Today's column will delve into the realms of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for updates on several prospects. I'm not going to focus in too much on the Saint John Sea Dogs outside of Phillips, as I will be covering most of their big names at some point this year.
LW Kirill Kabanov, New York Islanders (Lewiston)
Kirill Kabanov: a name many are familiar with after last year's Entry Draft and the stories surrounding him. As I wrote about last summer, I felt Kabanov was nitpicked for isolated issues that weren't telling of him as a playerincidents like taking his coach's peanuts or being late for a practiceand while you never like to see guy do stupid stuff like that, they aren't exactly issues to set fire alarms over. With that in mind, Islanders fans should be happy to know that signs from Lewiston this year are very positive for Kirill. The numbers aren't the kind you expect from an elite talent, but based on my talks with several people who have watched Lewiston closely, Kirill just doesn't seem to be getting the bounces but is playing at a very high level and Lewiston's poor power play as of late hasn't helped. Also after being dealt from Moncton, the coach used Kabanov initially on the fourth line for a few games as he didn't want to mess with a winning chemistry on his top scoring lines. For a player tabbed as one with intangible issues, he sure hasn't played like it on the ice. Kabanov regularly has been described by others and reinforced in my viewings as "tough", "a battler", and "committed to defense". His frame still doesn't support that style of play, but it has room to fill out. The skating and puck skills are both well above-average and all signs have been positive for Kabanov with all drama-related stuff out the window. He in my opinion remains one of the top five or at least top ten prospects from last year's draft.
LW Michael Bournival, Montreal Canadiens (Shawinigan)
Drafted by Colorado in the 2010 Draft, Michael Bournival was dealt to Montreal this year in the Ryan O'Byrne trade. While Bournival has put up decent counting numbers over the last two QMJHL seasons, he doesn't have much offensive upside and projects as a bottom-six guy at best. He is solid physically around the sideboards and is displays good work ethic. He excels in the cycle game when he can protect the puck and work it around to his teammates. His puck skills are fair, but his skating is the real issue that will hold him back. He's a fringe skater and looks very awkward at times especially when trying to burst up the ice. His even-strength defensive awareness is fine, but his penalty killing could use some work.
C Michael Chaput, Philadelphia Flyers (Lewiston)
Michael Chaput is one of the Flyers' few decent prospects who has developed well a year after being drafted. Chaput's main strength is his puck skills which are solid and flash above-average on occasion. He is a good heads-up passer who moves the puck quickly and can display moments of flash with the puck when going one-on-one with defenders. He sometimes tries to over-do it and makes risky plays that will hurt him at the pro level. His skating is fringe as a whole, although his mechanics bode well for the future if he works on it, and he when he gets going in a straight line it can get to a tick below-average. He works hard on the forecheck, putting pressure on the defenders with an active stick, and shows no fear in going to the net. That work ethic reflects in the defensive zone as well. While he isn't a pure chucker, when he does get a lane in the offensive zone he usually will take the shot. His frame still needs to mature, and he needs his skating to improve to have a shot at the pro game.
LW Phillip Danault, 2011 Draft Eligible (Victoriaville)
One of the rare top draft prospects in the Q not playing on Saint John, Danault has seen his stock slowly rise throughout the year into making a bid to be a top 75 draftee. Danault is a sparkplug type player who moves at a solid pace and can reach an above-average top speed. He likes to engage in the physical areas, and regularly will make beelines for the crease once he senses the play is heading in that direction. His puck skills are solid-average and he will on occasion flash some above-average skill. Despite the fact he plays a physical style, his body still isn't at the point where he can consistently excel at doing that, especially at the next level. He needs to continue producing at his current pace and then some if he wants to keep attention from NHL teams as the skill set has to justify a fringe physical game.
C Zach Phillips, 2011 Draft Eligible (Saint John)
Zach Phillips' impressive production this season has taken him from a prospect who may be a top two round selection to sitting on the edge of the first round. While his production may be high, Phillips' skill set doesn't reflect that of a high-end prospect. His skating is fringe, and while his pushoffs going straight forward are decent, the tool as a whole is underwhelming. Phillips sees the ice pretty well and it's his vision and hockey sense that give him his true value. He senses opportunities well, be it when his team is breaking up the ice or during cycles in the offensive zone. He makes a fair amount of solid passes, and doesn't mind going to the net. He also has pretty good defensive awareness, which helps him contribute in that area despite the poor skating. He still needs to bulk up a lot to make it at the next level and his physical game going to the pros is a big thing to monitor.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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