Saturday, November 27, 2010


In 48 hours from now Louis Leblanc should have a big smile on his face. That's because for a second straight year Leblanc will be invited to the final camp for Canada's National Junior U-20 squad that will compete at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships taking place in Buffalo, NY.

RDS has reported that Leblanc, along with 5 other QMJHL players are expected to be invited to the final camp. The other 5 players include forwards Michael Bournival of Shawinigan and Sean Couturier of Drummondville, defensemen Brandon Gormley of Moncton and Simon Despres of Saint John, and goaltender Olivier Roy of Acadie-Bathurst. Here's a quick blurb on each player (position & age):

Louis Leblanc (C/W - 19):

He has been the player to watch this year in Montreal. To date Leblanc has registered 12 goals and 28 points in 20 games played. Much of the attention surrounding Leblanc relates to his status as the Montreal Canadiens' 1st round pick from the 2009 NHL entry draft. He played on the same line as Sean Couturier at both the Team Canada summer training camp in Newfoundland and while playing with Team QMJHL in the Subway Series against the Russians. Perhaps Team Canada has already decided both Leblanc and Couturier will be on the final roster? Leblanc is currently nursing a minor shoulder injury but is expected to be in top shape to play before the camp in mid-December. He is listed at 6'0", 178 lbs.

Michael Bournival (C - 18):

He was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 3rd round of the 2010 entry draft however earlier this month his rights were dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defensemen Ryan O'Byrne. Bournival plays a feisty two-way game and skates well in his solidly build frame (6'0", 187 lbs). Bournival played for team QMJHL against the Russians earlier this month. He's wearing the "C" for his team these days and has posted 11 goals and 29 points in 22 games played this season.

Sean Couturier (C / W - 18):

He may be the most evaluated player at this year's World Junior Hockey Championships. Couturier, the QMJHL's scoring leader from last season, is expected to be the 1st overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft, so the scouts will be watching his every move. He was captain for Team QMJHL this year and performed very well against the Russians posting 2 points in 2 games played. He does everything well in all three zones. His skating and puck handling abilities are very smooth despite his large body (6'4", 191 lbs) Couturier has 15 goals and 39 points in 28 games played this year.

Simon Despres (D, 19):

Drafted by the Penguins 29th overall in 2009, Despres is a big time NHL prospect. This year at Pittsburgh's camp, Despres played so well that he almost stuck around for a full time NHL job. Since he was returned to the Sea Dogs Despres has earned his status as a star defenseman in the league while earning 5 goals and 18 points in 15 games played. He was unable to participate in the Subway Series after suffering an injury but will likely have that chance at the WJHC. Despres skates very well for a guy who is listed at 6'4" and 205 lbs.

Brandon Gormley (D, 18):

After "slipping" down the ranks in this year's NHL draft, Gormley has yet to disappoint the Pheonix Coyotes who drafted him 13th overall. A smooth skater, Gormely plays very consistent hockey at both ends of the ice and is a tremendous decision maker with the puck. To date he has 23 points in 20 games played. Listed at 6'2" and 190 lbs, Gormely is probably a lock to make Team Canada's final roster.

Olivier Roy (G, 19):

Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 5th round of the 2009 NHL entry draft, Roy is playing his 4th season of Major Junior hockey. He has been on Team Canada's radar since the age of 16 and is the favorite to be the starting goaltender for the team. In 17 games played this season Roy has 9 wins and 8 losses while posting a 2.98 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. He also has 1 shutout this season. Roy is listed at 6'0", 180 lbs.

To read about the final list of camp invites, visit Hockey Canada's website this Monday afternoon at

2 Montreal Juniors on the outside looking in?

Unfortunately for 2 other Montreal Juniors players, goaltender Jean-Francois Berube and defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel, Monday will mark the day where their chances end to represent Canada at the World Junior tournament.

Jean-Francois Berube (G, 19):

He has been good for the Juniors but not great. Through 17 games played this season, his record of 13-3-1 looks great. But when you break it down and look further into the details, you notice that his numbers aren't as impressive as they could be, considering his situation. Berube's GAA is respectable at 2.60, however his save percentage of .897 is simply not something to brag about. Last season, playing for a much weaker Montreal team, Berube earned a 8.97 save percentage in 45 games played. If Berube wanted to lock a spot on the team he would have needed to have post a save percentage of at least .915 while between the pipes for the powerhouse Juniors.

Charles-Olivier Roussel (D, 19):

This season has not gone as planned for Roussel. After scoring 15 goals and 54 points in 64 games played last year with Shawinigan, Roussel has not been as fortunate while playing in Montreal this year. He still hasn't scored a goal and only has 7 assists in 17 games played. Speaking of 17 games played, missing games has been troublesome for Roussel this year. He has been both injured and suspended to miss a total of 9 games. For the sake of his career, Roussel needs to refocus his efforts on the opportunity he has in Montreal; winning a Presidents Cup and perhaps a chance to play in the Memorial Cup.

Photo Credit: Hockey Canada


Saturday, November 20, 2010


Coach Pascal Vincent is trying to find the right line combinations in order to produce the most offense possible.

Early in the season it seemed as though the number 1 line of Louis Leblanc, Philippe Lefebvre and Nicolas Chouinard would never be broken up. They were producing a lot of goals and were doing so consistently. The problem was that the rest of the team wasn't scoring. Here's a look at the current lineup:

1st line: Hari (18-LW) / Leblanc (19-C) / Chouinard (20-RW)
2nd line: Lefebvre (19-LW) / Gouchie (20-C) / Parkes (19-RW)
3rd line: Fontaine (19-LW) / Aubry (19-C) / Rose (19-RW)
4th line: Kindl (18-C), Anderson (19-C), Sherbatov (19-LW), Laflamme (17-LW), Clarke (17-LW)

Vincent has been rotating his 5 fourth line players in and out of the lineup. It's rare to see any one of these players sit out more than 2 or 3 games straight.

1st pairing: Meilleur (20) & Roussel (19)
2nd pairing: Landry (19) & Ouellet (17)
3rd pairing: Narbonne (18), Provost (18) and Micallef (18)

Vincent often dresses Narbonne, Provost and Micallef and dresses only 2 of his 5 4th line forwards in order to go with a lineup of 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. This is the right move since the depth of the Juniors' defense corps is clearly the strength of his team.

Starter: Berube (19)
Backup: Marcoux (17)

Expect Pascal Vincent to continue starting Berube in at least 75% of the Juniors games.

Injury Update:

It is obvious that Leblanc hasn't been playing at full health since returning from the Canada / Russia Subway Series. I'm not sure exactly what the injury is however I would guess that it may be groin related....Whatever the case, Leblanc must want to remain in Montreal's lineup in order to boost his exposure and chances of playing on Canada's National Junior Team. More to come on this if anything is learned. This just in......Louis Leblanc is sitting out today against Chicoutimi after playing last night in Baie Comeau. I'm guessing this is related to the minor injury he's suffering from. Charles-Olivier Roussel is not playing today either - due to injury, I would assume.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Yesterday NHL Central Scouting released their 2010 Fall Rankings for the 2011 NHL entry draft and Xavier Ouellet (seen in photo) ranked high on the QMJHL list as expected.

Ouellet, an offensive puck moving defenseman, is playing in his second season with the Montreal Juniors.

At 17 years old Ouellet is Montreal's youngest blue liner. Despite his youth, Ouellet is currently leading the Juniors' defense corps in terms of offensive production with 2 goals and 19 assists for 21 points in 23 games played. Ouellet also boasts a plus/minus rating of +8.

He has already surpassed his output of last season when he recorded 2 goals and 14 assists for 16 points in 43 games played. Note that last year Ouellet suffered a broken wrist early in the year which delayed his progress.

This past summer Ouellet represented Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament as a member of Canada's National Under-18 Team. Canada won gold beating Team USA in the final.

Just last week Ouellet had the opportunity to represent Team QMJHL and play against Russia's Under-20 Team for games 1 and 2 of the Subway Series. Participating in the event gave Ouellet yet another opportunity to demonstrate his skill set to Team Canada scouts. His chances of making Canada's Under-20 team this winter are extremely slim however, should his game continue to evolve, don't be surprised to see Ouellet represent Canada at either the 2012 or 2013 tournaments.

Ouellet is known best for his puck handling abilities. He possesses a sound transition game and is consistent in making sharp outlet passes when breaking out of his own zone. From time to time he will rush the puck up the ice and lead Montreal's attack. Ouellet is capable of quarterbacking the power play and makes good decisions in terms of knowing when to pass versus taking the shot.

Although Ouellet does not appear to be the smoothest skater, you can see the improvement in his skating compared to last season. It looks as though he has worked on the power he generates from his stride. He may still be growing into his body as well which may play into the "smooth" factor. His defensive play and positioning is rather sound. Ouellet covers his man well in his own zone, uses his body well in the corner and is smart with his stick. With NHL Central Scouting Ouellet is listed at 5'11.5" and 182 lbs. With the QMJHL he is listed as 6'1" and 177 lbs (I believe this to be more accurate).

Ranked at number 7 in the Q, Ouellet has a shot to be drafted in the 1st round but is more likely to be selected in the 2nd round. I'm basing this comment mainly on the trend we witnessed during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft when it became a trend for teams to place less of a priority on drafting defensemen (ie: Fowler & Gormely fell about 8-10 positions at the draft).

I've listed the top QMJHL ranked players (see below). Sean Couturier deserves to be ranked #1 and is probably the #1 ranked player in the world right now. I'm a bit surprised to see Tomas Jurco listed behind Olivier Archambeault. I've seen the two play a number of times and in terms of NHL potential I'd give the nod to Jurco, hands down. Another surprising find was seeing Zack Phillips ranked down at number 11. I would've expected to see him much higher as well especially considering his teammates (Oke and Tesink) are ranked above him. I saw Phillips play last week for team QMJHL and would argue that he was one of the team's better forwards and fierce competitors. Here's the list:

NHL Central Scouting - 2010 Fall Rankings for 2011 NHL Entry Draft - (QMJHL only):


1- Sean Couturier, Drummondville
2- Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John
3- Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John
4- Phillip Danault, Victoriaville
5- Olivier Archambault, Val d'Or
6- Tomas Jurco, Saint John
7- Xavier Ouellet, Montreal
8- Maximilien Le Sieur, Shawinigan
9- Scott Oke, Saint John
10- Ryan Tesink, Saint John
11- Zack Phillips, Saint John
12- Jean-Francois LeBlanc, Val d'Or
13- Jonathan Racine, Shawinigan
14- Brent Andrews, Halifax
15- Yannick Veilleux, Shawinigan
16- Guillaume Cloutier, Saint John
17- Logan Shaw, Cape Breton
18- Samuel Henley, Lewiston
19- Gabriel Beaupre, Val d'Or
20- Sean Girard, Rouyn-Noranda
21- Josh Currie, PEI
22- Stephen Woodworth, Cape Breton
23- Axel Rioux, Quebec
24- Olivier Daoust, Moncton
25- Olivier Jodoin, Cape Breton


1- Christopher Gibson, Chicoutimi
2- David Honzik, Victoriaville
3- Maxime Lagace, PEI
4- Andrei Makarov, Lewiston
5- Jeffrey Noonan, Rouyn-Noranda

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I was in Drummondville last Wednesday night to catch game 2 of the subway series between the QMJHL and Russia's Junior National Team, a game won by the Russians by a score of 4-3.

During the 2 game series against the Russians, team QMJHL's roster was filled with 7 players from the Montreal Juniors franchise; Goaltender Jean-Francois Berube (19), Defensemen Charles-Olivier Roussel (19) and Xavier Ouellet (17), Forwards Louis Leblanc (19), Philippe Lefebvre (19), Trevor Parkes (19) and Louis-Marc Aubry (19).

The first half of the game was rather tame. The Quebec players (seen in photo) were playing a more cautious style than the Russians. You could sense the players were a bit nervous playing in front of so many scouts. For many of the players, this game represented a final chance to make an impression in front of Team Canada's scouting staff before they finalize the roster for the pre-tournament camp.

Meanwhile, the mentality of the already finalized Russian team seemed to be more focused on executing a game plan and to beat what they considered to be one third of the Canadian junior program. In other words, you could sense the Russians trying to make a statement, sending "massages" to the faces, via fists, of any Q player who tried to approach their crease after the whistle.

A handful of players really stood out on this night. The players of the game for team QMJHL were Sean Couturier (he really is in a class of his own) and Philippe Paridas (who's NHL rights belong to the Chicago Blackhawks).

At 6'4" and 195 lbs Couturier is a very big young man. Despite his size he plays a very smooth skating / puck handling style of game. Couturier is Strong positionally in all three zones. In terms of production, Couturier was the most notable player on team QMHJL scoring 2 assists.
Philippe Paradis was Q's most noticeable player, by far. He and his line mates were effective every shift, often creating pressure with their down low cycle game. I haven't seen the stats but Paradis must have led the game in body checks. He looked as though he was hitting everything that moved, maybe averaging 1 legitimate check per shift.
The hit of the game was manufactured by Paradis early in the 3rd period. A hulking Russian defender standing over his own blue line was admiring his pass when Paradis clocked him. Paradis' shoulder hit the chin of the Russian and the momentum followed into his chest. Boom! It was one of those hits where the stick pops right out of the victim's hands and flies to a not-so-close area on the ice. In this case the Russian's stick flew through the air and just missed the center ice scoreboard before landing on the other side of the neutral zone. The player was okay but was bleeding from the mouth. The Russian coach was livid.
After the hit the physicality of the game really picked up. Paradis became the target to the Russian squad as they seeking their revenge.
The Russians held on to win the game 4-3 despite being severely out shot by team QMJHL. This loss to the Russians marked the first time the Q has been defeated in both games by the Russian team in the same year. Since the beginning of the Subway Series (2004, I believe) team QMJHL has 9 wins and 7 losses.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Lucky number 7! The Montreal Juniors won 3 games this weekend to expand their winning streak to 7 games. The team has now won 8 of their last 9.

At home on Friday night, the team enjoyed a come from behind victory and beat the Remparts 5-4 in a shootout.

On Saturday the team headed to Quebec City for a rematch game and managed to win once again, this time in regulation, by a score of 3-2.

On Sunday the Juniors were back at home to host the Baie Comeau Drakkar who are suffering this year and are the last place team in the QMJHL. The Juniors cruised to a 5-3 victory with Louis Leblanc earning 1 goal and 2 assists along the way.

This game marked the first where the Juniors had the option of starting any of their regular players. This is because Louis-Marc Aubry (seen in photo) returned to the lineup after missing over 10 games with a knee injury.

The 6'4" center man finished the game with no points and a -1 plus/minus rating, however it was promising was to see Aubry's success in the face off circle. Aubry won 16/19 face offs (84.2%) which is incredible. This is an area where Montreal can use some improvement hence why it's a positive to see Aubry return to good health.

The Juniors are playing at home against Cape Breton this Thursday morning (nov. 11) at 10:30 before travelling to Gatineau on Saturday (nov. 13) to play against their division rival. They return home to play Sean Couturier and the Drummondville Voltigeurs on Sunday (nov. 14) at 15:00.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish


Saturday, November 6, 2010


On Friday night the Montreal Juniors earned themselves a huge statement victory over the Quebec Remparts and improved their record to 12-3-2-1.

Montreal won the game in style. After coming back from a 4-2 deficit with only 10 minutes left in the game, the Juniors won the game in a shootout. Jeremy Gouchie scored the winner allowing the Juniors to walk away with a 5-4 victory.

The Verdun Auditorium was jam packed and a memorable atmosphere was noticed by all. There wasn't a seat open in the building and there were plenty of fans packed into the standing zones, including a large number of Remparts fans who made the trip from Quebec City.

Seeing Quebec and Montreal battle for 65 minutes gave me a craving to see a match up between the two team in the playoffs next spring. That would be a Quebec hockey fans' dream. Both teams are well coached and deep at all positions, not to mention the memories that spark when thinking about a Quebec City vs. Montreal match up.

24 horse later I find myself sitting in the press box at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City. It's my first time visiting this building and I have to say, I like it. It's old and gives you a feel of the "old nhl". There's a main seating level plus an upper deck. The seats at both end zones of the upper deck level pile higher than they do along the sides of the rink.

But despite the old feel, there's also a modern twist. The Remparts have an NHL-like introduction which plays on 4 sides of the octagon scoreboard hanging above center ice. The introduction allows fans to see each player, while flashing visuals of the city's well known landmarks, thereby linking a relationship between the fans, the city, the team and it's players. The atmosphere here is far closer to that of a Habs game than that of a Juniors game. Needless o say, the marketing people are earning their salaries.

Now to the action. It is obvious that Louis Leblanc is a marked man in this city. Not only are the Remparts checking him tight with the likes of Frederik Roy and Matthew Brown but the fans boo him whenever they get a chance.

Speaking of Leblanc, he is playing his second straight game with a new set of line mates; team captain Nicolas Chouinard and European Janos Hari. So far they're doing well. Leblanc had a goal last night and another tonight (eventual game winner).

The second line of Philippe Lefebvre (LW), Jeremy Gouchie (C) and Trevor Parkes (RW) has looked very impressive. Every time they're on the ice the Juniors are achieving strong pressure down low in the Remparts zone. This line has played so well you could even call it the 1st line.

The team dressed 7 defenseman and 11 forwards tonight leaving center man Denis Kindl on the sidelines as a last minute scratch. It's not the first time coach Pascal Vincent has made this move and surely won't be the last. Francis Meilleur and Charles Olivier have formed a unit together all year. Charles Landry, who returned recently from a fractured jaw, is paired with Xavier Ouellet. Matt provost, Jonathan Narbonne and Alex Micallef, all 18 year old junior aged players, make take up the 5th, 6th and 7th spots on the blue line rotating in playing time.

The David Rose and Philippe Fontaine formed the 3rd pair of wingers. Sherbatov and rookie Laflamme made up the fourth. Anderson spent time centering both lines as did the other two pivots (Leblanc and Gouchie) from time to time.

The game has now ended. Leblanc's goal became the winner. Quebec pressed the Juniors towards the end of the game but were unsuccessful in their attempt to tie things up.

27 hours ago the Quebec Remparts were ranked #1 in the country out of 60 CHL teams. Montreal has now beat Quebec twice in as many nights. I guess you could say I'm looking forward to next week's rankings.