The crop of players eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft from the QMJHL is among the best to come along in several years, and you need not only take the word of scouts and columnists on this fact. One quick glance at the current QMJHL scoring leaders will show that this crop of potential draftees is special, and very talented. But there is also a diverse mix of two-way players, responsible defensemen, and quality goaltenders eligible for this draft. This year’s draft eligible group contains depth at all positions, and could lead to the highest number of draftees the QMJHL has seen in quite some time.
While much, if not all of the early season pre-draft hype relating to the QMJHL draft class has fallen on the shoulders of superstar Rimouski Oceanic forward Sidney Crosby, there are other players that may make teams not feel too badly about missing their chance to snag theCole Harbour, Nova Scotia native.
Here are the top ten 2005-eligible players from the QMJHL, one-third of the way into the 2004-2005 regular season:
1. Sidney Crosby, Forward, Rimouski Oceanic
Height: 5’10, Weight: 175 pounds, DOB: 08/07/1987
On the days he is off his game, he is dominant. On the days he is on his game, he is unstoppable. Mixing a blend of mind-blowing offensive skill with defensive responsibility and a touch of physical presence, there are few in Crosby’s league this season. The 2003-04 QMJHL rookie of the year is the current QMJHL scoring leader by a wide margin over his nearest competition, in spite of the fact that he missed four games in October with a leg injury, suffered on a questionable hit from Philadelphia Flyers prospect Frederik Cabana on October 1st. After returning from his minor injury, the dynamic forward did not miss a beat offensively, and he continues to rack up points seemingly at will. Crosby is unquestionably the class of a deep 2005 draft-eligible list, and thus the chance of him falling from this position in the QMJHL rankings, or the overall rankings for that matter, is slim to none. The best way to appreciate his game is just to sit back, and try to keep your jaw from resting on the floor.
2. Guillaume Latendresse, Forward, Drummondville Voltiguers
Height: 6’2, Weight: 222 pounds, DOB: 05/24/1987
Latendresse missed the first few weeks of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, which hampered his offensive production in the early part of the season. The 17-year-old power forward, selected second overall in the 2003 QMJHL Midget Draft, has been able to put up respectable numbers under the adverse condition of playing for a bottom-tier squad in Drummondville, and like many star players, has been facing some tough checkers each game. Mixing a blend of strong skating and rugged physical play while playing with a large frame, Latendresse has great potential to be a top-flight power forward in the NHL for whichever team selects him. While he may be playing below expectations at this point of the season, he will likely get back on track offensively when he is fully healed from his shoulder problems. His nose for the net is too good and his shot too powerful his numbers to stagnate for too long.
3. Marek Zagrapan, Forward, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Height: 6’1, Weight: 185 pounds, DOB: 12/06/1986
Zagrapan has made an immediate impact in the Sagueneens revitalized lineup, helping lead his team to the best record in the league. Playing on the team’s top line, Zagrapan, the 18th overall selection in the 2004 CHL Import Draft, has worked his way into the top five in league scoring in his first season in the QMJHL. Possessing great speed, excellent stick-handling ability, and a lightning-quick release, the native of the Czech Republic may be the most offensively dynamic player eligible from the QMJHL this season save Crosby. However, his slightness has prevented him from becoming much of a physical presence on the ice, and his physical strength will have to improve somewhat if he is to become a truly dominant player. Still, Zagrapan’s amazing skill set and creativity on the ice are key attributes that will be very difficult to overlook. His dominant play led him to be selected QMJHL Rookie of the Month for October. It will be interesting to see if Zagrapan will be able to keep up his torrid pace throughout the entire QMJHL campaign.
4. Alex Bourret, Forward, Lewiston Maineiacs
Height: 5’10, Weight: 214 pounds, DOB: 10/05/1986
Bourret has really blossomed into a dominant player in the QMJHL this season as an 18-year-old, sitting second overall in QMJHL scoring. Last week, he was named the QMJHL Offensive Player of the Week, racking up ten points in four games. Originally selected by Sherbrooke first overall in 2002, Bourret has exploded after two decent seasons, as he now plays on the top line for Lewiston. Built like a tank, and hitting with the same force, Bourret is among the most physical players in the league, with excellent offensive skill to boot. Loaded with energy and playmaking ability, Bourret has become one of the elite players in the league, perfectly mixing grit with skill, to create one of the most dangerous players on any team. Originally a bit of a project, Bourret has realized more of his potential this season, and is on pace to smash his previous career highs, perhaps by the Christmas break at his current pace. His two-way game is evident as well, as he sits tied for the league lead in plus/minus on a team that is in the middle of the pack in the league standings. One of the grittiest players in the league, Bourret’s in-your-face style of play is perfectly suited for the NHL in its present state.
5. Alexandre Vincent, Goaltender, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Height: 6’4, Weight: 195 pounds, DOB: 12/11/1986
Last season, Alexandre Vincent was the backup to Edmonton Oilers prospect Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, and it was obvious who the starting goaltender was for Chicoutimi. When Drouin-Deslauriers graduated to the pros, the Sagueneens were left with big skates to fill. Vincent has filled them admirably, leading the Sagueneens to the best record in the QMJHL. Playing a similar game as his teammate from last season, Vincent fills the net with his large frame. While he is somewhat inconsistent, when he is on his game, he is one of the most dominant goaltenders in the league. And he has had to be on his game quite often, as the Sagueneens defense is not among the best in the league, and thus he has faced quite a bit of rubber on some nights. He is almost unbeatable low, and also possesses a great glove hand, but still can be beat upstairs. If he can maintain his consistency throughout the season, the Sagueneens will go deep into the playoffs, and Vincent will likely hear his name called early on draft day.
6. Luc Bourdon, Defenseman, Val d’Or Foreurs
Height: 6’2, Weight: 185 pounds, DOB: 02/16/1987
Bourdon has seen a lot of ice for the Foreurs this season, playing in the top pairing for the western Quebec squad. It has been a long season for the Foreurs and Bourdon, but he has played well under adverse conditions. One of several defensemen eligible this year who is an excellent two-way player, Bourdon is a threat at both ends of the rink, adequately mixing defensive responsibility in his own end and offensive creativity when on the attack. Not boasting immense size, Bourdon still plays a physical game, and does a great job keeping the front of the net clear. A good skating, rushing defenseman with a quick release, Bourdon has done well anchoring the Foreurs power play, and currently sits third on the team’s goal leader list with five thus far (he is also tied for fourth in the league among defensemen). There is definitely room for improvement in his all-around game, but Bourdon thus far appears to be among the best of a solid crop of blueliners from the QMJHL, and has great potential for the future.
7. Jean-Philippe Levasseur, Goaltender, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Height: 6’0, Weight: 189 pounds, DOB: 01/15/1987
Levasseur has played very well with the Huskies thus far this season. He has split time with Philippe Roberge, an 18-year-old veteran who was expected to have the starting job this season. Levasseur is not overly large, but covers the net relatively well. Possessing good lateral movement flexibility, as well as great poise between the pipes, the young goaltender has not been a liability for the Huskies this season. He does tend to give up a few rebounds, but remains calm and collected under intense pressure, as shown in a 53-save performance this past weekend. With a solid defense playing in front of him this season, there will be plenty of time for his confidence to improve. If Roberge continues to struggle, the starting job may officially be Levasseur’s very soon.
8. Jean-Philippe Paquet, Defenseman, Shawinigan Cataractes
Height: 6’2, Weight: 207, DOB: 01/07/1987
Paquet has emerged as one of the better two-way defensemen in the league, even though he is only 17. He possesses great defensive responsibility and has been trusted to play against the opposition’s top lines. A good skater who shows great puck movement, intelligent offensive instincts and a powerful shot to go with his strong defensive play, it is quite surprising that Paquet has failed to score a goal in the QMJHL yet. Paquet has a large frame and frequently uses it, which gives him the potential to be a punishing physical defenseman. He will get the opportunity to show his skills on the national stage, as he was selected to the QMJHL squad for the Canada/Russia Challenge series later in November.
9. Viatscheslav Truhno, Forward, Prince Edward Island Rocket
Height: 6’1, Weight: 196 pounds, DOB: 02/22/1987
Truhno has begun to make an impact as of late with a string of impressive performances for the Maritime Division squad, including a couple of multiple goal performances already this season. The Russian-born, Danish-raised Rocket forward has emerged as one of the few scoring threats for a rebuilding Rocket squad. Selected 39th overall in the CHL Import Draft this past year, he has brought a sniper’s mindset and a gritty style of play over the Atlantic with him. Boasting good size and a willingness to get in the mix along the boards and occasionally drop the mitts, Truhno is beginning to round into a potential power-forward of the future. He has also been given an opportunity to play in all situations, which is further helping his development. He is still a bit of a project, but if he continues at his current pace, 30 goals is not out of the question for him, and a selection in the top two or three rounds is possible.
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10. Oscars Bartulis, Defenseman, Moncton Wildcats
Height: 6’1, 180 pounds, DOB: 01/21/1987
Bartulis has been seeing loads of playing time for the second place Wildcats, playing on the top pairing and in all situations. This exposure has given the Latvian plenty of opportunities to adjust to the North American game, which he has done. He has posted modest offensive numbers thus far this season, and has a good, hard shot in his repertoire. Bartulis is solid in his own end, showing excellent lateral movement and positioning, and playing with a bit of a physical presence. He is responsible with the puck, choosing to make the safe pass rather than attempt a high-risk one, is a very solid point man on the power play, and is quite adept at making the effort to keep the puck in the offensive zone. These attributes have made him a useful addition to the Wildcats offense. His offensive numbers should keep on a similar path, given his large amount of and his time on the top power play unit alongside offensive weapons Steve Bernier, Adam Pineault, and the rest of the potent Wildcats offense.
– Baie-Comeau forward Alexandre Picard-Hooper has made a big splash onto radar screens early this season with a quick offensive start. He was named the QMJHL’s Offensive Player of the Week in the first week of November, notching eight points in only three games. He has ten goals thus far this season.
– Cape Breton forward Egor Zharkov decided it would be in his best interests to return to play hockey in Russia, after having a falling out with the Eagles coach Pascal Vincent over a difference in team philosophy and over questions regarding his ice time. Zharkov had only two points in ten games with limited ice time.
– Drummondville forward Kevin Mailhiot, who chose to opt out of the 2004 NHL draft after an injury plagued 2003-04 campaign, has decided to retire from hockey after suffering his seventh concussion. The one-time 25-goal scorer appeared to be en route to a comeback season, notching 10 points in 12 games before his latest injury.
Matt MacInnis and Eric Forest contributed to this article. Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.