The pressure and attention continue to grow for every NHL draft eligible player across the QMJHL. With many games played in the Maritimes Division this past month, our focus shifts mainly to Eastern Canada prospects for the month of November.
With the first NHL Central Scouting Player’s to Watch List having now been released, the following prospects are listed in order of their initial ranking.
- Oscar Plandowski | RD | Charlottetown Islanders
Oscar Plandowski can flat out fly on the ice. The Halifax, Nova Scotia product is one of the fastest skating defencemen in the QMJHL.
The 17-year-old appeared in 60 games as a rookie last year and, though his 12-point total may not have been as high as some people would have predicted, there’s no question he benefited a great deal from playing alongside Vegas Golden Knights prospect Lukas Cormier. In 14 games this season, Plandowski has one goal and five assists while logging significant minutes in all situations.
The highly skilled two-way defenceman has a fantastic first pass and a great shot from the blue line. He thinks the game extremely well and is very elusive when he has the puck on his stick. At 6’0’’ and 190 pounds, Plandowski has a great frame, but will have to continue to get stronger in order to reach his full potential at the next level.
- Peter Reynolds | C | Saint John Sea Dogs
Peter Reynolds is arguably New Brunswick’s top player for his age group. The Fredericton product is coming off a great season with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs that saw the highly skilled two-way center record 47 points in 53 games.
After officially signing with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the off-season, the gifted playmaker is already logging significant minutes in their top six and is contributing offensively. In 15 QMJHL games, Reynolds has four goals and four assists and is creating quality chances every time he enters the offensive zone.
The 17-year-old rookie does everything at top speed, which makes him a very dangerous player. He possesses breakaway speed, a great compete level and isn’t shy to go to the dirty areas of the ice. At 5’10’’ and 168 pounds, the Sea Dogs center will continue to add muscle to get stronger in order to win puck battles in all three zones at the next level.
- Cameron Whynot | LD | Halifax Mooseheads
Cameron Whynot has all the tools to be an effective transitional defenceman at the pro level. The Kentville, Nova Scotia product is an elite level skater and possesses great instincts in all three zones.
The skilled blueliner experienced some growing pains with the rebuilding Mooseheads last season but has certainly regained his confidence with the puck this season. Whynot thinks the game incredibly well, has a solid first pass and can break down his opponent’s forecheck thanks to his speed, agility and puck skills.
Whynot has been skating alongside Colorado Avalanche draft pick Justin Barron this season, which has been a tremendous help for his learning curve as his time on ice has skyrocketed. The 17-year-old is only going to get better with experience, an increased role and confidence. The sky is the limit for the young highly touted defenceman.
- Zach Biggar | LD | Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Zach Biggar had a tremendous season with the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League last year. As a 16-year-old rookie, the Portage, Prince Edward Island product scored seven goals and added 35 assists in 47 games played.
While the offensive numbers haven’t been as high for Biggar this season, there’s no question he has all the tools to become a highly effective QMJHL defenceman in seasons to come. The strong skating blueliner processes the game extremely well, has a very active stick defensively and an accurate first pass.
While the proud Islander is very tough to play against and rarely loses one-on-one battles in his own zone, the Titan’s second round pick in 2019 will have to work on his quickness and explosiveness to excel at the pro level.
- Cole Huckins | C/LW | Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Cole Huckins possesses many of the tools required to be a high scoring forward at the next level. The Fredericton, New Brunswick product had a productive rookie campaign for the rebuilding Titan a season ago, scoring 13 goals and adding 25 assists in 64 games.
After playing center in his rookie campaign, Huckins now finds himself on the left wing. From set-up man to sniper, the switch might be exactly what the power forward needed to draw even more attention from NHL scouts. His point totals certainly haven’t dipped, as his seven goals and 12 assists in 15 games currently have him on pace for close to 30 goals and 80 points this season.
At times, Huckins looked like a young Joe Thornton last season, setting up his teammates with unbelievable passes. At 6’3’’and over 200 pounds, the 17-year-old forward skates very well for his size, but will have to refine his edge work, agility and explosiveness to reach his full potential at the next level.
- Riley Kidney | C | Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Riley Kidney is arguably one of the smartest players in the QMJHL. Former Gatineau Olympiques and current Boston Bruins centerman David Krejci comes to mind when watching Kidney strategically plot his way around the ice.
The Enfield, Nova Scotia product will never overpower opponents, he will just outthink them. The skilled skater and gifted playmaker has an incredible knack at finding the open man from anywhere on the ice. Whether slowing the game down or speeding it up, Riley Kidney often finds a way to put points on the board. Sure, the diminutive center will have to get stronger, but his compete level rivals his smarts which is a deadly combination.
Kidney had five goals and 28 assists in 59 games as a rookie. The 17-year-old center has a very underrated shot, which goes unnoticed due in large part to his playmaking abilities. So far this season, the proud Nova Scotian has already matched his total of five goals for 13 points in 15 games.
- Cameron MacDonald | C | Saint John Sea Dogs
Like fellow Sea Dogs teammate Peter Reynolds, Cameron MacDonald applied his skills elsewhere a season ago. The Halifax, Nova Scotia product spent the last campaign with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
While MacDonald didn’t light the world on fire offensively south of the border (44GP-6G-14A), there’s no question he became a full 200-foot player during his time in Sioux. The 17-year-old’s compete level, attention to detail and willingness to play the game the right way are drawing him attention from NHL scouts.
With such a deep forward group, MacDonald has found himself primarily playing in a third line center role for the Sea Dogs, but he has seen his ice time increase drastically over the last handful of games. In 14 games for Saint John, MacDonald has five goals and four assists this season.
- William Trudeau | LD | Charlottetown Islanders
By skating alongside the likes of Cormier, Plandowski and QMJHL first rounder Noah Laaouan, William Trudeau is often the forgotten man among the Charlottetown Islanders d-corps. That’s why he is often overlooked, and the term “underrated” comes to mind when you mention the blueliner’s name.
The smooth skating defender is quickly becoming a reliable force for Jim Hulton’s hockey club. The Varennes, Quebec product might not be flashy, but he gets the job done. He plays the game the right way, seldomly gets himself in trouble and is a perfect complement to round out the Isles’ top four.
After picking up 15 points in his rookie season, Trudeau is well on his way to surpassing those numbers with three goals and 12 points in 14 games this year. The reliable and gritty blueliner will need to get quicker to win more puck battles, but at 6’1’’ and 190 pounds he has all the makings of bruising two-way defender at the pro level.
- Tyson Hinds | LD | Shawinigan Cataractes
By being 6’3’’ tall and weighing in at 180 pounds, Tyson Hinds is just plain nasty to play against. The rough and tough defender from Gatineau, Quebec skates extremely well for his size and never shies away from throwing his body around.
He defends very well for the Cataractes, with a highly active stick and great body position. Hinds will never be a massive point getter, but every team values a stay-at-home defender like him. In 63 career games with Shawinigan, Hinds has 2 goals, 10 assists and a +7 rating.
No flash here, just a solid high character blueliner that will do just about anything to win puck battles down low. His vision and crisp passing allow him to transition the puck to the highly skilled Cataractes forwards with ease.
- Thomas Belzile | LD | Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
The Huskies are very well-known for producing solid two-way defencemen and Thomas Belzile is the next in line in Rouyn-Noranda. While his play may go unnoticed when looking at the scoresheet, it certainly stands out in live action.
The Sainte-Julie, Quebec product possesses a solid defensive skill set, but is also known to activate offensively at times. In 47 games, Belzile scored six goals and added eight assists as a rookie last season, but he’s yet to record a point in 13 games so far this year.
The 18-year-old has a good stick, good reach, and is definitely tough to play against in all three zones. At 6’3’’ and 175 pounds, Belzile still needs to add some weight and work on his speed and agility, but certainly possesses the work ethic and drive it takes to play at the pro level.