The Journey: What We Learned in the QMJHL

by Brayden Olafson on April 13, 2019

Rolling into the third consecutive week of The Journey’s sub-series, What we Learned, today we’re making our way north of the border and into the QMJHL. Before we get too deep into the discussion, I’d like to give a shoutout to @roto_nate who covers the QMJHL on a monthly basis with Dobber Prospects – be sure to give some of his work a look if you’re interested in getting an even closer look into the fantasy happenings of the league.

This year, the Q featured a total of 32 prospects already drafted to the NHL. In addition, 12 players from the league were ranked in Cam Robinson’s February edition of the 2019 draft rankings. The most outstanding feature in Eastern Canada’s junior hockey circuit this season, however, was the Rimouski Oceanic’s Alexis Lafreniere. The 17-year-old winger tallied 105 points in 61 contests, putting him third in overall points, and points per game in the league. Unfortunately for fantasy hockey fans, we won’t have an opportunity to get our hands on him until the summer of 2020.

In the past, the QMJHL has proven to be an attractive league for CHL imports, with this year being no exception. The number one pick in the 2018 CHL import draft, Max Cajovic, donned the blue and black for the rebuilding Saint John Sea Dogs this year. Cajovic is projected to go anywhere from the early second round to the late third round in the upcoming entry-draft. Cajovic joins the list of top-notch import prospects to make their way to the NHL via the Q, which already includes players like Nikolaj Ehlers, Ivan Barbashev, Timo Meier, Jakub Zboril, Evgeni Svechnikov and most recently, San Jose Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich. In fact, it’s notable that once you have a look at the amount of players who are drafted from the league in the first round, the percentage of imports is uncanny. Since 2014, over 40% of the QMJHLers selected in the first 30 (or 31) picks of the draft have been born overseas.

While on average the top-end guys produced by the Q tend to have relatively expedited success at the NHL level, late round picks from here tend to be successful less often than other prospect leagues. This is in contrast to the USHL, which I covered last week, where just as often as not, late round draft picks carve themselves a path to the NHL. This isn't as important of a note for most shallow leagues. However, if your league tends to target mid-to-late round draft picks, players from the Q should be approached with a little extra caution. With that in mind, a few products of the Q have been making impressions as of late:

Joe Veleno, Detroit Red Wings, Drummondville Voltigeurs

Despite a slightly slower finish to his D+1 campaign regular season in Drummondville, the Red Wings’ 30th overall pick from 2018 has had a major rebound this year. As a 19 year old, Veleno has found another gear in terms of drive and determination, leading the Voltigeurs to a 52-13-3 record. Due to the CHL-NHL agreement, Veleno will not be eligible to play in the AHL next fall. Similar to his teammate in Drummondville (Max Comtois), Veleno will have nothing left to prove, or more importantly gain, by playing another year in the Q. He’s a very safe bet to get nine regular season games and quite possibly more on a Wings’ roster next fall that can surely accommodate him.

Max Comtois, Anaheim Ducks, Drummondville Voltigeurs

As mentioned above, Comtois has already become a victim of the CHL-NHL agreement by being unable to report to the San Diego Gulls in the fall. As expected, the 20 year old has had an outstanding offensive and two-way campaign with the Voltigeurs. While, in terms of technical development the year has been a bit of a wash for Comtois, the potential to become a league, or even CHL champion would be a tremendous addition to his leadership resume before joining the retooling Ducks.

Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks, Quebec Ramparts

A top player for the Swiss at the 2019 World Junior Championship, Kurashev’s production remained stagnant at the QMJHL level in his D+1 slate. His six goals in seven contest at the holiday tournament, however, was good for the tournament lead and the hypothetical Cy Young award. His performance throughout the year was enough to earn the fourth-round draft-pick a $925,000 entry level deal. Because he’ll turn 20 in October, Kurashev will have likely played his last game with the Remparts and be a full-time member of the Rockford Ice Hogs next fall. Making a successful transition to the AHL will be the ultimate test for what could turn out to be a gem for the Hawks.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Anaheim Ducks, Halifax Mooseheads

The Halifax Mooseheads’ workhorse center slightly underperformed in his draft year, a trend that was quickly bucked as a 19-year-old. Donning an ‘A’ for the Mooseheads, Groulx tallied 30 goals in the regular season, in addition to an impressive 49 assists. Unfortunately, he’s been held out of the first two rounds of the QMJHL playoffs as he recovers from a case of mono. The Ducks prospect should return to inflict his will on the Q next year, and has taken a major step over the last six months toward justifying his second-round pick.

Noah Dobson, New York Islanders, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

After a highly disappointing start to his D+1 campaign with the stripped Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Dobson was traded to the powerhouse Rouyn-Noranda Huskies where he’s returned to defensive and offensive dominance. The Huskies remain the top team in Canadian junior hockey, largely due to Dobson’s contributions and leadership on the blueline. With a few expiring contracts on the Islanders’ blueline, Dobson’s maturity could make him a sneaky pick to don the blue and orange for an extended audition. Returning to juniors wouldn't be a terrible situation for the former 12th overall draft pick, but it’s clear that Dobson on track to become a reliable pro.

That’s three leagues down, with two more to go. Next week I’ll pick up with the WHL, home to some of the top prospects for the 2019 Entry Draft. If you’ve missed either of the last two reads, you can find them here:

What we learned in the SHL

What we learned in the USHL

Find me on Twitter @olaf1393.