QMJHL: The mid-season report of the hopefuls
Suffering from mononucleosis during the offseason, the Moncton Wildcats defenseman lost 15 pounds in five days and missed valuable practice time. To the point where he wondered if he would be able to do as well as his rookie year.
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He finally does even better. After 42 games, he is the top scorer among defenders on the circuit (15) and is in the top-4 for points (45).
« It’s beyond my expectations, » he explained. I arrived at training camp and I was not in good shape at all. The first games were difficult in terms of cardio, but in the end everything fell into place. […] I don’t know what I do in particular (to produce), I play hockey without thinking too much. »
This may be the key to success for the 17-year-old back. Ranked 24th on Central Scouting’s mid-season list of North American prospects, he is the most pleasant surprise among QMJHL prospects.
« We were wondering how he was going to react to his second year and we’re not disappointed, » said Bureau scout Jean-François Damphousse. He has some catching up to do on the physical aspect, but everything related to the game on the blue line, to his creativity, to his presence on the power play, is at a higher level. »
NHL.com took advantage of the presence of the QMJHL prospects at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game to do a mid-season review with them and Jean-François Damphousse:
Ethan Gauthier, A – Sherbrooke Phoenix (14th AMN)
2022-23 stats: 43 GMs, 17-30-47
Gauthier’s role has changed slightly since the Phoenix acquired veteran forwards like Jakub Brabenec and Jacob Melanson at the trade deadline. He went from the first to the second line, and from the first to the second wave of the power play.
But it’s something he expected as his team chases top honors. At least he took advantage of the absence of the team’s key players during the World Junior Championship to shine, with six goals and nine assists in eight games.
« Guys had to take their game up a notch when those guys left, » he said. They couldn’t be completely replaced, but I did my best to take more on my shoulders. I had more ice time, more opportunities and I took them. »
The recruiter’s opinion: He’s been excellent every time I’ve seen him this year. He adapts well to all situations: if he plays on the first line, he will produce offensively, if he is asked to take penalties, he will do it. He is a player who can bring a lot to a team. He will have no difficulty adapting to the arrival of newcomers.
Mathieu Cataford, A – Halifax Mooseheads (27th NMA)
2022-23 stats: 43 GMs, 22-29-51
Like Gauthier, Cataford plays for a team that has been pretty clear in its intentions to go all the way this season. With the Trade Deadline acquisitions, his role may change slightly, but he’s proven to be useful in any situation.
« I think my season is going really well, » he said. It’s the same thing from a collective point of view, we are going up the rankings. For me, the important thing is to continue playing the same way without putting pressure on myself because it’s a recipe that works. »
The recruiter’s opinion: He performed beyond expectations. He excelled on a line with Jordan Dumais, and he continues to do so even since they were separated. He played on the wing and in the center, with Dumais and without Dumais, and the result is always the same. He is able to adapt easily. Its development is definitely going in the right direction.
Tyler Peddle, A – Drummondville Voltigeurs (46th AMN)
2022-23 stats: 44 GMs, 18-13-31
Few prospects have to undergo a coaching change in the middle of the most important year of their young career. Peddle is one of them. In addition to managing a checkered start to the season on a personal and collective level, the striker had to adapt to a new system.
« We all had to adjust to the way Eric Bélanger led when he replaced Steve Hartley, » he admitted. It was quite difficult and it was still a big adaptation for me and for the team. It was something that we all had to go through together and it made us stronger. »
The recruiter’s opinion: Some players put extra pressure on themselves in their draft year, and it can get overwhelming when things don’t go so well. When you’re an offensive player and people expect you to produce, like Peddle, you sure have questions when it doesn’t come. He has the potential. The important thing for him will be to take a deep breath in the second half.
Matteo Mann, D – Saguenéens of Chicoutimi (53rd AMN)
2022-23 stats: 26 GMs, 0-5-5
The 6-foot-6, 222-pound defenseman hasn’t had the expected start to the season. He suffered two injuries, in close proximity, which limited him to just 12 games before the holiday break. Needless to say he had a hard time getting his way.
« It was difficult at first, » he admitted. I had never missed so many games due to injuries before that. It’s hard on the mind, but I feel like I’ve been picking up my pace for a few weeks. I start playing like I know I can. I take a new step every game. »
The imposing right-hander will never be a great offensive contributor, but his size and the quality of his defensive play are certainly attracting interest in the NHL.
The recruiter’s opinion: He’s taking the next step in his game. It’s already his third season in the league and he’s establishing himself as a solid defensive player. Injuries have slowed him down a bit, but I really like his progress. A 6-foot-6 right-hander who skates well like him, I’m sure he’ll be in demand at the draft.
Jordan Tourigny, D – Shawinigan Cataracts (63rd AMN)
2022-23 stats: 46 GMs, 5-27-32
With the amount of games Tourigny played in the last season, there was concern that he would hit a wall at some point in the campaign. With his conquest of the President Cup, his participation in the Memorial Cup tournament and the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, his summer was rather busy.
However, it seems that the 17-year-old is managing his energy level quite well.
“I think I improved some more problematic aspects of my game,” he observed. Workload is going well. I try to take care of my body to avoid hitting the wall or to make sure it’s not so bad if I hit it. »
The recruiter’s opinion: It’s going very well on his side, especially from an offensive point of view. He has good hands and has some playmaking skills. He still needs to work on the defensive side. You have to make longer-term projections with him because he’s a smaller defender who hasn’t had the chance to train a lot this summer.
Dylan MacKinnon, D – Halifax Mooseheads (65th NMA)
2022-23 stats: 37 GMs, 5-12-17
Here is a defender that we will have to keep on our radar until the end of the season. MacKinnon made headlines recently with a small offensive burst while David Moravec was at the World Junior Championship – scoring four goals and seven assists in six games.
The offensive aspect is not necessarily central to his identity, but it certainly can’t hurt him to show that he can contribute here and there when needed.
The recruiter’s opinion: He could surprise in the second half. We know he can be a physical, intense defender, with excellent skating and good mobility. He needs to improve his offensive side and his puck control, but he’s shown some great things in that aspect recently. He’ll never be an NHL quarterback, but he’ll be able to play big even-strength minutes and take penalties.
Photo credits: André Émond, Daniel St-Louis, Ghyslain Bergeron