As part of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s 50th Anniversary celebrations this season, the league will be underlining its 50-year history with several exciting events. Among them will be the unveiling of the list of the top 50 players of all-time. Their rank will be based solely on their contributions during their junior careers. Yours truly was part of the selection committee which oversaw the selection process, one that was heavily debated and extremely arduous.
In this first segment, we will be presenting the players ranked 50th to 41st. Five of these players have already been inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame. Moreover, one player from each decade is represented on this first list and there are three Europeans, as well as two goaltenders.
Although Maxime Talbot is one of only two players in QMJHL history to have won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP in consecutive seasons, he remains the only player to capture the prestigious award with the same franchise (Hull/Gatineau Olympiques). Talbot, whose No. 25 has hung from the rafters of the Centre Robert-Guertin since October 26, 2012, was a first-round pick of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies with whom he would only play a half-season. Dealt tothe Olympiques in January of 2001 for Alexandre Giroux, Talbot went on to enjoy a brilliant career in the Outaouais region most notably in the springs of 2003 and 2004 when he piled up 71 points in 35 postseason games, leading the Olympiques to back-to-back President Cup crowns. On the international stage, Talbot also represented the QMJHL at the 2004 World Juniors where he won a silver medal with Team Canada.
Like Talbot, Marc Saumier won back-to-back Guy Lafleur trophies: in 1987 with the Longueuil Chevaliers and in 1988 with the Hull Olympiques. Saumier was never the biggest guy on the ice, but his gritty style and offensive touch made him a dominant player in the late 1980s. In 242 career games, Saumier, who grew up right next to the Centre Robert-Guertin collected 380 regular season points and added another 89 during the playoffs. The gritty forward spent more than 1,000 minutes in the penalty box.
The Chicoutimi Saguenéens have long been known as a high-end breeding ground for goalies. Over their 46-year history, a number of standout netminders have protected the Sags’ crease. Chief among those was Félix Potvin who from 1988 to 1991 won 91 games while registering 10 shutouts. He led the franchise to a President Cup title in his third year. In an era where goals came in bunches, “Felix the Cat” maintained a stellar save percentage of .908 in a fantastic 1990-91 campaign. Potvin also represented Canada at the 1991 World Junior Championship, winning gold alongside fellow goaltender Trevor Kidd. A product of the Midget AAA’s Montreal-Bourassa, Potvin was a second-round pick of the Sags in 1988 and became the seventh goaltender inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2013.
No. 47 on our list is Danish sniper Nikolaj Ehlers. The Winnipeg Jets forward spent two explosive seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads where he posted seasons of 104 and 100 points as a 17-year-old and 18-year-old. Selected with the ninth overall pick by the Jets in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Ehlers remains to this day one of only four European players to have twice cracked the 100-point mark in the QMJHL. He also dazzled in the playoffs by collecting 59 points in 30 games over two postseason runs with the Mooseheads. He then made the leap to the NHL as a 19-year-old.
In the early 1970s, the Sorel Éperviers boasted one of the top teams in the QMJHL. In 1973-74, the Éperviers boasted one of the most explosive lines in junior hockey history which saw Pierre Larouche, Jacques Cossette andMichel Déziel rack up a combined 792 points. Sorel went on to score over 600 goals that season. Cossette enjoyed a career year with 97 goals and 117 assists for a total of 214 points. The Rouyn-Noranda native was also known for his aggressive play which translated into 217 penalty minutes, making him the only player in QMJHL history to have registered 200 points and 200 penalty minutes in one season. Cossette was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2007.
At No. 45 is a player whose QMJHL career ended only last year: Russian forward Vitalii Abramov. Following three seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques and the Victoriaville Tigres, Abramov left the QMJHL as its highest-scoring European of all-time. In 185 games, the Ottawa Senators prospect posted 301 points. In 2016-17, the 5-foot-9 speedster won the Michel-Brière trophy (League MVP) and the Jean-Beliveau trophy (scoring leader) becoming only the second European to do so after Alexander Radulov.
From 2004 to 2006, Alexander Radulov was a treat for Quebec Remparts fans at the old Colisée. The flashy Russian posted 75-pointand 152-point seasons before leading Patrick Roy’s squad to a Memorial Cup triumph in May of 2006. On March 16, 2016, in his final career regular season game, “Radu” scored seven goals and added four assists for 11 points – just one shy of Andre Savard’s single-game record set in 1971. In his second season with the Remparts, Radulov enjoyed a 50-game point streak, leaving him 11 short of Mario Lemieux’s streak. To conclude his magical season, Radulov won the scoring title, earned League regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup MVP honours. On November 28, 2007, the Quebec Remparts retired his No. 22 in a pregame ceremony held at the Colisée.
Over the course of QMJHL history, no player suited up for more games than Danny Groulx. Counting both his regular season and playoff contests, he played in an incredible 419 games. His 332 regular season points are a League record for defensemen. Groulx also won the President Cup with three different teams: the Foreurs in 1998, the Titan in 1999 and the Tigresin 2002. He remains the last Q blue-liner to post a 100-point season and in 2002 was named Memorial Cup MVP despite his team losing in the final. He was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2018.
Although goaltender Jacques Cloutier wasn’t the biggest netminder of his era, he certainly was the most dominant in the QMJHL’s first decade of existence. In 1977-78 and 1978-79, he appeared in 143 of 144 games for the Trois-Rivières Draveurs, winning 46 and 58 games respectively. That 58-win season remains a league record today. At the conclusion of this stellar junior career, the Rouyn-Noranda would boast 142 victories, still tops in QMJHL history. Cloutier was the second goaltender inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame (2004) following in the footsteps of Tim Bernhardt.
AtNo. 41 is one of the most spectacular players of his era. A native of Thetford Mines, Simon Gamache thrilled fans in Val-d’Or for three seasons. From 1998 to 2001, Gamache recorded 389 points in only 214 games. No. 22 was a crowd favorite due to his skill set and his charismatic personality. Named the top junior player in the country in 2000-01, Gamache posted 57 points in only 21 playoff games that year, eclipsing Mario Lemieux’s longstanding 52 points established in the 1984 playoffs. In December 2017, the Val-d’Or Foreurs retired his No. 22 jersey.
Special collaboration : Stéphane Leroux