Fri. Jan 22nd, 2021

photo courtesy of NHL.com

By Loïc Rainville

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After a successful bubble in Québec City, the QMJHL will be on a break until January, due to the virus situation. As for today, it is unknown how the league will proceed with the return. The most likely solution might be the reappearance of multiple bubbles throughout the Québec and the Maritimes in late January. For more information, here’s an article about the matter: QMJHL Commissioner unveils plan for 2nd half of season.

After two months of activity, most of the players were able to play at least ten games. Even if the season is still young, it is now much easier to have a legit understanding of these prospects’ games. So as for this November top-10 ranking, players will be divided into three categories:

A grade: 1st round

B grade: 2nd round

C grade: 3rd/4th round

Only one prospect got an “A grade”. The last time just one player from the QMJHL went in the 1st round was in 2014, with Nikolaj Ehlers. It is still pretty early in the season so I’m being careful with giving a top grade. I believe that at least one player will be promoted throughout the year. 

On the other hand, six players were given the “B grade”. They are all prospects that show great abilities, but not enough to be considered a sure first rounder. And as for the “C” prospects, three players were ranked this grade.

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1 – Zachary Bolduc: C / 6’1  / 175lbs – A

The Océanic player is still on top and without any true contender. He has the potential to end up as a top-15 selection in the 2021 Draft. Not a single weakness in his game; he can shoot, pass, skate, hit and play defensively, all that at a high level. He continues to play hard every shift despite a low production. Unfortunately, after seven games played, he is currently sidelined due to an injury. 

Viewings this season: 7

** The players between 2nd and 4th are all easily interchangeable and serious potential “A ranked” **

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2 – Oscar Plandowski: RD / 6’0 / 190lbs – B

Highly intelligent two-way defenseman. Reads the game extremely well and has great mobility. Stops several rushes prematurely and often guides his teammates on the ice. Plandowski loves to jump up on the rush and to support the offense. Aggressive and intense; he pinches a whole lot, for better or for worse. 

Viewings: 10

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3 – Evan Nause: LD / 6’2 / 186lbs – B

Great footwork and intensity in one on one situations. Nice offensive flair and yet, he keeps his game simple. Skates with a large solid stance and relies a lot on crossovers to gain speed. He sometimes shows he’s worthy of a first rounder, but so far, he commits way too many mistakes. A lot of ups and downs in a single game. It’s probably due to his rookie status, though he will have to work on it if he wants to stay that high. 

Viewings: 8 

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T. 4 – Manix Landry: LW / 5’11 / 178lbs – B

A beautiful mix of speed, skill and competitiveness. Intense forechecker and never turns down the chance to finish a hit. Wonderful on his skates and has a relentless motor. Landry has no difficulty creating offense off the rush and below the circles. Defensively responsible and is the captain of his team at just eighteen years old. He needs to show he can dominate and dictate the play even more. 

Viewings: 8

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T. 4 – Zach Dean: C / 6’0 / 176lbs – B

Tied with his teammate Landry, Dean is a playmaking forward with great stickhandling. Loves to hold on to the puck and dangles opponents. The 200-foot game is in progress. Doesn’t shy away from physicality and never quits on the play. Better acceleration and agility than top-end speed. Significant offensive upside. 

Viewings: 6

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6 – Cameron Whynot: LD / 6’1 / 180lbs – B

Tremendously agile defenseman. Strong in transition, but doesn’t make a big impact in the offensive zone. Nice progression defensively so far; better positioning and much better covering, but he isn’t at ease yet with blocking shots. Good passer and puts in the effort. 

Viewings: 11

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7 – Xavier Bourgault: RW / 6’0 / 172lbs – B

Smart offensive-minded winger. Easily one of the best shooters and passers on this list. His intelligence helps him to intercept opponents’ plays in his own end. However, he has average skating, he doesn’t really bear the physicality yet and he is widely inconsistent in his intensity level.  

Viewings: 10

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8 – Justin Robidas: C / 5’7 / 173lbs – C

Excellent player off-the puck and dedicated defensively. Speedy and tenacious. The work ethic is top-notch. The only reason he’s ranked this low is due to his decent offense. Undersized players rarely just have “decent” offensive tools. Under 5’10 guys are, unfortunately, rarely seen in a bottom-six role.

Viewings: 10

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9 – Riley Kidney: C / 5’11 / 168lbs – C

Hockey IQ and anticipation are probably Kidney’s best qualities. The skating stance is non-common, yet he can be really shifty at times. His hands, vision and shot are not bad at all too. A lot of refinement to be made, however, his intelligence clearly makes him an interesting prospect. 

Viewings: 8

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10 – Zachary L’Heureux: LW / 5’11 / 196lbs – C

Decent passer and shooter. He can play on the penalty kill and throw a center ice hit once in a while. On the other side, L’Heureux too often shows very poor effort, he doesn’t move his feet and he regularly makes mental mistakes. Tries too much to stick handle and his skating isn’t necessarily great. He has some potential (he wasn’t ranked “A” by the NHL Central Scouting for nothing), but he has to step up and change these bad habits. 

Viewings: 11

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RECAP:

Honorable mentions: Cole Huckins (Acadie-Bathurst) – Peter Reynolds (Saint-John) – Cameron MacDonald (Saint-John)

Players to watch: William Trudeau (Charlottetown) – Viljami Maarjala (Québec) – Isaac Belliveau (Rimouski) – Thomas Belzile (Rouyn-Noranda) – Olivier Nadeau (Shawinigan) – Tyson Hinds (Shawinigan) – Israel Mianscum (Sherbrooke)

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