The best players under the age of 16 available for June’s QMJHL Entry Draft will be in action representing their respective provinces starting Thursday in Boisbriand, QC in the annual Gatorade Frost Excellence Challenge. The scouting staff for the Halifax Mooseheads will be in attendance and watching closely as the team prepares to make the fourth overall selection at the draft which is a little more than one month away.
The top two prospects available both hail from Quebec with high scoring forward Alex Lafreniere of the St-Eustache Vikings currently the consensus first overall pick. Lafreniere scored 83 points as a rookie with the Vikings and appears to be a star in the making. Samuel Poulin, son of former NHLer Patrick Poulin, is also a highly coveted player after scoring 68 points in just 39 games as a forward with Esther-Blondin in QMAAA. It’s not likely that either player will wind up in a Mooseheads uniform barring a surprising trade but there are several exciting players to watch for with scouts around the league in agreement that the class of 2017 is a deep one in terms of talent.
Some other key names to watch for in the Excellence Challenge include Poulin’s teammate with Esther-Blondin Xavier Parent, who is an exciting offensive forward that could go top five in the draft. Quebec defencemen Jeremy Jacques (Magog) and Christopher Merisier-Ortiz (St-Eustache) are both first round prospects.
Atlantic Canada will be well represented in the QMJHL Entry Draft once again this year with a pair of local Nova Scotian’s expected to be selected in the top 10 in forward Bailey Peach of the Cole Harbour Wolfpack and defenceman Justin Barron of the Halifax Macs. Dartmouth blueliner Noah Laaouan is high on many draft boards around the league and will also be suiting up for Team Nova Scotia.
Newfoundland features two extremely talented forwards that played their Midget hockey in Ontario. Alex Newhook had an outstanding season with 74 points in 33 games with the York-Simcoe Express while Brett Budgell had 58 points in 32 games with the London Jr. Knights. New Brunswick’s Jaxon Bellamy is perhaps the highest rated draft eligible defenseman after a strong season with the Saint John Vito’s.
The tournament begins on Thursday at Noon AST while the Gold Medal game will be held on Sunday, April 30th. Each team will play four preliminary round games and one “playoff” game in hopes of winning the Gold Cup. Click here for the full schedule.