The Quebec Midget AAA League
The Midget AAA league in Quebec features players ranging in age from 15-17 years old. Occasionally a player is able to make the jump to the league at 14 years old, but this is a very rare occurrence. As a developmental league, it does not limit the amount of 15 and 16 year old skaters a team can carry, but caps the number of 17 year olds at 5 per team. Generally the QMJHL clubs are focused on the 15 and 16 year olds as prospective Major Junior hockey players. The midget Espoir is another source of talent for teams of The Circuit Couteau, however. Once a player is drafted or too old to play in Midget AAA, players filter into either the QMJHL or LHJAAAQ or other lower tiered leagues in the province.
Rookie forwards to watch:
This year, there is an intriguing pool of prospects for the 2011 QMJHL Draft. Up front, Anthony Duclair of the Lions of Lac St-Louis is a player who is distancing itself from the others thus far in my opinion. He is physically mature, a quick skater, and possesses very good hands in addition being responsible defensively. At the moment, he’s among the top scorers in the league.
His teammate Jonathan Drouin is a center with magic hands and with very creative offensive skills, but he seems to be more of a perimeter player when the game becomes more physical and gritty. He needs to work on his play away from the puck and bringing a consistent effort to every shift.
Jérémy Grégoire of Cantonnier de Magog is a strong foward with a key touch of natural scorer. He has been inconsistent this season, but is still an intriguing player to keep an eye on this season.
Anthony Deluca for his part is very dangerous around the opposite net in spite of his small size. He shoots often which explains his high number of goals since the beginning of the season. One thing he needs to improve on, however, is his attitude and demeanour on the ice.
Vincent Dunn Cholette de l’ Intrépide de Gatineau represents an interesting player for QMJHL clubs to keep an eye on. He is a very physical player, and he has the ability to disturb opponents with big body checks and on ice chirping. Possessing very good hands in tight spaces, he contributes offensively, as he also has a very heavy shot. The calibre of the QJMHL represents the kind of challenge which will force him to elevate his game. He will however have to work his attitude which can put him occasionally in tough situations
Philippe Venne is a player who has the talent to be a contributor, but he hasn’t lived up to some of the expectations he had going into the season. Instead of being a riser, he looks like he’s falling behind the pack at this point and will need a strong second half of the season to rebound.
Maxim Pitre, Guillaume Gauthier and Laurent Dauphin are three other 15 year old players to also keep a close eye on in the coming months.
Young talented defenseman:
Justin Vanier-Guénette of the Vikings de St-Eustache is going to be a defenseman to keep a close eye on this season. He’s got very good poise and offensive instincts, but his defensive game still needs to round out a bit. He’s had some academic issues which have caused him to miss a few games which are something to note as well.
Maxime Gravel of the Collège Esther-Blondin is considered by some as the best available defenseman this season. At 6 feet and 169 pounds, it is a complete defenseman who also is a capable contributor offensively. He will need to continue to improve his foot speed however to find a high level of success in the QMJHL.
Élie Bérubé of College Notre-Dame is a complete defenseman. Reliable defensively, he also contributes in offensive evolving on the powerplay. He also doesn’t shy away from the physical game despite being a 15 year old which is a positive aspect of his game as well.
Jonathan Deschamps of the Estacades de Trois-Rivières, who is old only 14 years old, is not eligible this season, but will be closely monitored for 2012. He is very impressive this season in spite of his young age. He has strong offensive skills and could evolve into a strong powerplay QB.
Nikolas Brouillard of Magog and Samuel Morin of Levis are two other defensemen which I have not personally seen at this point, but players I’ve heard good things about. They’ve been touted as some of the top 15 year old defenders in the league this season.
Philippe Desrosiers of the Gaulois du Collège Antoine-Girouard is my early favourite thus far. He’s a big guy who is quick with his reflexes and also moves well around the crease. He has good net presence and seems to handle traffic well as well.
Philippe Cadorette is the teammate of Desrosiers and they represent the best duo of 15-year-old goalies of the league. Cadorette is a small keeper who has steadily accumulated a slew of victories this season as his speed in goal serves him extremely well. Alexandre Bélanger is a goalie who got a lot of attention this season and will be playing in the 15 year old All-Star Game. He plays goal for the Cantonniers de Magog who are one of the top teams in the league this year.
Zachary Fucale, William Corbeil, Alexandre Michaud, and Julien Larouche are the other goalies who will be worth monitoring this season.
I end with the goalie that impresses me the most this year. Although he is 16 years old, François Brassard dominates all the keepers of the league this season. Having seen him released from Gatineau, he was drafted by the Lions du Lac St-Louis and since this time, he has been tremendous in net.