The QMJHL houses arguably the best playoff format in hockey. The three division winners are slotted one, two, and three based on their point totals. The remaining thirteen teams are then seeded 3 through sixteen. Teams are reseeded each round with the number one ranked team always facing the lowest ranked team remaining. It may not create the most entertaining first round for a majority of the series, but it does help to ensure the strongest and best teams meet in the later rounds. Many teams added significant players to their roster at the deadline. Aside from the two top teams in points earned, the top half of the standings is tight and any one of seven or eight teams can be argued as a possible league champion. However, there is one team that looks to stand above the rest. Player and team stats are from Prospect-Stats.com, hockeydb.com and QMJHL.com.
ROUYN-NORANDA HUSKIES (1) VS DRUMMONDVILLE VOLTIGEURS (16)
Prediction: Huskies in 4
Rouyn–Noranda Huskies Season Record:
Drummondville Voltigeurs Season Record:
Rouyn-Noranda finished the regular season on a 14 game winning streak, having scored 2.2 more goals per game than Drummondville. The number one ranked team is a league best +508 in shot differential while the lowest ranked playoff team is a -192. Just in case the huge disparity in goals and shots weren’t enough, the Huskies also got the Voltigeurs top scorer mid-season in a trade. There is little for fans to get excited about on the Voltigeurs roster. On the other side the Huskies are a deep team rostering several NHL drafted players. The Huskies are the favorite in the QMJHL this year and are expected by many to represent the league at the memorial cup. Drummondville is looking to rebuild. This will be a warm up series for the Huskies as they continue their winning ways.
Players to Watch:
Francis Perron, Rouyn-Noranda
The seventh round selection of the Ottawa Senators has had a breakout season and earned an NHL entry level contract this season. He posted 107 points during the 2016 season. Perron is a strong skater. He is extremely patient when in possession of the puck, often making the right choice. The Huskies Captain looks to be an absolute steal for the Senators in round seven.
Timo Meier, Rouyn-Noranda
This big Swiss born player was the ninth overall selection in the 2015 draft. He joined the Huskies following a midseason trade from Halifax. His goal production almost doubled once he joined the Huskies. He is a prototypical power forward. He skates well, shoots well, and does a good job of using his size. Meier has a very good chance to play for the Sharks next season.
SHAWINIGIN CATARACTES (2) VS SHEREBROOKE PHOENIX (15)
Prediction: Cataractes in 4
Shawinigan Cataractes Season Record:
Sherbrooke Phoenix Season Record:
Similar to the previous series, this should be a quick four games for the Cataractes. The Cataractes are loaded with offensive talent. It begins at the back end with a 2016 draft prospect to watch in Samuel Girard. NHL prospects are scattered throughout their top two lines. Anthony Beauviller (NYI), Denis Yan (TB), Gabriel Gagne (OTT), and Dmytro Tomashov (TOR) all see significant ice time up front. This is a team that made big additions at the trade deadline, solidifying their stance of this being their year to win. Unfortunately for Phoenix they lack the talent to compete in a seven game series against the East Division Champions. If the underdogs are to prevail they will need to rely on their slight advantage in goaltending. Evan Fitzpatrick is one of the top rated goalies for the 2016 draft. He will need to be the best player by far if Sherbrooke has even a glimmer of hope to win. In a series this one-sided, there are not a lot of advantages. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the one.
Players to Watch:
Samuel Girard, Shawinigan
Girard is a small, smooth skating offensive defenseman who produced a phenomenal 68 assists this season, half of which were primary; third amongst all QMJHL defenders. Everything about his offensive game is positive if not bordering on elite. He really needs to work on his defensive side to become a full time NHL player.
Jeremy Roy, Sherbrooke
The 31st overall selection of the San Jose Sharks in 2015, Jeremy Roy is a complete package. He has above average skating ability and offensive skills. He plays a smart positional game in all three zones. It is difficult to find a weakness in his game. Roy will be an NHL defender sooner than later.
SAINT JOHN SEA DOGS (3) VS ACADIE-BATHURST TITAN (14)
Prediction: Sea Dogs in 5
St. John Sea Dogs Season Record:
Acadie-Bathurst Titan Season Record:
The Saint John Sea Dogs are this years’ sleeping giant, the dark horse, the best value; whatever cliché is available can be applied. Riddled by injuries to their forwards throughout the season, the Sea Dogs look healthy and have been playing great hockey heading into the playoffs. Veteran players are now meeting expectations and the young players like Luke Green and Joe Veleno are emerging. Balanced scoring is the motto in Saint John. Six players scored 20 or more goals. There could have been more if it were not for injuries to some key players. The Titan will need to rely on Reilly Pickard and his .902 save percentage for any chance of success. The Sea Dogs have shown some signs of inconsistency during the season. Do not be surprised if they have one or two poor performances in the series.
Players to Watch:
Thomas Chabot, St. John Sea Dogs
The 2015 first round selection of the Ottawa Senators has been one of the most improved players this season. He eliminated the doubts of many about his two way game, while showing even further growth on his offensive side. Chabot’s best ability is moving the puck up the ice, weather it by passing or carrying the puck up the ice.
Daniil Miromanov, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
The draft eligible import has a big frame and possesses good speed. He has an ability to handle the puck and produce some offence. Miromanov may be a bit of a long shot to get selected, but there are occasional flashes of good potential.
VAL-D’OR FOREURS (4) VS BLAINVILLE-BOISRIAND ARMADA (13)
Prediction: Foreurs in 5
Val-d’Or Foreurs Season Record:
Blainville-Boisriand Season Record:
For the Armada, it was a season where goal scoring was in short supply. Even though the Armada carried a -3 shot differential for the season and a respectable 201 GA, their lack of scoring has them facing the second strongest team in the QMJHL. The Foreurs finished second in points, and in their division, behind Rouyn-Noranda. An injury to top scorer Anthony Richard will leave a hole at the top of the Foreurs line up. Richard is expected back before the second round. His appearance in the first round may be dependent on how the rest of the team is performing. Julien Gauthier has seen his production slide in the final weeks of the regular season. He will need to regain the play that generated buzz for a potential top ten selection in 2016. The Foreurs were the second highest scoring team in the league; the Armada scored the second fewest goals. The Armada will need to fall back on their highly rated penalty killing, and strong defensive play. They will need to continue to stay out of the penalty box; they have the second lowest number of penalty minutes in the league. They will also need to look for a small sample increase on their poor shooting percentage. They will have no choice but to capitalize on power plays and win the special teams battle to have any chance of advancing.
Players to Watch:
Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or
Gauthier has the potential to be a top ten pick in 2016, however more than likely he will be selected somewhere between picks 11-15. When NHL scouts describe what their porotype for a power forward is, look for a description of Julien Gauthier. He is a highly graded skater, with an elite shot. He is able to combine his skating with strong puck skills to separate himself from the opposition; he then protects the puck with his large frame. He drives to the net and wreaks havoc once there.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Val-d’Or
The Philadelphia Flyers decided to select the Foreurs’ forward in the second round of 2014. Aube-Kubel is an intelligent two-way player. He is a very good complimentary player. He has the capability of carrying on-ice duties by himself. Once in the NHL he will be better suited as a teammate’s Robin to their Batman.
GATINEAU OLYMPIQUES (5) VS QUEBEC REMPARTS (12)
Prediction: Olympiques in 4
Gatineau Olympiques Season Record:
Quebec Remparts Season Record:
Despite Gatineau being the fifth seeded team, they may hold the second biggest advantage in the first round. Additions to the forward ranks and the defensive core have solidified their spot on an already deep roster. Gatineau will be hoping that their decision not to acquire a goaltender at the deadline will not backfire. For a team with Memorial Cup aspirations, relying on two rookie goalies carries a level of risk. Benoit Groulx has this team built to make a long playoff run. The Olympiques are big and tough to play against; they are well structured at both ends. They ranked second in shot differential and number one in penalty killing. They were seventh in goals scored despite an average power play and average shooting percentage. They are very strong five versus five and play well defensively — sounds like a recipe for success. They were one of only four teams to not lose more than 3 games in a row this season. The Remparts are in rebuilding mode after reaching the league championship series last season. Most quality players were shipped off to contenders, and their starting goalie, Callum Booth, will not be playing. It has not been pretty for the Remparts in the second half of the 2016 campaign.
Players to Watch:
Vitalii Abramov, Gatineau Olympiques
Abramov is one of the more controversial players eligible for the 2016 entry draft. His small stature makes some scouts worry, but producing an impressive 93 points during his rookie season makes scouts wonder what might be. His high-end skill and playmaking outweigh his lack of physicality. Momentary lapses in decision making raise some concern as well.
Yakov Trenin, Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted in the second round by the Nashville Predators, Trenin is a beast on the ice. He plays an aggressive, angry style. His best placement is in possession down-low creating cycles and applying pressure on the opposition.
MONCTON WILDCATS (6) VS VICTORIAVILLE VOLTIGEURS (11)
Prediction: Wildcats in 6
Moncton Wildcats Season Record:
Victoriaville Tigers Season Record:
A very disappointing second half for Moncton has some people thinking this could be a possible first round upset. There are some numbers that support the favorite. Victoriaville had the second best shooting percentage in the league. Unfortunately their shot differential was a -193. Moncton had 204 more shots than their opponents. Will Moncton’s third worst save percentage be their downfall? Maybe for two games, but ultimately their offensive talent will rule the day.
Players to Watch:
Connor Garland, Moncton Wildcats
For the past two seasons the Arizona Coyotes prospect has led the QMJHL in scoring. It should come as no surprise that a player posing 128 points has one of the finest skill sets to be seen. His speed, agility, and creativity make Garland one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire CHL.
Maxime Comtois, Victoriaville Tigers
Maxime is not yet eligible for the NHL draft; he will have to wait until 2017. Comtois has already shown why he was the third overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft. 26 goals and 60 points over 62 games is a pretty impressive debut for a 16 year old.
CAPE BRETON SCREAMING EAGLES (7) vs. CHICOUTIMI SAUGENEENS (10)
Prediction: Screaming Eagles in 6
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Season Record:
Chicoutimi Saugeneens Season Record:
The Screaming Eagles finished in the top five in goal and shot differential this season, as well as shots against per game. Their record may not indicate their true ability as a team. With one of, if not the most dangerous trio in the QMJHL, Cape Breton has the ability to score a quick goal if needed. The trio of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Maxim Lazarev put up a combined 104 goals this season. They will need every single one of those goals as they carried the league’s fourth worst save percentage and allowed 15 shorthanded goals. The Saugeneens finished with the league’s best save percentage, but were severely outshot all season. Relying on their goalie to bail them out against the Screaming Eagles trio may prove to be a poor strategy.
Players to Watch:
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton
Dubois is generating some talk that he could be selected as one of the first five players in the 2016 draft. There is little to criticize in Dubois’ game. He led the Screaming Eagles in goals, assists, points, and primary points this season. With his size and skill Dubois will be a nice fit for an NHL team, slotting in as their number one centre.
Nicholas Roy, Chicoutimi Saugeneens
Roy was originally the first overall selection in the QMJHL entry draft. He is a big player who is difficult to separate from the puck. He had struggled his first two seasons, but is finally showing signs he can be the player everyone once hoped for. He could turn into a fourth round steal for the Hurricanes.
RIMOUSKI OCEANIC (8) vs. CHARLOTTETOWN ISLANDERS (9)
Prediction: Islanders in 6
Rimouski Oceanic Season Record:
Charlottetown Islanders Season Record:
The Islanders come in winning eight of their past ten games, while the Oceanic were only victorious in four of their final ten. The Islanders started this season off without their best player in Daniel Sprong. Since his return to the team they have been significantly better. Sprong is far and away the most dangerous player in this series; he will need to continue producing in order for the Islanders to advance. Both team’s goaltenders are fairly even. The goal differentials have a minimal separation. If the Oceanic are going to win they will need to stay out of the penalty box. Only five teams were shorthanded more often than the Oceanic. The Islanders ranked third in power play efficiency and the Oceanic were the third best in killing off penalties. This will be the most competitive series of the eight. Both teams have some good players, but there no clear advantage for either team. The Oceanic are a strong defensive team; the Islanders have the offence. The team that can find a second element will be victorious.
Players to Watch:
Daniel Sprong, Charlottetown
Sprong was a second round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015. Surprisingly to most he was able to make the Penguins out of training camp. After his ice time began to diminish he was sent back to the Islanders to ensure his continued development. He is a pure offensive player. His reputation for having little to no interest in defensive play rivals that of Pavel Bure’s from a previous generation. Sprong’s reputation is overstated, as an eighteen year-old does not make an NHL team if there is zero defensive ability.
Filip Chlapik, Charlottetown
Chlapik was a second round pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2015. Chlapik went two spots after his linemate, Sprong. After a decline in production this season while his running mate was in Pittsburgh, one may wonder if the 2014-15 production was a result of playing with an elite player like Sprong. Chlapik has good hands and is a solid passer. His skating needs some improvement if he wants to become a productive NHL player.