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First round talent at the forefront for QMJHL

CIBC Canada/Russia Series

 

Maxime Comtois (then of the Victoriaville Tigres) and Samuel Harvey (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) teamed up to push the CHL past Russia in the first-ever series determining shootout following last year’s Game 6 in Moncton, but with both of those names out of the picture, the QMJHL will be looking for new heroes next month.

Comtois, who was acquired by the Drummondville Voltigeurs over the offseason, is off to a great start to the season with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks while Harvey, who recently earned his 100th QMJHL victory, is an overager with the Huskies this season, ineligible to compete in the event.

The spotlight shifts to a pair of highly touted up-and-coming stars in Detroit Red Wings prospect Joe Veleno (Drummondville Voltigeurs) and New York Islanders first round pick Noah Dobson (Acadie-Bathurst Titan), both of whom have completed the CHL event trifecta of competing in a Memorial Cup, Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Veleno, who will be forever known as the QMJHL’s first-ever exceptional status player, is back in the spotlight at the CIBC Canada Russia Series and joins other NHL first round selections in Dobson, Drummondville teammate Nicolas Beaudin (27th overall, Chicago) and Charlottetown Islanders rearguard Pierre-Olivier Joseph (23rd overall, Arizona) on the roster.

Joseph’s Charlottetown Islanders coach Jim Hulton will lead the QMJHL bench. An assistant coach for Canada’s National Junior Team come December, Hulton’s unique story sees him return to the international scene after winning back-to-back gold medals with Canada’s Summer Under-18 Team in 2001 and 2002 followed by a pair of podium appearances as an assistant with Canada’s National Junior Team in 2004 (silver) and 2005 (gold).

Highly skilled names in first round picks Beaudin, Dobson, Joseph and Veleno will no-doubt be at the top of Hulton’s depth chart come  November 13th and 15th when the puck drops in Sherbrooke and Drummondville.

“It’s always fun to represent the QMJHL, and being able to play with the best players in the league is always an honour,” said Joseph, who will join Islanders goaltender Matthew Welsh on the roster. “I’m looking forward to it for sure.”

Joseph, Veleno and Dobson are three of the 11 players returning from last year’s QMJHL squad that split decisions against Russia in Charlottetown and Moncton.

The other first rounder, Beaudin, though currently injured, has nine points (1-8–9) in as many games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs this season. The 5-foot-11 offensively talented defenceman has been out of the lineup since October 19th but remains hopeful for a return prior to November 13th.

First round talents in past NHL Drafts aren’t the only ones expected to make a significant impact for Team QMJHL. Seventeen-year-old star Alexis Lafrenière (Rimouski Oceanic), who isn’t draft eligible until 2020, along with ‘A’ rated 2019 NHL Draft prospects Raphael Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads) and Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke Phoenix) are also ones to keep an eye on.

Lafrenière’s impact cannot be understated. After earning CHL Rookie of the Year honours last season, the left-winger has picked up where he left off, sitting second in QMJHL scoring with 25 points (6-19–25) over 15 games this season. He starred at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this past summer, captaining Canada to gold with 11 points (5-6–11) in five games.

The QMJHL enters the 16th edition of the CIBC Canada Russia Series with an all-time record of 17-10-3. As has been the case for the past four years, Team QMJHL will play Games 5 and 6 of the series, a pair of games that could make or break the CHL effort against an always-competitive Russian squad.

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