The Raymond-Lagacé Trophy finalists were announced earlier today by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The honour rewards the Defensive Rookie of the Year. It was first awarded in 1981 and has recognized many all-star defensemen and goaltenders over the years such as Philippe Boucher, Samuel Girard and Ondrej Pavelec.
This year’s nominees are Isaac Belliveau of the Rimouski Océanic, Jacob Dion of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Samuel Hlavaj of the Sherbrooke Phœnix.
Isaac Belliveau demonstrated exceptional growth this season, proving that he can become an outstanding offensive defenseman. Rimouski’s second round pick in 2018 was sent back to Midget for the 2018-2019 season and he made the most of it by helping his team reach the Telus Cup final. This season, the Fleurimont native scored 11 goals and added 42 assists in 62 games, finishing tied for second for most points by a defenseman. He also maintained a super +12 differential.
Jacob Dion has been another great surprise this season. Like Belliveau, the Stoke native was sent back to the Magog Cantonniers (Midget AAA) last year and he captained his team to the league championship and a silver medal at the Telus Cup tournament. With back-to-back Jimmy-Ferrari and Telus Cup experiences, Dion kicked off his major junior career on the right foot in 2019-2020. The fourth round pick of the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft posted impressive totals with 17 goals and 35 assists in 63 games played.
Samuel Hlavaj came to North America to have a second chance at impressing NHL scouts. He didn’t miss his opportunity by being one of the key pieces of the Phœnix’s success this season. After going undrafted in the NHL in 2019, the Slovakian goalie won 33 of his 39 starts this season while maintaining a league-best 2.25 goals-against-average and a 0.915% save percentage. His remarkable performances were parlayed into an invitation by NHL Central Scouting to participate in the Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.