Future Considerations’ scout Scott Wheeler gives his thoughts on who from the 2016 NHL Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.
While Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Pierre-Luc Dubois drew the most attention from scouts in this year’s QMJHL class, there are several players who stood out as legitimate options for the top rounds of the 2016 NHL Draft.
At the very top of that list is Russian rookie Vitalii Abramov. The diminutive 5-foot-9 winger is without question one of 2016’s most gifted forwards. Not only did Abramov lead all QMJHL rookies in points by 26, but he finished fifth in league-wide scoring as a 17-year-old. As a puck carrier, Abramov’s ability to make something out of nothing with his agility and handling ranks him among the draft’s elite. He could be a late first round steal if he slips because of his size — which doesn’t impact him like you might think due to a wide base.
Not all jumped out the way Abramov did, though.
For a player with as many translatable NHL tools as Val-d’Or Foreurs forward Julien Gauthier, the standout scorer didn’t take the steps forward that would have been expected for him to be considered a real option in the top-10 of this year’s draft.
Despite making Team Canada as the lone Canadian draft-eligible prospect at this year’s World Juniors, Gauthier’s offensive output didn’t take a step forward. On a team with as many gifted playmakers as Val-d’Or, this was particularly concerning. Gauthier’s size and presence as a shooter will keep him as a mid-first round pick but he has the tools to dominate more than he did on route to his 57-point, 54-game regular season.
He’ll need to assert himself as more than a pure scorer in his post-draft season in the QMJHL.
Halifax Mooseheads Maxime Fortier took steps towards doing that late in his draft season.
When the Mooseheads dealt Timo Meier and Danny Moynihan midway through the season, Fortier took huge steps in the right direction and asserted himself as one of the QMJHL’s most talented draft-eligible forwards.
He has added weight and asserted himself as a top-100 prospect who can score and make plays for his linemates in finishing with 31 goals and 77 points in 68 games. He and fellow draft-eligible teammate Otto Somppi both stepped up to the challenge and grew as the season progressed on a team that desperately needed some offense. Somppi, from Finland, finished with 33 assists and 46 points in 59 games.