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.
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!