With the 2018-19 campaign in the books, the Canadian Hockey League is highlighting those players who have graduated to the pro ranks or who will pursue academics next season. The six-day series continues with the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference.
A trio of players wrapped up their junior careers with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, headlined by 21-year-old left-wing Jesse Sutton, who after joining the team in early January put up seven goals and 16 assists in 32 games to bring his season total to 46 points across 66 appearances. A native of Newfoundland, Sutton will continue his hockey career with the University of Prince Edward Island of U SPORTS next season.
Other overagers from the Titan include left-wing Daniil Vertiy and goaltender Mark Grametbauer (Carleton University).
Heading east, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles will see the departure of four players, led by defenceman Leon Gawanke, a fifth-round draft pick by the Winnipeg Jets in 2017. Gawanke, 20, is expected to join the AHL next year after three seasons with the Screaming Eagles, including the 2018-19 campaign in which he tallied 57 points in 62 games, including 17 goals to lead all QMJHL blue-liners.
Forwards Mitchell Balmas and Declan Smith (StFX University) as well as defenceman Wilson Forest round out this year’s overagers from the Screaming Eagles.
In Prince Edward Island, the Charlottetown Islanders produced three graduates in 2018-19, including 21-year-old left-wing Daniel Hardie, who led the team in scoring with 78 points in 68 appearances. Hardie, who will join the University of Ottawa next season, wraps up his three years of junior with 169 points in 181 career contests.
Other graduates from the Islanders include right-wing Jordan Maher (UPEI) and defenceman Hunter Drew.
Samuel Asselin came up just short in claiming the Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads in his final junior season, but no doubt his performance at the year-end tournament helped the undrafted free agent land a two-year contract with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. The 21-year-old centre, who captured CHL supremacy with the Titan a year earlier, put together another formidable campaign in 2018-19, topping the Mooseheads in scoring with 86 points in 68 games, including a league-leading 48 goals, as he was named to the QMJHL Second All-Star team.
Also graduating from the Mooseheads are forwards Arnaud Durandeau (New York Islanders), Keith Getson, Antoine Morand (Anaheim Ducks), Ostap Safin (Edmonton Oilers), and defenceman Jake Ryczek (Chicago Blackhawks).
The Moncton Wildcats will see the departure of three overagers, headlined by 21-year-old goaltender Francis Leclerc, who spent three full seasons in the junior circuit, including the 2018-19 campaign that saw him post a 28-17-4-4 showing with a .903 save percentage across 55 appearances.
Other graduates from the Wildcats include right-wing Brady Pataki and defenceman Gabriel Sylvestre.
Rounding out the Maritimes Division is the Saint John Sea Dogs with three overagers, including netminder Mikhail Denisov, who combined for a 7-19-0-1 record alongside a .882 save rate in 2018-19 after he joined the Sea Dogs last November. Denisov, 21, closes out his four years of junior with 146 career appearances, including a spot on the QMJHL First All-Star Team in 2016-17.
Blue-liners Michael Campoli and Benjamin Gagne round out the Sea Dogs’ graduates.
After leading the Baie-Comeau Drakkar with 105 points in 66 appearances in 2018-19 and earning a spot on the QMJHL Second All-Star Team, 20-year-old left-wing Ivan Chekhovich is expected to graduate to the pro ranks. A seventh-round draft choice by the San Jose Sharks in 2017, the Russian-born forward got a taste of minor-league action at year end, appearing in five regular-season contests with the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, in which he tallied four points, before adding another three points in four playoff games.
Other graduates from the Drakkar include fellow forwards Samuel L’Italien (UQTR) and Jordan Martel (UQTR), defenceman Pascal Corbeil, as well as goaltenders Dereck Baribeau (Minnesota Wild) and Alex D’Orio (Pittsburgh Penguins).
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens will see the departure of three overagers, led by 1998-born left-wing Zachary Lavigne. In 2018-19, Lavigne notched a career-high 39 points in 50 appearances to close out his four-year junior career, all spent with the Sagueneens. The Quebec native will continue his hockey career next season with the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres of U SPORTS.
Left-wing Liam Murphy and defenceman Morgan Nauss round out the 2018-19 overagers from the Sagueneens.
From the Quebec Remparts, four overagers will move on next season, including 20-year-old centre Philipp Kurashev, who is expected to graduate to the pro ranks after he wrapped up 2018-19 with a team-leading 65 points in 59 appearances. A fourth-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Swiss-born Kurashev experienced life in the pro ranks at season’s end when he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ top minor-league affiliate.
Other overagers from the Remparts include centre Luke Kutkevicius as well as defenceman Sam Dunn and Etienne Verrette (UQTR).
The Rimouski Oceanic round out the East Division with three graduates, including 1998-born centre Jimmy Huntington, who finished second in team scoring in 2018-19 with 92 points. That performance earned him a spot on the QMJHL Second All-Star Team, in addition to an entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning as an undrafted free agent. Should Huntington require further development, he could join the Syracuse Crunch next season, the Lightning’s AHL club.
Left-wing Olivier Garneau and defenceman Charle-Edouard D’Astous (Grand Rapids Griffins) will also graduate from the Oceanic.
Next up: OHL’s Eastern Conference
CHL Stars We’ll Miss: WHL’s Western Conference