MONTREAL, QC — With the final week of preparation underway, here is a look at the Telus West Division and what you might expect from each of their six teams this season. You may notice that today’s installment has an added new feature for those needing a break from their Twitter feed full of lockout woe.
Distance from Montreal’s Bell Centre: approx. 36.3 km, 34-minute drive
2011-12: 40-22-4-2 (86 PTS, 1st in Telus West, eliminated in seven games by the Rimouski Oceanic—2nd round)
Offensive leaders: Jess Tanguy (22G, 53A, 75P in 63 GP), Cedric Paquette (31G, 17A, 48P, in 63 GP)
The Armada’s first season was one that had extremely low expectations. Aside from the obvious physical move from the Verdun Auditorium to the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau, the team had transitioned from the team loaded with veteran experience and NHL prospects to one with almost none of the above, including at the coaching level. Jean-Francois Houle, son of ex-Hab Rejean, took home the Ron Lapointe Trophy for best coach in the league after leading his team to a division title. This year, the Armada have won all but one of their preseason games with a 34-22 goal differential and look to contend as one of the top teams in the league.
Players to watch:
Christopher Clapperton (LW): 5’10”, 180 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 18G, 37A, 55P in 56 GP Playoffs: 3G, 6A, 9P in 11 GP
A surprise revelation last year, the undrafted Gaspésie native should once again be one of the leading scorers for the Armada this season.
Xavier Ouellet (D): 6’1”, 190 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 21G, 39A, 60P in 63 GP. Playoffs: 3G, 7A, 10P in 11 GP
The Detroit Red Wings’ prospect is one of QMJHL’s top defensive assets. Author of over twenty goals last year, he is set for another good run with the Armada this season.
Stefan Matteau, Jr. (LW): 6’2”, 215 lbs, age 18
A first-round pick of the New Jersey Devils (much to the chagrin of the majority of his father’s fanbase), he seems to like getting under other players’ skin and use that to positively impact his team’s scoresheet.
Distance from Montreal’s Bell Centre: approx. 106 km, 1-hour and 22-minute drive
2011-12: (28-31-2-7, 65 PTS, 3rd in Telus West, eliminated in 4 games by the Quebec Remparts—1st round)
Offensive leaders: André Bouvet-Morrissette (39G, 33A, 72P in 63 GP), Marc-Olivier Brouillard (27G, 45A, 72P in 65 GP)
Drummondville struggled a great deal with consistency last season, often coasting through the end of games and not playing a full 60 minutes, which did come back to bite them in the derriere on more than one occasion (and painfully so). Their season ended in even more frustration as they were quite literally swept away by the Remparts, something they will look to avenge this season as much of their roster has lived and learned from past mistakes. With fresh, new additions from all over, they represent something of a wild card in the ‘Q’; an older, wiser team capable of shaking a few things up, yet a whole lot remains to be seen.
Players to watch:
Olivier Archambault (LW), 5’11”, 192 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 17G, 22A, 39P in 45 GP. Playoffs: 1G, 2A, 3P in 4 GP
After an injury-shortened season, the Habs’ prospect is poised to come into his own this year. He currently leads the league with nine helpers in preseason, which is a pleasant surprise on more than one level.
Nikolas Brouillard (D), 5’10”, 148 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 2G, 23A, 25P in 61 GP.
The younger of the two Brouillards on the team made it to U-18 camp this summer and has been steadily improving as a young blueliner. Despite his smaller frame, the steady puck-moving defenseman is a rising star in the league.
Domenic Graham (G), 6’, 165 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 25W, 20L, 5OTL, 3.09 GAA, 0.886 SV%. Playoffs: (I refuse to divulge these statistics because that series was that bad. Look it up if you absolutely must.)
Graham’s season last year was rather reflective of the Voltigeurs themselves: great moments on one hand, much-less-than-consistent on the other. Look for him to tip the scales over in favour of consistency this season as he matures into what is already his third year in the QMJHL.
Distance from Montreal’s Bell Centre: approx. 201 km, 2-hour and 26-minute drive
2011-12: 26-32-5-5 (62 PTS, 4th in Telus West, eliminated in four games by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada—1st round)
Offensive leaders: Tomas Hyka (20G, 44A, 64P in 50 GP), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (23G, 16A, 39P in 23 GP)
The Olympiques lost out on several offensive elements last season, losing them to injury or trading them away. They were the first victims of the Armada in the playoffs, suffering much of the same fate as Drummondville. This season, they have already suffered another big loss as their number one goaltender Robert Steeves, acquired by Bathurst over the offseason, has suffered an injury that is supposed to keep him out all year.
Players to watch:
Tomáš Hyka (RW): 5’11”, 166 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 20G, 44A, 64P in 50 GP. Playoffs: 1G, 1A, 2P in 4 GP
The speedy Czech native, a draft pick of the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings, is expected to lead the team offensively once again this season.
Alexandros Soumakis (LW): 5’6”, 177 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 20G, 12A, 32P in 48 GP. Playoffs: 1A in 4 GP
Another energy player whose size doesn’t tell the whole story. A twenty-goal scorer whose specialty is putting a little spring in his team’s step, and who may be counted a little more this season to produce.
Martin Reway (LW): 5’8”, 158 lbs, age 17
The Czech-born, Reway is actually one of the Slovakian top prospects heading into next year’s draft. He has represented Slovakia internationally and is a highly touted acquisition due to his intelligence, speed and hands.
Distance from Montreal’s Bell Centre: Okay, a little far: approx. 631 km, 8-hour, 14-minute drive
2011-12: 24-36-4-4 (56 PTS, 5th in Telus East, eliminated in four games by the Shawinigan Cataractes, 1st round)
Offensive leaders: Sven Andrighetto (36G, 38A, 74P in 62 GP), Mathieu Brisebois (17G, 39A, 56P in 68 GP)
The Huskies were not far from being the lone team excluded from the playoffs last season, and it showed when eventual CHL champions Shawinigan had their way with them. They only have room to go up, but it will be a bumpy road to get there. Among their challenges will be finding offense as well as preventing it coming the other way, as they allowed the most goals in their division (and third-most in the league) last season.
Players to watch:
Sven Andrighetto (RW): 5’10”, 180 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 36G, 38A, 74P in 62 GP. Playoffs: 0G, 2A, 2P in 4 GP
Andrighetto went undrafted in 2012, but look for him to make his mark on this season. The winger from Switzerland will likely shoulder much of the load in what looks to be another struggle for Rouyn this year.
Jean-Sébastien Dea (RW): 6’0”, 160 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 17G, 15A, 32P in 50 GP. Playoffs: 1G, 2A, 3P in 4 GP
Dea finished sixth in team scoring in his rookie year after having struggled throughout the early-goings, but things got smoother for him after recording his first goal. He is one of the top goal-scorers in preseason league-wide as of now and is looking to maintain that offensive prowess.
Dillon Fournier (D): 6’3”, 180 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 9G, 29A, 38P in 52 GP. Playoffs: 2A in 11 GP
The newly-drafted rearguard will have a chance to further his resume as top defenseman for Rouyn. It wasn’t for nothing that the Huskies selected him first overall in the dispersal draft of the former Lewiston MAINEiacs, and after fully recovering from the shoulder surgery he had in mid-April he will be up to the task of adding to the list of reasons this year.
Distance from Montreal’s Bell Centre: approx. 149 km, 1-hour, 54-minute drive
Quite literally the new kids on the block, the Phoenix have the benefit-slash-curse of not knowing how they’ll stack up this season, after having assembled their team in the expansion draft held this summer. They’ve had mixed results in August/September as they look to get firmly on their feet in time for their regular-season premiere next week.
Players to watch:
Alexandre Comtois (C): 5’11”, 180 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 20G, 39A, 59P in 68 GP. Playoffs: 3G, 10A, 13P in 11 GP.
The Sherbrooke native has finally come home to roost, making the Phoenix his fourth team in the QMJHL in time for his overage year. It has to be said, however, that he was not only named captain because of where he’s from. He has the experience and the talent that will greatly benefit a new team.
Daniel Audette (C): 5’8”, 168 lbs, age 16
The son of former Hab Donald Audette was the first-overall selection of this year’s QMJHL Entry Draft, which just about sums up everything I have to say in this paragraph. He managed to finish fourth in Midget AAA last season with 60 points in 39 games and comes up as the more complete player in comparisons to his father. He has all the tools to become an impact player in the league, if not this season, then surely in the years to come.
Jean-Christophe Laflamme (LW): 5’7”, 170 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 11G, 18A, 27P in 68 GP. Playoffs: 1G, 1A, 2P in 11 GP.
The five-foot-seven winger was one of the few rookies to crack the lineup back when the Montreal Junior roster was chock-full of future NHL talent. It didn’t last the whole season, but he did manage to put up seven goals and six assists in just under half the year as a sixteen year old. He struggled the following year with the Armada, but now has the room to come into his own as one of the leaders on the newest team in the QMJHL.
Distance from Montreal’s Bell Centre: If you’re going to see the Huskies, you may as well stop by: approx. 524 km, 6-hour, 47-minute drive
2011-12: 31-32-0-5 (67 PTS, 2nd in Telus West, eliminated in 4 games by the Rimouski Oceanic—1st round)
Offensive leaders: Michaël Beaudry (20G, 50A, 70P in 68 GP), Benjamin Casavant (34G, 35A, 69P in 57 GP)
Val D’Or, much like last season, is a middle-of-the-pack team. They finished second in a very poor division and much like their counterparts in Telus West, were on a rocky rollercoaster much of the year. That being said, they have had an admirable preseason thus far, losing only one of five games. They are a team to be careful with, now that they are in the possession of a few offensive catalysts that surely have not wasted their offseason.
Players to watch:
Anton Zlobin (LW): 5’11”, 198 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 40G, 36A, 76P in 66 GP. Playoffs: 3G, 7A, 10P in 11 GP
The guy who scored the goal to secure #theshawi a Memorial Cup is playing in Val-D’Or this season after having been drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins this past June. If given room to operate, like he is sure to have on a Val-D’Or team that some may take for granted this year, he is dangerous.
Anthony Mantha (LW): 6’3”, 200 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 22G, 29A, 51P in 63 GP. Playoffs: 2G, 2A, 4P in 4 GP
Mantha, who turns 18 today, has ten points (including seven goals) in only four preseason games thus far. He is coming off a season that saw him start off with tiny steps only to take off mid-season and eventually pass the 50-point mark on the year. He is among the draft-eligible talent to watch this season.
Anton Sergeev (D): 6’1”, 205 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 7G, 13A, 20P in 46 GP.
The Russian has been steadily improving and putting himself in great shape to remain one of the league’s top two-way defensemen. He is often called on to play against the best lines Val-D’Or’s opponents throw at them and is not afraid to finish his checks, taking on whatever role he is asked to fill.
Check back soon as the Maritime Division gets previewed this week in time for the beginning of the season.
Kathy on Twitter: @czechtacular