Most of the highest ranked NHL Draft Prospects in the QMJHL were gearing up for what they hoped to be a successful run at a President Cup with their respective teams. Unfortunately, everything was cancelled with the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
With no hockey left to play, we broke down the game and stats the QMJHL’s Top 10 prospects showed us at the end of the regular season:
10. Thimo Nickl – D – Drummondville Volitgeurs
Nickl, a native of Klagenfurt, Austria, was a constant difference-maker on the Voltigeurs blueline, logging significant minutes in every situation. The right shooting and smooth skating defender impressed in his first season playing the North American game.
Nickl has incredible instincts and thinks the game extremely well. He possesses an above average shot from the point and is accountable in all three zones. He’ll have to work on gaining quickness in his first few strides, but he has all the makings of a very solid pro blueliner. Nickl finished the season 13th overall in scoring among Q defensemen with 10 goals and 29 assists in 53 games, including 19 assists on the power play, third most in the league for a blueliner.
9. Ryan Francis – RW – Cape Breton Eagles
Ryan Francis has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the QMJHL. The highly skilled diminutive forward had a career year playing alongside Egor Sokolov and veteran winger Tyler Hinam. Francis’ willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice on a consistent basis continues to impress NHL Scouts.
Nevertheless, it’s his play away from the puck over the last few months that is probably the most impressive of all. While Francis finished 17th in league scoring with 24 goals and 48 assists in 61 games, he was also a staggering +27 on the season.
8. Vasily Ponomarev – C – Shawinigan Cataractes
The native of Zelenograd, Russia, is truly an offensive threat every time he steps on the ice. The forward has good acceleration and deceptive speed, he possesses a very accurate and heavy shot and has developed a solid two-way game under new Shawinigan Head Coach Gordie Dwyer.
Ponomarev is a very talented forward who has adapted to the North American game very well in his short time in the QMJHL. He finished the regular season fifth in league scoring amongst rookies with 18 goals and 31 assists in 57 games played.
7. Jeremie Poirier – D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Jeremie Poirier’s offensive talent is undeniable. He possesses terrific puck skills and offensive instincts that make him a threat every time he jumps to join the rush. Poirier is a power play specialist and arguably has one of the best releases in the entire QMJHL.
NHL Scouts have the difficult task of projecting his talent to see exactly where he will fit at the next level. While he’s an elite level offensive defenseman, his accountability on the defensive side of the puck needs to improve. Poirier finished second in the QMJHL’s defenseman scoring race to his partner, William Villeneuve, with 53 points on the season. He also led all blueliners in goals with 20 and in shots on goal with 261 in 64 games.
6. Mavrik Bourque – C – Shawinigan Cataractes
Mavrik Bourque’s outstanding regular season was put on hold after he suffered a significant injury in mid-January. The highly skilled speedster was putting up monumental offensive numbers before the injury, finishing the regular season at the 20th spot in league scoring with 29 goals and 42 assists in only 49 games played.
Bourque’s relentlessness and tenacity on the forecheck, coupled with his individual skillset, have made him one of best scoring forwards in the QMJHL. His ability to play in traffic, his breakaway speed and scoring touch have all impressed NHL Scouts this past season.
5. Lukas Cormier – D – Charlottetown Islanders
The dynamic skating defender continues to draw many comparisons to NHL standouts Samuel Girard and Torey Krug. Cormier’s ability to return to the lineup and start putting up points immediately following his injury speaks volumes about his character and work ethic.
Cormier controls the pace of the game and is extremely accountable in his own zone. He’s at his best when he’s not forcing the play and letting the game come to him. His speed and edge control are exceptional and his hockey sense is off the charts. Cormier finished with 6 goals and 30 assists in only 44 games for the Islanders this season.
4. Hendrix Lapierre – C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Lapierre was out for most of the Sagueneens’ season with a concussion, but reports suggested he was set to return to action soon. Despite his time away from the game, scouts were already fully aware of Lapierre’s talent, skill, ability and passion for the game.
And while the scouting world may be questioning his injury history, it isn’t questioning his ability to read the play and execute. Lapierre possesses game-breaking talent, which made him the first overall pick of the 2018 QMJHL Draft and can no doubt translate to the pro ranks.
3. Justin Barron – D – Halifax Mooseheads
Everyone can agree, it was great seeing Justin Barron back on the ice patrolling the blue line for the Halifax Mooseheads after battling with a blood clot during the season. With such limited viewing, NHL Scouts watched Barron quite closely once he returned.
What they saw is that Barron is arguably one of the best transitional defensemen in the entire QMJHL. He’s a smooth skater with great vision and solid play-making skills. Barron finished with 19 points in only 34 games for the Mooseheads this season.
2. Dawson Mercer – C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens
The Newfoundland product was having a monumental campaign before the season’s cancellation, whether it was with his former Voltigeurs squad or with his new line mates in Chicoutimi.
Mercer’s skill, speed and determination have NHL scouts raving about him. His relentlessness and high intensity are what earned him a spot with Canada’s gold medal winning World Juniors squad. In 16 games with the Sags, Mercer had six goals and 12 assists to finish the regular season with 60 points – 24 goals and 36 assists – in only 42 games.
1. Alexis Lafrenière – LW – Rimouski Oceanic
Alexis Lafrenière didn’t show any signs of slowing down when the season came to an abrupt ending. His ability to handle all the attention, to live up to and surpass all expectations, are just another sign of his talents.
The humble kid from Saint-Eustache, Quebec is a fierce competitor who’s driven to improve every day. The young phenom is NHL ready and has been for quite some time.
Lafrenière finished the 2019-2020 regular season with a career best 112 points (35 goals and 77 assists) to finish first in league scoring for the second consecutive year. In three QMJHL seasons, Lafrenière has 127 goals and 200 assists in 193 games.