As part of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s 50th Anniversary celebrations this season, the league will be honouring its half-century in several ways. Among them will be a list of the Top 50 players in QMJHL history, based solely on their contributions during their junior years. They stand out among 9511 players who played in the QMJHL over the past 50 years. Yours truly was part of the selection committee that deliberated over these tough choices.
In this second segment, we will be presenting the 10 players from Rank 40 through 31. Seven of these players have already been inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame and one player from each decade is also on this second list. Also of note are the three goalies on this list.
Goaltender Zachary Fucale could not be excluded from this list of the 50 greatest players in league history. Fucale enjoyed a brilliant junior career. He holds the QMJHL record for most victories including regular season and playoffs with 183. He was the starter for the Halifax Mooseheads at only 16 years old. He won the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2013 and also won World Junior gold with Team Canada in 2015. We will always remember him as the only 16-year-old goalie to have won four straight games after his team trailed 0-3 in a best-of-seven series. Zach Fucale also needed the least number of games to reach the 100-win mark in history, doing so in only 145 games.
Tim Bernhardt is another goaltender who made his mark in the QMJHL during the 1970s. A native of Sarnia, Ontario, Bernhardt may not have put up numbers that would turn heads today, but he was dominant in his era. In three seasons with the Cornwall Royals, the 5-foot-9 netminder won 83 games and had a 3.63 goals against average. During his heyday from 1975 to 1978, an average of 10 goals were scored per game in the QMJHL. Having a GAA under 4.00 was quite the accomplishment. Winner of the Jacques Plante Trophy in each of his three seasons in the Q (a feat that has never been matched), he went on to be the first goalie to be inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 1997.
In the early ‘90s, the QMJHL was being ruled by Alexandre Daigle. The top pick at the 1991 QMJHL Draft and Laval native drew crowds everywhere he went while playing for the Victoriaville Tigres. In 1991-92 and 1992-93, the Tigres’ No. 91 put up 110 and 137-point seasons as a 16- and 17-year-old before being the first overall pick in the 1993 NHL Draft. An explosive skater, he returned to the QMJHL in 1994 after a year in the pros due to an NHL labour stoppage. He went on to pile up a total of 281 points in 137 games in the Q. Daigle also won World Juniors gold with Team Canada in both 1993 and 1995. On February 17, 2017, the Victoriaville Tigres retired his No. 91.
At No. 37 is one of the most dominant defencemen of the 1970s, Robert Picard, who over four seasons with the Montreal Junior piled up 313 points in 282 games. The rugged rearguard, who was the third overall pick at the 1977 NHL Entry Draft, would only miss four games over his four QMJHL seasons and never posted less than 267 penalty minutes during the regular season. To this day, he remains the only defenceman in the 50-year history of the QMJHL to have been a Top 5 pick in the NHL Draft.
Could you imagine a 5-foot-5 goalie having success in today’s game? That’s exactly what Robert Desjardins managed to do in the 1980s, leading his team to the Memorial Cup for three straight years with three different teams; Shawinigan in 1985, Hull in 1986 and Longueuil in 1987. In these three years in the QMJHL, the goalie from Verdun won 93 games during the regular season and another 30 in the playoffs. In the spring of 1986, he notably went 13-0 with a 1.99 GAA with the Olympiques, which was evidently an incredible feat during his era. Desjardins was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2011.
At No. 35 is defenceman Pierre Lacroix whom to this day holds the QMJHL and CHL record for most points in a season by a blueliner with 137. That historic mark with the Trois-Rivières Draveurs is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Over the course of his career, the Ste-Foy native amassed 298 points in 281 games. In 1978-79, Lacroix became the first QMJHL player to be named CHL Player of the Year. Lacroix was also a three-time President’s Cup champion, including twice with the Draveurs in 1977-78 and 1978-79 and another time the Remparts, in 1975-76. Lacroix was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2007.
Gilbert Delorme is one of two defencemen in QMJHL history to have put up two 100-plus point seasons in his career. Delorme managed the incredible feat with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 1979-80 and 1980-81. A very offensive-minded defenceman, Delorme was a first-round pick of the Sags in 1981 and was dominant in harvesting 277 points in 213 games in the Q. A native of Montreal’s South Shore, Delorme was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in March of 2011, 16 months after the Saguenéens retired his No. 5 jersey during a special ceremony at the Centre Georges-Vézina.
At No. 33 is former Trois-Rivières Draveurs forward Claude Verret who in the early ’80s enjoyed an amazing career that saw him notch 462 points in 200 QMJHL games. Despite standing only 5-foot-9, he posted seasons of 112, 162 and 188 points. A 13th-round pick of the Draveurs in 1980, Verret would prove wrong his critics who had deemed him too small to be successful in the junior ranks. Inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2005, the highest scorer in Draveurs’ history also was a two-time winner of the Frank Selke Trophy as the QMJHL’s “most gentlemanly” player.
Overlooked at two OHL Drafts, Claude Giroux received an invitation to join the QMJHL ranks with the Gatineau Olympiques in 2005. The forward from Hearst, Ontario who is currently enjoying a brilliant career with the Philadelphia Flyers played in the Q for three seasons and, like Claude Verret at No. 33, he also posted three straight 100-plus point seasons. Since the early 2000s, he is the only player in the league to have managed that feat which is not about to be matched. Giroux saw his jersey retired by the Olympiques on February 20, 2019. In the spring of 2008, he exploded for 51 playoff points in leading the Olympiques to a President’s Cup crown and earning playoff MVP honours.
At No. 31, Martin Lapointe fully deserves his selection to this list just as he suited his nickname of Mr. Titan in the early ‘90s. Over his four seasons in Laval, Lapointe piled up 338 points in 195 games. An electrifying player who was at this best when the stakes were high, Lapointe also racked up 90 points in 50 career playoff games, placing him sixth all-time in QMJHL history in that department. Lapointe was a two-time President’s Cup winner in 1990 and 1993 and also won gold with Team Canada at the World Juniors in 1991 and 1993. He earned that second gold medal as team captain. Lapointe was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2011.
POSITIONS 50 to 41
Special collaboration : Stéphane Leroux