This year could be a very strong one for the Q in terms of 1st round NHL picks, with 7 players already steadily ranked in and around the top 30 players for the draft in Mackinnon, Drouin, Erne, Duclair, Fucale, Carrier and Sorensen.
#1 – Nathan Mackinnon – C – Halifax Mooseheads
Nathan Mackinnon is the consensus #1 player out of the QMJHL heading into the 2013 draft, and could safely be considered as the consensus #1. Mackinnon has long been known by scouts, but was finally given a chance to play with the best juniors in the world this year. Mackinnon responded very well, putting up 78 points in 59 games with the Halifax Mooseheads, being the Mooseheads go to guy offensively. Mackinnon has world-class skating ability, with an excellent first few steps and a powerful stride.
He looks and plays bigger than his 5’11, 180 pound listing and has a very underrated physical game, similar to Alex Ovechkin. Though his defensive game is still being refined, Mackinnon shows a high compete level in both ends and has the rare ability to absolutely take over games, evidenced by his performances against Quebec in December and his home opener in September against Acadie-Bathurst.
The aspects of his game that need developing are his ability to slow down the play and make a proper read with the puck and to avoid turnovers caused by him over handling the puck. Expect Nathan to be picked 1st overall next June barring a regressing season or heavy pressure from his friend Seth Jones.
#2 – Jonathan Drouin – LW – Halifax Mooseheads
Jonathan Drouin certainly had a interesting season in 2011-2012, starting his campaign in Lac St. Louis in an effort to keep his NCAA eligibility. Drouin then joined the Mooseheads around Christmas putting up a respectable 29 points in 33 games then having a monster playoffs putting up 26 points in 17 games and showing a physical edge that seemed to be missing in the regular season. Drouin is a pass first player, who sees and thinks the game very well. He has average skating, but is very slippery and agile with the puck. Drouin looks small on the ice for being the same listed height as Mackinnon but has upped his weight to 190 over the summer training with Gary Roberts. Expect him to step into the spotlight with Mackinnon in their draft year.
#3 – Nick Sorensen – RW – Quebec Remparts
Nick Sorensen is absolutely the wild card of this group, playing only 9 games last season before a season-ending knee injury. Sorensen showed a lot of promise in that small sample size, but his ruptured ACL and LCL left scouts wondering what could have been. There remains many question marks with Sorensen, whose status is somewhat up in the air with the other 2 outstanding Euros likely to end up in Quebec in him, Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Grigorenko.
If Grigorenko returns, one must be dealt within the week, and considering Kucherov and Grigorenkos chemistry it would appear he could be the odd man out. However, Sorensen is likely to have a great season in the Q this year regardless of where he plays. He has a good stride, is quite agile and plays a smart two-way game positionally. Sorensen is a natural finisher with a knack in front of the net, and seems like the type of player that will only rise with a full seasons worth of exposure to scouts. It should be noted that Sorensen has already suffered a minor injury during training camp which hopefully will not be a sign of things to come.
#4 – Adam Erne – LW – Quebec Remparts
Sorensen’s close friend and linemate Adam Erne comes in at #4. Erne is the prototypical powerforward that scouts dream of, bringing size at 6-foot-1 210 pounds, physicality, and a smart two-way game. He also drives the net and can post very solid numbers, putting up 55 points in 64 games for the Remparts. Erne will have to show some more offensive flair this season to stay ahead of names like Fucale and Duclair.
#5 – Zach Fucale – G – Halifax Mooseheads
Zach Fucale was one of the biggest overachievers in the QMJHL last year, not expected to make the Mooseheads let alone start and break the QMJHL record for most wins by a 16 year old. Fucale filled in early in the season when Anthony Terenzio went down with a concussion and ended up having to start the rest of the season. Fucale was steady in nets all year showing strong rebound control and incredible poise for a goaltender his age. Fucale started 58 games last season, going 32-18-6 with a 3.16 GAA and a .892 SV%. The stats don’t quite tell the story with Fucale though, as he is the type of goalie who makes game-changing saves at the perfect time, similar to Martin Brodeur. Fucale’s rookie season will be a tough act to follow, so keep your eyes out for a potential sluggish start from the 17-year-old.
#6 – Anthony Duclair – LW – Quebec Remparts
Anthony Duclair is an electrifying player, plain and simple. Duclair possesses world-class speed for his age and can stickhandle at full speed with exceptional poise. He has a solid shot with a quick release and when paired with the right linemates can make breath-taking give and go plays. The downside in his games lies mostly in his decision-making, which has been questioned by scouts. While playing at such a quick pace, Duclair is quite turnover-prone and doesn’t show the ability to slow things down and read the play offensively. Coming off a season where he posted 31 goals and 35 assists for 66 points in 63 games, Duclair will be expected to address his weaknesses and show a better hockey IQ or you could see him sliding in the rankings.
#7 – William Carrier – LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
William Carrier is the type of player that already plays a pro-style game. He displays a consistent ability to make the right play and has excellent vision in the offensive zone. Carrier already possesses a big frame at 6-foot 200 pounds, and put up 70 points in 66 games last year. He has a powerful stride and is aggressive in the corners. The only question marks for me with Carrier are his agility and his offensive upside, which should have been improved with his extra development year on players above him. These things are certainly fixable and I could see him as high as #3 in my rankings by seasons end.#8 – Anthony Mantha – LW – Val d’Or Foreurs
Anothony Mantha is a big, strong athletic power forward at 6-foot-3 195 pounds, and already possesses a pro frame and NHL level skating. These types of prospects certainly don’t grow on trees, so Mantha will certainly be coveted early at the draft. Mantha put up 51 points last year for the Foreurs and won Bronze with Team Canada at the Under 18′s. After that tournament, Mantha got to play all situations and is likely to play even more this year on a stronger Foreurs squad. He is likely to play top line minutes with Zlobin, so watch for a boom or bust season from Mantha.
#9 – Matt Murphy – D – Val d’Or Foreurs
Matt Murphy is a responsible two-way defenseman who picks his spots offensively. He shows a great understanding of the game and uses his high hockey IQ to play in all situations. Murphy is a good skater who can back-skate with even the fastest forwards on the rush and delivers the occasional open ice hit. Murphys quiet but efficient game will likely endear him to scouts through the year but is not enough to give him first round consideration.
#10 – Nikolas Brouillard – D – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Brouillard is a dynamic offensive defenseman, who is light on his feet and always ready to join the rush offensively. Brouillard turned heads this year when he made the Voltigeurs as a 4th round pick and developed into their clear powerplay quarterback throughout the year. He posted excellent numbers as a rookie, putting up 25 points in 61 games as a diminutive 5-foot-10, 160 pound defenseman. Brouillard has all the skills necessary to become a top 60 pick in next years draft, but being so small he will have to really put on a show to fufill that potential.
Jeremy Gregoire – F, Chicoutimi – Excellent two-way centre who plays like Chris Drury, skating concerns are big enough to keep him out of my top 10.
Martin Reway – F, Gatineau – 17 year old Czech Republic native posted great numbers in home league and has great skating and puck skills, could rocket up my rankings with strong showings to start the season.
Samuel Morin – D, Rimouski – 6’5 defensive defenseman skates very well for his age and size, uses his reach well but possesses little offensive upside.