As the regular season nears the end, intensity is beginning to amp up for 2012 NHL Entry Draft eligibles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Since some unfavourable reviews, Mikhail Grigorenko has really stepped it up in the month of February and early March. In his last 10 games, Grigorenko has registered 10 goals and seven assists while being plus-20. His consistency seems to have improved from game to game and he is scoring more 5-on-5. The big test will be come playoff time where Grigorenko should play some stiffer competition if they happen to make it through the first round.
A player hasn’t been a fast riser but one gaining momentum is Anton Zlobin of Shawinigan Cataractes. For a player not drafted last year, Zlobin has a lot of skills that should translate to the NHL. While he doesn’t have blazing speed, Zlobin is very strong on the puck and uses that strength to wear down the opposition. He has very nice puck skills and is a tremendous finisher. Zlobin should be a possession player at the next level and is certainly worth a pick.
While we are on the topic of players passed on last season, Tomas Hyka of the Gatineau Olympiques continues to show he is an electric playmaker that has turned on the afterburners recently. Posting 13 points in his last six games, Hyka’s offensive skills seem to finally be translating in points at the QMJHL level. If this can continue there should be a number of teams willing to take a flier on him in the second round of the draft.
After an average February, Martin Frk has gone back into a funk and is once again dropping. Frk simply doesn’t have enough skill to get away with weak skating and weak effort night-in and night-out. With just 12 points in the last 15 games while getting plenty of powerplay time, one has to wonder if he is slipping closer to the third round.
Matej Beran seems to finally slowed his pace. This lumbering skater has surprised nearly the whole hockey world with his offense from 10 feet and in. Beran’s skating hasn’t improved and he isn’t putting up the points either. In the last 11 games he has just two goals and two assists on the woeful PEI Rocket. This doesn’t change my opinion on him all that much, he is a mid-to-late round project regardless.
While the production isn’t exactly on his side, a player who has grown is Rimouski Oceanic center Francis Beauvillier. His tools should translate to a second line winger at best and third line winger at worst. His combination of straight away speed, shot and hands are an interesting mixture. Playing on the second line and minimal power play time will really make his statistics lag behind other top prospects. Beauvillier is certainly a top-90 player in this year’s draft.
It seems to be a common theme in the QMJHL, but another player feeling the blues is Raphael Bussieres of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. After a fantastic start to the season, Bussieres has gone on a tailspin that has dropped him not only out of the first round but quite possibly the top-90.
In his last 18 games he has a measly two goals and one assist. Bussieres still has 3rd line potential but he is going to need one special playoffs to save this season.
A player who won’t get the attention of a top pick but quietly may have got himself drafted the last month is Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Raphael Corriveau.
Corriveau is a big forward with nice hands. In the last 14 games the third liner has put up five goals and three assists while showing a good knack for cycling the puck down low and creating offense from below the goal line. While his skating is a weakness, with a few tweaks to his stride and some work in the offseason, Corriveau is a player who could make a large leap next season.
To say it has been a disappointing season for the QMJHL would be an understatement.
Few have stepped up at all and most have falling off a large amount as we entered the second half of the season. Seasons can be saved by strong playoffs but trends seem to be heading the wrong way for draft eligibles in 2012.