one of the crucial shocking draft-day fallers in 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That development might proceed in 2019. Solely Raphael Lavoie and Samuel Poulin constantly projected as first-round choices, however hardly ever increased than 20th total. Jacob Pelletier affords an out of doors probability to sneak in, however scouts are cut up on the undersized ahead. This doesn’t imply that the Quebec leagues lack expertise, nevertheless: scouts simply must know the place to search out it.

Jordan Spence

Place: Protection / Group: Moncton Wildcats / Central Scouting Last Rank: 59 (North American Skaters)

As soon as upon a time, the Quebec league was the place to search out top-tier goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, and Roberto Luongo all performed within the QMJHL earlier than becoming a member of the NHL. These days, the development has turned to undersized defensemen. Kris Letang, Francois Beauchemin, and extra lately, Vincent Dunn and Nicholas Beaudin have proven you don’t want dimension to excel. The following title to hitch that listing might be Jordan Spence.

Jordan Spence of the Moncton Wildcats (Daniel St-Louis/Moncton Wildcats)

Solely 5-foot-10, Spence has turn into one of the crucial dynamic defenders within the QMJHL this season. Taking part in for the Moncton Wildcats, he scored six targets whereas including 49 assists in 68 video games, incomes him the Raymond-Lagace Trophy because the league’s prime rookie defenseman, in addition to Rookie of the 12 months honors. Scouts have praised his puck management, imaginative and prescient, and hockey sense, however most of all, they gush over his skating skills.

“Spence is a whole puck-mover two-way defensemen. His skating is just unimaginable. His edge work is superb and his turns are fast and seamless. He simply strikes across the ice so effectively.” Andy Lehoux, Scout for Future Concerns

The Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) has steadily been transferring Spence up their rankings, however he has been held again by his diminutive stature. At solely 165 kilos, he may be pressured off the puck by bigger opponents, which has solid some doubt on his long-term potential. Nevertheless, when put next with QMJHL-grads Letang and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the identical age, it’s Spence who has earned probably the most factors.

The truth is, when put next with newer first-rounders, like Thomas Chabot and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Spence has outscored the too. There’s no actual weak point to his sport, and that is simply his first yr within the QMJHL. If groups can look previous his dimension, they are going to discover a incredible participant with the potential to turn into a top-four, power-play specialist, and chances are high, he’ll nonetheless be out there within the third spherical.

Valentin Nussbaumer

Place: Middle / Group: Shawinigan Cataractes / Central Scouting Last Rank: 72 (North American Skaters)

Early this season, Nussbaumer was projected to be a first-round choose. At simply 17 years previous, he’d already debuted with the highest league in his house nation of Switzerland and performed in each the U18 and U20 tournaments. Taken fourth total within the CHL Import Draft, Nussbaumer appeared primed to take over the QMJHL with the talent-starved Shawinigan Cataractes.

Nevertheless, after 58 video games, Nussbaumer was fifth in workforce scoring with 17 targets and 21 assists. Extra troubling was his minus-49, one of many worst within the league. The Cataractes made the playoffs, however had been out after six video games, and Nussbaumer solely had a purpose and three assists in that stretch. Scouts started to bitter considerably on the Swiss star, and he’s now slated to go someplace within the third spherical of the NHL Draft. Nothing he did particularly stood out.

Nevertheless, Shawinigan solely gained 14 video games in 2018-19, barely squeaking into the playoffs, solely to face the eventual champions, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The workforce was way more talent-starved than anticipated and the arrival of Nussbaumer was unable to alter the workforce’s destiny. Though few of his traits stand out, scouts have praised Nussbaumer’s potential to play in any state of affairs, alongside along with his velocity, imaginative and prescient, and flexibility. He does every part effectively; a jack-of-all-trades sort of participant.

With a number of Swiss gamers rising to prominence within the NHL, Nussbaumer might be one of many subsequent to hitch them. At the moment, he’s projected to fall to the third spherical, which is excellent information for groups searching for a wonderful two-way middle.

Maxim Cajkovic

Place: Proper Wing / Group: Saint John Sea Canines / Central Scouting Last Rank: 91 (North American Skaters)

Like Nussbaumer, Cajkovic got here into the 2018-19 season as a possible first-round choose. Because the number-one choose within the 2018 CHL Import Draft, expectations had been excessive for the proficient Slovakian. He was a pressure on the 2018 U18 event and dominant in Sweden’s U20 Junior league. Cajkovic’s expertise had him as one of many prime CHL prospects to look at in October together with Kirby Dach, Bowen Byram and Arthur Kaliyev .

Nevertheless, identical to his Swiss counterpart, Cajkovic’s first season within the QMJHL was comparatively disappointing. In 60 video games, he scored 22 targets and 24 assists whereas accumulating 40 penalty minutes and a regarding minus-33. Saint John, like Shawinigan, struggled this season, successful solely 13 video games, though Cajkovic’s 46 factors led the workforce whereas his plus/minus was nowhere close to as little as it might have been.

NHL Draft Prospect Maxim Cajkovic. (Dan Culberson/Saint John Sea Canines)

Nonetheless, Cajkovic’s draft inventory fell. Within the CSB’s midterm rankings, he sat 59th amongst North Individuals; by the ultimate rankings, he had plummeted to 91st. On prime of his efficiency, scouts have cited his poor defensive play and lack of maturity. Superior stats have identified his reluctance to shoot from ‘excessive hazard’ areas which have the best scoring percentages.

Associated: Maxim Cajkovic – 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Fortunately for him, although, the season didn’t finish there and he has been slowly regaining floor. On the 2019 U18 event, he was a lone brilliant spot for the relegated Slovakians, scoring seven factors in seven video games. Nonetheless a big gamble, it’s troublesome to disregard the Slovak’s velocity and unimaginable shot from outdoors the defensive field. Cajkovic will nearly definitely find yourself a third-round choice, however simply might be probably the greatest within the spherical.

Justin Bergeron

Place: Protection / Group: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies / Central Scouting Last Rank: 153 (North American Skaters)

Rouyn-Noranda had an unimaginable 2018-19 season. They gained 59 of their 68 video games, shedding only a single extra time sport, and piled up an unimaginable 119 factors. They steamrolled via the playoffs, shedding simply two video games en path to a QMJHL championship, then misplaced yet one more earlier than they claimed the Memorial Cup. A number of gamers stood out with profession seasons, however one of the crucial intriguing is Justin Bergeron.

This season, Bergeron grew to become one of many league’s greatest offensive defensemen. He tied for third in factors amongst QMJHL defensemen with 57, 16 of which had been targets. Within the playoffs, he ascended to a different stage, ending top-ten in postseason scoring with 20 factors in 19 video games. A pair of playoff house video games in April noticed the defender rating 5 assists and report a plus-6 alone, incomes him QMJHL Participant of the Week.

The Quebec defender has above-average skating, is efficient on the ability play, has nice imaginative and prescient and hockey IQ, passes effectively, has NHL-size…but that is Bergeron’s second time on the draft. Eligible by a matter of hours, Bergeron was the youngest participant out there a the 2018 NHL Draft. It wasn’t shocking, subsequently, to see him left off the CSB’s rankings and was undrafted, regardless of ending his first season within the QMJHL third in rookie scoring with 30 factors and averaging two photographs a sport.

Nevertheless, Bergeron was nearly left unranked once more this yr, not making the CSB till the ultimate listing. Positive, there are deficiencies in his defensive sport and physicality, however his on-ice errors are few and much between, and he’s made unimaginable strides between seasons. Groups are typically hesitant to pick overage gamers, however to name Bergeron ‘overage’ appears like a disservice, and he can be a strong choice for a workforce prepared to disregard that title.

Jeremy McKenna

Place: Proper Wing / Group: Moncton Wildcats / Central Scouting Last Rank: not ranked

When a 17-year-old scores over 100 factors, like Alexis Lafreniere, its nearly assured that he’ll be a prime choose in his draft yr. When a 20-year-old scores over 100 factors, although, scouts hardly bat a watch. An overage participant is predicted to dominate towards opponents two to 3 years their junior. Nevertheless, regardless of coming into into his third draft, Jeremy McKenna hopes to persuade NHL groups in any other case.

Moncton Wildcats ahead Jeremy McKenna. (Shawn Davidson/QMJHL)

As a rookie in 2017, on a league-worst Moncton Wildcats workforce, McKenna scored 16 targets and 26 factors whereas practically taking part in all the season. These totals had been fourth on the workforce; after a busy commerce deadline, he was the workforce’s highest scorer. The Wildcats preferred what they noticed within the 5-foot-10 winger and felt he might turn into a key piece of their younger workforce, however scouts had been much less forgiving and regardless of being eligible, McKenna was handed over.

The next yr, McKenna had a breakout season as a sophomore, scoring 36 targets and 77 factors. Moncton took a step forward as effectively, making the playoffs and advancing to the second spherical, largely on the shoulders of McKenna. Of their 12 postseason video games, he scored 11 factors, albeit solely a single purpose. His efficiency landed him 162nd on the CSB coming into the 2018 draft, and scouts liked his pro-level shot. But as soon as once more, he was handed over.

McKenna didn’t let it get to him, although, and 2018-19 has seen the undersized winger take one other step ahead in his growth. His 45 targets had been second within the QMJHL and his 97 factors was among the many top-ten. Regardless of the success, his overage standing – plus his dimension and energy – have as soon as once more left him a long-shot within the 2019 NHL Draft. McKenna might be an ideal choose late within the draft, although, as he has the potential to turn into a mid-line sniper.

Does your choose make the listing? Who do you hope your workforce drafts come draft day? Tell us within the feedback, and keep tuned to The Hockey Writers for extra NHL draft protection.

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