As the June 5th QMJHL entry draft approaches, you'd have to assume the Montreal Juniors are beginning to think about which over age players they plan to ask back next season.
In you're not already familiar with the rule, every Major Junior hockey team is allowed to have three over age players on their roster. Next season over age players, also known as "20 year olds", will be identified as players born during the year 1990.
Often times 20 year olds are among the most valuable players on their team both from a production standpoint and from a leadership perspective, making the ability to fill these roles all the more crucial. During this year's playoffs 4 of the top 10 scoring leaders were over age players.
So what should the Montreal Juniors do? Who should they keep on board? Pickings are slim since only four 1990 born players remain from last year's roster. The team will need to choose from right winger and team captain Nicolas Choinard, centerman and leading point scorer Jeremy Gouchie (seen in photo), checking line forward Chris Thorne, and steady defenseman Vincent Bourgeois.
My guess GM Pascal Vincent will elect to keep two of the above listed players, both forwards, and will then look to acquire a third 20 year old player, most likely a defenseman, via trade. Should the Juniors elect to make a move, it'll probably occur sometime this summer.
So who do they keep? Nicolas Choinard seems like an obvious choice to stay on board. He seems like a good choice to captain the team once again as he provides everything you look for in a captain. Choinard proved he can put up good numbers as he scored 59 points in 66 games last season. He battles hard along the boards, finishes his checks and sticks up for his teammates. Choinard plays excellent 5 on 5 hockey and is often used on both the penalty kill and the power play. Consider Choinard a lock.
After that the decisions get tougher. Who should Montreal choose between Jeremy Gouchie and Chris Thorne?
Gouchie seems like the obvious choice. He's a skilled centerman and led the Juniors in scoring last season with 65 points in 67 games played.
But not so fast. While Thorne doesn't carry the same skill set as Gouchie he does bring a much needed physical element to a Juniors lineup that lacks both size and grit. At 6'0" and 210 pounds Thorne played on the Montreal's checking line for most of the year and finished with a respectable 15 goals and 10 assists in 66 games played.
Then there's Vincent Bourgeois who has the potential to fill a top four defenseman position but also appears to be ready to focus on his education and will likely walk away from junior hockey. Last season Bourgeois attended McGill University and was a runner up for the QMJHL's academic award. If Bourgeois does move on to focus on education you can bet the Juniors will shop around to replace him with another defenseman this summer, most likely a 20 year old player.
No matter who the Juniors select as their over age players they better make it count if they want to be a true contender next season.