Thursday, February 24, 2011

VIDEO Q&A WITH MONTREAL RW J-C LAFLAMME


17 year old rookie RW J-C Laflamme
has enjoyed his first year in the Q. He
adds energy, speed and skill to the
Montreal Juniors lineup.
Right winger Jean-Christophe Laflamme is a rookie with the Montreal Juniors this season. Born in '93 Laflamme is considered a 17 year old player, making him one of the youngest forwards on the Juniors roster (Marcoux, Ouellet and Clarke being the only other '93 born players on the team).

Laflamme is off to a good start to his Junior career. Because Montreal is a team with lots of depth up front, Laflamme has spent most of his ice time jumping between the 3rd and 4th line this year and has seen virtually no power play time. Despite this limited opportunity Laflamme has recorded 7 goals and 6 assists through 32 games played. He also holds a good plus/minus rating of +5 and has earned 16 penalty minutes to date.

The best way to describe Laflamme in two words is "fast" and "fearless". Laflamme is a speedy winger and isn't afraid to play a physical game. Not one bit. Although he's listed at 5'8" and 170 pounds, he is often seen laying out big hits along the boards and in the open ice.

Actually, another way to describe Laflamme is to compare him to ex-Montreal Juniors winger Matthew Brenton who played in Montreal during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons. His speed, intensity, strong two way game and scoring touch are very similar to the level of Brenton. All that plus he's got that knack for laying out the big hits.....at least a couple times every game. We've noticed this enough to give him a nickname too, which is: "LAFLAMME THE BATTERING RAM"!

We spoke with Laflamme last week in Shawinigan. Unfortunately he was watching that game from the stands because he's recovering from surgery on his foot to repair a laceration to a tendon he suffered 2 weeks ago. Despite the injury J-C was in good spirits and is eager to return to the lineup. Estimated return: 6-8 weeks (appx. April 10th). Enjoy the video:

video


Filming & Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

VIDEO Q&A WITH MONTREAL CENTERMAN JEREMY GOUCHIE


Jeremy Gouchie is a key piece of the
Montreal Juniors offense this season
Last weekend we caught up with Montreal Juniors centerman Jeremy Gouchie who is one of three 1990 born players on the team's roster this season. Gouchie has been playing in the QMJHL for 4 seasons including 3 in Montreal.

Last year Gouchie led Montreal in scoring with 25 goals and 40 assists for 65 points in 67 games played. And he's producing big numbers yet again this season with 17 goals and 32 assists in 57 games to date, even despite the Juniors having much more depth on board to share the team's offensive responsibilities this time around.

Gouchie has been centering the Juniors 2nd line this year (although on many nights they have been the team's best line), playing between left winger / Montreal Canadiens prospect Philippe Lefebvre, as well as right winger / Detroit Red Wings prospect Trevor Parkes.

But Gouchie is not only counted on for his offensive capabilities. Head coach Pascal Vincent often uses Gouchie on the penalty killing unit when his team is shorthanded. He has also been used to play against the other team's top offensive players. On more than one occasion this season Gouchie's line was paired up against the QMJHL's leading scorer, Philip-Michael Devos.

We asked Gouchie to share his thoughts about the Montreal Juniors season this year, the impact of the new players that were added during the trade period, the leadership in the dressing room, the progress of prospect Xavier Ouellet, the impact of team captain Nicolas Chouinard, and much much more. Enjoy!

video


Video Work: Ron Lemish

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Monday, February 21, 2011

LOUIS-MARC AUBRY BACK IN LINEUP FOR JUNIORS


Louis-Marc Aubry missed 2 months
of action before returning to the lineup
last Thursday in a 4-3 win over LEW.

Louis-Marc Aubry looks as though he hasn't missed a beat of action. Last Thursday Aubry returned to the lineup after missing 2 months worth of games due to a hand injury.

Back on December 17th Aubry was hit by a shot in the offensive zone. The damage? A hand injury that was bad enough to keep the 6'4" centerman out of the lineup for a 60 day term.

On Friday night Aubry scored the Juniors first goal against the Quebec Remparts. Using his big frame Aubry was able to muscle his way in front of the opposition's net, reach around a Remparts defenseman and backhand a loose puck past Remparts goaltender Louis Dominique.

Coach Pascal Vincent used Aubry to center the team's 3rd line between energetic right winger Nicolas Chouinard and tough guy left winger Raphael Pouliot.

Having Aubry back in the lineup gives the Juniors a huge boost at the center position. He's a big body that not only plays a strong defensive game, but also who can add more production to an already deep offense. In only 25 games this season Aubry has scored 12 goals and 9 assists for 21 points. Further, his strong two way play is reflected in his plus/minus rating of +10.

Aubry's return also gives Montreal a greater presence in the face off circle. He leads the Juniors with an impressive 58.3% face off winning percentage. Look for Vincent to use Aubry and Gouchie (the Juniors other face off specialist) together on the same line when there's a faceoff deep in the Juniors zone late in a game.

Line Combo Update:

With Aubry returning to the lineup this weekend and with Rose and Hertzberg healthy again, the Juniors finally have an injury free team (well, almost.....J-C Laflamme is out for 6 weeks with a laceration to a tendon in his foot). Here are the forward line combinations we saw during the past two games:

1st line: Hertzberg (19), Leblanc (19), Rose (19)
2nd line: Lefebvre (19), Gouchie (20), Parkes (19)
3rd line: Pouliot (19), Aubry (19), Chouinard (20)
4th line: Fontaine (19), Anderson (19), Provost (18)

NOTES: These were the line combinations on Friday. On Saturday, in order to keep everyone involved, both Anderson and Provost were substituted with Michael Clarke (17) and Alex Lemieux (18).

INJURIES: Rookie right winger J-C Laflamme (17) will sit out for the next 6 weeks after suffering a tear to a tendon in his foot.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #1

Today HockeyPoints presents the final entry of a five part series. In this piece we present our choice for who is the best contending team heading into the 2011 QMJHL playoffs.

During the last 4 entries we pick the Drummondville Voltigeurs at #5, the Quebec Remparts at #4, the Gatineau Olympiques at #3 and the Saint John Sea Dogs at #2. Now it's time to unveil our #1 pick:

#1 - The Montreal Juniors:

So I received some hate mail this week from a few of my followers in the maritimes, specifically the Saint John Sea Dogs region. picking the Montreal Juniors #1 was difficult to do for a number of reasons. Not only are they the team I follow most, but they also trail Saint John in both the QMJHL overall standings and the CHL Top 10 rankings....needless to say, my selection doesn't look so good. So why did I choose Montreal over Saint John? Let me tell explain.

Much of the decision cam down to one major factor; maturity. My opinion is that Montreal have more of it than Saint John. So what is maturity? Age and experience.

When you look down the Juniors roster you'll notice it’s filled with a lot of talented players, many of who are 19 years old and older. For the most part, it's these players who will be counted on most when the going gets tough. The Juniors are deep with these players throughout their roster.

Up front they’ve got Gouchie and Chouinard who are 20 years old. In terms of 19 year old they have Lefebvre, Parkes, Aubry, Fontaine, Rose, Anderson, Hertzberg and Leblanc. On defense Meilleur rounds out the Juniors group of 20 years olds, while Roussel, Landry and Beauchemin are each 19 years old. Between the pipes J-F Berube is another veteran with 19 years of age. That totals 15 players who are 19 years old or more….and many of those players are the core players who will be counted on by the Juniors.

Conversely, when you look at many of the players who make up part of the Sea Dogs core you notice many are under the age of 19. Top scorer Jonathan Huberdeau is only a '93 born 17 year old. Second leading scorer Zach Philips is 18 years old, as are Stanislav Galiev, Tomas Jurco and Nathan Beaulieu.

I see this as a major differentiator that may not be noticed over the course of a long regular season but will be proved in the post-season.

So if Montreal is a better team, why are they behind Saint John in the QMJHL’s overall standings? Here’s my two part answer to that question:

1) Injuries – Montreal has had bad luck this season in terms of being able to stay healthy. Aubry has only played 22 games to date. Leblanc, Rose, Hertzberg, Lefebvre, Fontaine and Landry are others who missed a fair share of games throughout the season. Just the other day rookie forward Jean-Christophe Laflamme suffered a laceration to a tendon in his foot. So as you can see, the Juniors should have bought season tickets to the CLSC this year because the injury bug seems to be flying around!

If the Juniors didn’t have these injuries I think it’s fair to say they’d be a few points higher in the standings.

2) Division Rivals – You don’t have to do a lot of research to realize Montreal plays in a more competitive division than that of Saint John. This matters because the league schedule is weighted in such a manner where teams play inter-division rivals more often than non-division opponents. The Juniors schedule includes more games against the likes of Gatineau, Shawinigan and Drummondville. Three very strong teams. Whereas the Sea Dogs biggest competition is who? Acadie Bathurst? Probably. Moncton, Cape Breton, Halifax and PEI don’t present serious threats.

This too has an impact on the standings. What if Montreal and Saint John switched divisions? Would Saint John still be far atop the standings? I’m not so sure.

Montreal has all the tools they need for a successful championship run. Up front and down the middle the Juniors are strong with Leblanc, Gouchie, Aubry and Anderson filling up the four centerman positions.

Hertzberg and Rose, Parkes and Lefebvre, and Chouinard and Pouliot fill up the winger positions on three of the four lines. Fontaine, Laflamme, Clarke and Lemieux rotate in and out of the lineup to fill the winger positions on the team’s fourth line. Matt Provost, normally a defenseman, has also seen time at forward this season. He forechecks well and is effective at screening the goalie.

On the back end, the Juniors will look to Meilleur, Roussel, and Landry to lead the way in the playoffs and eat up lots of ice time. Ouellet continues to evolve into a strong top four defenseman for the Juniors, while Narbonne, Provost, Beauchemin and Micallef provide sufficient depth.

Charles-Olivier Roussel remains a huge X factor. He’s played better and better as the season has evolved but I still think there's more room for improvement for his game. If Roussel can play his “A” game the Juniors will be in top shape on the blueline.

In goal JF Berube should carry most of the load unless he suffers and injury or needs a slight rest. He started the the season a bit rusty but has been on top of his game in the new year.

Overall outlook:
 
Montreal's roster is complete with every component a QMJHL team needs to win the Preseidents Cup. On paper they're the most complete team in the league, both from a talent point of view and from a maturity point of view. The question which remains to be answered is whether or not the Juniors can bring it all together when it counts most. The team will need to be healthy, somthing they haven't had much luck with this year. JF Berube may need to steal a couple of games if the rest of the team ever has an off night.
 
There's one month remaining until the playoffs begin. Get ready to watch some of the best hockey of the year! 
 
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #2

Today at HockeyPoints we continue our five part series which looks the top contenders heading into the QMJHL playoffs. So far we've chosen the Drummondville Voltigeurs at #5, the Quebec Remparts at #4 and the Gatineau Olympiques at #3. Next up is the a very controversial pick at #2:

#2 - The Saint John Sea Dogs:

Oh boy, am I ever going to hear about this one. At #2 (and not #1) we're ranking the Saint John Sea Dogs. I can already sense the hate mail that will appear in my inbox. To make it easier for you, here's my email address! Or, feel free to vent your disagreement on the HockeyPoints forum. I've started a topic on the forum called QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - Top 5. Please chime if you're interested!

So yes, I've ranked the Sea Dogs as the 2nd best team in the Q heading into the playoffs. Not the 1st best, I know, I know. How could I you ask? Well, even though they're currently the top team in the QMJHL standings......and even though they're the #1 ranked team in the CHL....and even though they went to the Cup final last year......and will probably earn a spot in the Q final again this year....and next....I still decided to rank them 2nd!

So who's #1 you ask? We've picked the Montreal Juniors and tomorrow's post will be all about that. Call me a "homer" if you must but I'm not. I have my reasons and will get to explain those evenutually. I just have a feeling that in a seven game series Montreal would drown the Sea Dogs.

Anyway, back to the Saint John. They have a phenomenal roster and it's built for a long playoff run.

Starting with the forwards, Saint John is stacked. And you don't need to look too far down the league's list of scoring leaders to see why. Draft eligible forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Philips both rank among the league's top 5 scorers. Huberdeau, a 17 year old centerman, has 80 points through 51 games while Philips has 75 points through 51 games. Both players have dominated the Q all season long and are expected to be selected during the first round of this summer's NHL entry draft.

Both wingers, the Sea Dogs Euro players rank up there with the best in the business.

Stanislav Galiev, an 18 year old left winger and a 3rd round draft pick in 2010 of the Washington Capitals, has 47 points through 48 games. Galiev uses a longer stick than most players and has that Alex Semin type whip in his shot. When he's on, he's on and is a true game changer.

Then there's Tomas Jurco. Also a '92 born player Jurco has a late birthday and is therefore playing in his draft season this year. Jurco is another Sea Dog who has an opportunity to go in the first round of the 2011 draft however his play has slowed and he will likely drop to the second round pick as a result of his slowed play. A right winger, Jurco has 45 points in 44 games this year and is a threat each and every game.

20 year old centerman Michael Kirkpatrick and 19 year old left winger Steven Anthony round out the team's top 6 forwards and bring leadership to the table. Kirkpatrick has 64 points through 49 games played, while Anthony has 48 points in 46 games.

The list of bottom six forwards is filled with excellent role players ranging from centerman Stephen MacAulay to rough and tough guy / team captain Mike Thomas. Alex Beaureguard, Ryan Tesink, Scott Oke and Danick Gauthier round out a few other notables.

On the back end Saint John is led by two horses. Simon Despres and Eric Gelinas.

Despres is enjoying a terrific season, his fourth in the league. He represented Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships last month and has earned a point per game in the Q with 32 points in 32 games. Despres is a big kid at 6'4" and 225lbs and is arguably the best defensemen in the Q when considering his complete game. Despres is a 1st round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins and almost made the team out of training camp this year.

Gelinas was Saint John's big acquisition during the trade period this year. He was struggling with Chicoutimi although he seems to have regained his sound game with the Sea Dogs. This is evidenced by his plus/minus rating which is +18 in only 13 games with the Sea Dogs. At 6'4" and 201lbs Gelinas too brings a lethal combination of size, grit and skill. Through 48 games played he has 33 points. Gelinas is a 2nd round pick of the New Jersey Devils.

Nathan Beaulieu ranks as the Dogs' 3rd best defender but may have the best upside of them all. Like so many of his teammates, Beaulieu is highly touted for the upcoming NHL entry draft and may even go in the top 10. Beaulieu is a strong skater and confident with the puck. He has 38 points in 51 games played and is counted on in all situations.

Goaltenders Jacob DeSerres and Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault will guard the net for Saint John. Both goalies have NHL camp related experience having each been drafted. DeSerres by the Philadelphia Flyers and Corbeil-Theriault by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Overall outlook:

The Sea Dogs could win the QMJHL championship. I really believe that. However, everyone knows their team is built to peak in 2012 and I just don't see them matching the Montreal Juniors maturity level in order to pull through in the clutch. They're strong in all areas of their roster and very well coached. Can the young stars (Huberdeau, Philips, Jurco and Beaulieu)step up to the plate and deliver to play above expectations? If they do, they'll win. If they don't, you can bet they'll be back to win in 2012!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #3

Last week HockeyPoints released the start of a five part series which looks at who we believe are the top 5 Presidents Cup contenders heading into the QMJHL playoffs. The Drummondville Voltigeurs fit into the #5 slot and we plugged the Quebec Remparts into the #4 position. Here's our pick for #3:

#3 - The Gatineau Olympiques:

With Mr. Benoit Groulx at the helm the Olympiques may be the best coached team in the league. Since his return to Gatineau the Olympiques have flourished. They've enjoyed their success this season despite their captain Hubert Labrie (who also may be their MVP) suffering a long term injury which sidelined him for the entire season thus far. For those of you who don't remember Labrie, he's the one who scored the flukey playoff ending goal last year against the Juniors in double OT of game #7. So heart breaking!

Defense is a major strength for Gatineau. In goal they have a top 5 goalie in the league with Maxime Clermont. The New Jersey Devils draft pick has a 2.61 goals against average and a .897 save percentage through 40 games this year. He has been known to step up in big games when needed most and does well when facing a lot of shots.

On the back end, Hubert Labrie is a fierce competitor and a superb shut down defenseman. He hits well and plays an ultra tough game. He can step up offensively as well. Last year in the playoffs Labrie scored 7 points in 11 games through two rounds. The Dallas Stars draft pick is expected to be back in time for the playoffs. If he is, that'll be a huge boost.

After that Gatineau has Nicolas Deslauriers who may be the top performing defenseman in the league this season. He's missed about 20 games but has scored an impressive 33 points in 34 games this year. With Deslaurier and Labrie the Olympiques are equipped to match up against anyone.

Gatineau's 3rd best defenseman is Adam Janosik, an 18 year old Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd round 2010 draft pick. Janosik plays a strong all around game and has a quick/strong release from the point. He's often seen paired with Deslauriers on the powerplay and remains a scoring threat at all times. Janosik has 26 points in 45 games this year.

Mathieu Gagnon rounds out the team's top four defensemen. He's enjoying a strong season for an 18 year old with 27 points earned through 52 games played.

Up front Gatineau have a well rounded group of forward with a nice mix of size, skill, speed and intensity.

At the trade deadline Gatineau acquired the league's leading scorer in Philip-Michael Devos. He leads the league with 87 points through 53 games played. He's a fantastic play maker and strangely he seems religious about playing the Tomas Holmstrom position (in front of the net) on the power play. If Gatineau are to be successful in the post-season Devos will need to be in top shape because when he's good, he's very good and can dictate the pace of a hockey game.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is another scoring threat. The draft eligible center man has been putting up big numbers all year. He sits 2nd on the team's list of point getters with 62 points in 53 games played. Despite his small frame, Pageau does well shifting through traffic and fools opponents with his slick stick handeling moves and a quick right handed release.

Winger Tye McGinn ranks 3rd in team scoring with 56 points in 39 games played. But the 6'4" winger brings more to the table than his scoring ability. He ranks 1st on the team with a +27 plus/minus rating (no other player can even boast a +20 rating) and plays a very well rounded game. He hits and fights too, bringing a mixed bag of tricks to the Olympiques attack.

Overall outlook:

The Olympiques will need to play a strong, team oriented, defense first game in order to stop their opponents while capitalizing on their offensive opportunities if they want to go far. Their focus, discipline and intensity levels are made for the post season. Consider Gatineau a final four team, hands down!

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #4

Yesterday we introduced our five part series about who HockeyPoints believes are the top 5 Presidents Cup contenders heading into the QMJHL playoffs. We ranked the Drummondville Voltigeurs at #5 and are now our pick at #4:

#4 - The Quebec Remparts:

Patrick Roy's squad plays with a usual intensity. The leadership group consists of 20 year olds Jonathan Audry-Marchessault who leads the team in scoring (73Pts in 51GP), Joel Champagne who's currently 2nd in team scoring (64Pts in 51GP) and smooth skating defenseman Alex Wall who ranks 3rd among defensemen scoring league wide (37Pts in 47GP).

After that the Remparts have speedy left winger Ryan Bourque (47Pts in 35GP) who is always a threat. Couple him with slick European born left winger Tomas Filippi (46Pts in 46GP) and the Remparts have two of the most dynamic wingers in the league. For those of you who haven't seen Filippi play this season, he truly is a treat to watch. As an 18 year old junior aged player he is very capable of taking over a game and can be electric to watch when he up his game.

In terms of gritty players who can have a strong impact in the playoffs, the Remparts have that too. Roy's younger son, Frederick Roy, plays on the edge game in and game out. He's a constant distraction for most opponents and throws them off their game......but he also draws many penalties as a result. Roy contributes offensively as well. He has 43Pts in 48GP this season. Matt Brown is another player who can play against other teams' top lines and adds an underrated physical presence to the Remparts lineup.

On defense Mikael Tam, Vincent Bernard and Martin Lefebvre round out the rest of Quebec's top four defensemen. Along with Alex Wall, the four combine for a +99 plus/minus rating.

Overall outlook:

Ultimately the Remparts success will depend on how far their competitive side will carry them. Roy is an emotional coach and this can both help or hinder his team depending on the situation. He'll need to push the right buttons at the right time for his team to be successful in the post-season.

Next up we'll unveil our 3rd ranked team.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

QMJHL PLAYOFF PUSH POWER RANKINGS - #5

We're almost a full month past the QMJHL trade deadline therefore the final rosters are set for the playoff season. Over the course of this week, HockeyPoints will take a look at the league's top 5 playoff contenders and how they stack up against each other in preparation for a playoff run. We start today with number #5.

#5 - The Drummondville Voltigeurs:

With top prospect Sean Couturier leading the way anything is possible. The Volts are lead by Couturier who has 24 goals and 71 points in 41 games played this season. Most importantly he carries a +36 plus/minus rating and therefore has a dominant impact at both ends of the ice. If Drummondville are to upset any of the higher ranked teams Couturier would be a major reason for that.

Third year captain Marc-Olivier Vachon is still contributing offensively with 17 goals and 41 points in 48 games played this year. The experience gained by Vachon during the 2009 Presidents Cup and Memorial Cup runs make him invaluable to Drummondville. This captain will need to be at his best.

Right winger Ondrej Palat rides shotgun to Couturier on the team's #1 line and has 32 goals and 72 points in 44 games this season. He's been getting hotter and hotter all season long and his offensive production is very impressive. Evidence of this is clear as he scored points in 30 of his last 32 games played.  With Couturier, Palat ranks among the league's top 5 point getters.

Wingers Jonathan Brunelle (15G and 45Pts in 51GP) and Pier-Antione Dion (18G and 30Pts in 51GP) provide the Volts with energy and depth scoring from the wing position. Both play with an intense style of game that will be most valued during the playoff grind.

On defense Drummondville looks to Jean-Philippe Mathieu to spark their offense. He's enjoying a fine season with respectable while producing 10 goals and 33 points in 51 games played.

Overall outlook:

The Voltigeurs playoff success will rely on their ability to play a structured, hard working game. They must play disciplined and stay out of the penalty box. When playing 5 on 5 they're able to compete with the best teams in the league. The Guy Boucher influence still runs strong in the veins of this team and it'll need to be pumping at full tilt come March if Drummondville wishes to raise the Presidents Cup in 2011.

Tomorrow we'll unveil the #4 ranked team.

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