The 2021 QMJHL Entry Draft presented by Fenplast is the second that was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that did not take away from the reality of a strong future that was built around the 20 young men chosen in the draft’s first round on Friday evening. Overall, 12 forwards, seven defensemen and one goaltender were chosen during the festivities.
The Sherbrooke Phoenix, owners of the top pick for the first time since their initial season in 2012, selected center Ethan Gauthier. The projected top pick from QMJHL Central Scouting, Gauthier’s last full season was in the Under-15 ranks, where he posted 40 points in 23 games. Responsible and highly coachable, Gauthier’s speed and work in all three zones has impressed scouts despite the lack of experience at the Major Under-18 level, where he is part of the Magog Cantonniers organization. His potential as an impact player is evident.
Thanks to a deal earlier this week, the Drummondville Voltigeurs moved up to the second spot, their first of what would turn out to be four choices on the evening, to bring winger Tyler Peddle into the fold. A native of Saint Andrews, Nova Scotia, Peddle and his laser-like shot took the US Prep School ranks by storm with Shattuck St Marys, finding the back of the net 31 times in 47 games. He also added 15 assists while developing his game in all zones over the past campaign. The consensus top Atlantic Canadian available in the Draft ended up selected in just that situation.
At pick number three, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, holders of two first rounders, put another building block in place by selecting two-way center Vincent Collard. A strong faceoff presence, Collard hails from Chicoutimi but has not had the opportunity to suit up for the nearby Jonquiere Elites. A point-per-game player in his final year at the Under-15 level, Collard has already proven to be willing to make offensive sacrifices to keep his team on the right side of the puck. On a Drakkar club that aims to improve in all three zones, especially when it comes for the desire for a consistent offensive catalyst, Collard should be a natural fit.
The Rimouski Oceanic, selecting four times in round one, got their busy evening started by choosing Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Pride defenseman Luke Coughlin. A natural leader, Coughlin adds character and physicality to any team he joins while also performing at a high level on both sides of the puck. In a shortened Major Under-18 season, Coughlin posted nine assists and 18 penalty minutes in eight games. These attributes made the Charlottetown product the top Atlantic Canadian rearguard available in this year’s Draft.
Halifax Mooseheads GM Cam Russel stood before the virtual podium three times on the night, including back-to-back selections at five and six, the first of which was Moncton Flyers defenseman Dylan MacKinnon. The Riverview, New Brunswick native is not afraid to put the puck on net from his position and does so with regularity as his four goals (to go with seven assists) in 16 games proves. A strong skater and physical presence, MacKinnon uses these attributes, along with solid vision, to great advantage and should be a valuable presence on a Moosehead blueline rife with young talent.
The Mooseheads used the sixth selection on winger Mathieu Cataford. A native of St-Constant, Quebec, Cataford’s calling card is an impressive mix of passion, work ethic and two-way play. These attributes were on display throughout his Under-15 career, when he produced 65 points in 55 games over two seasons.
Pick number seven belonged to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, who in turn chose winger Alexis Bourque. A superb combination of size (6’1”) and skill, Bourque’s last season of Under-15 hockey was an eye opener when he rattled off 27 goals and 41 points in 25 games. His ability to both backcheck and stay sturdy in from of the net should make him a force on the north shore of the St.Lawrence.
With the eighth overall selection, the Cape Breton Eagles grabbed another defenseman off the board by taking Emile Perron. A game that relies on strength and vision, his ability to patiently hold onto the puck under pressure, execute the outlet pass and find options on the powerplay make him a powerful threat in all three zones. Perron posted seven points in 21 games in his final Under-15 campaign.
Choosing ninth, the Shawinigan Cataractes went shopping in a deep pool of available rearguards to welcome Jordan Tourigny into their fold. The younger brother of Blainville-Boisbriand Armada star Miguel Tourigny, Jordan will no doubt make his mark on the “Q” with fantastic skating and offensive awareness. These factors allowed the Victoriaville native to post 13 points in 23 Under-15 contests two seasons ago.
Back on the clock at number ten, the Rimouski Oceanic chose St-Eustache Vikings property Mael St-Denis. An intelligent player, St-Denis has proven a responsible and efficient center on all areas of the ice. A product of Rosemere, Quebec, St-Denis was nearly a point-per-game player in his 2018-19 Under-15 campaign at Mille-Iles.
The Drummondville Voltigeurs had two things in mind when they reached pick number 11; size and maturity. They got both in Rothesay Netherwood rearguard Matteo Rotondi. Making his way from St. John’s, Newfoundland to attend prep school in New Brunswick, Rotondi put his complete game on display, registering seven points in eleven games.
Rimouski’s third pick on the night, 12th overall, was yet another player primed to join the St-Eustache Vikings last season with winger Maxime Coursol. Efficient and effective particularly in front of the opposition net, Coursol will be looking to get a few looks after recording 34 points, including 17 goals, in 25 Under-15 outings in 2019-20.
Back on the screen for the second time on the night, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada called the name of winger Justin Boisselle with the 13th selection. The Lery, Quebec native uses his 6’ frame to win his fair share of battles in the corners and disputes over loose pucks all over the ice. Despite his size, his discipline has been a notable attribute to the game of a former Under-15 star who put up 34 points in 26 games.
The Victoriaville Tigres, with President Cup sitting stately in the background, chose winger Justin Gendron of the Moncton Flyers at 14th overall. Offensive acumen has not been an issue for Gendron and last year was no exception, when the Dieppe, New Brunswick native posted 11 points in 14 games. His calling cards have been a strong, accurate shot and savvy distribution skills.
The Rimouski Oceanic concluded their busy day by selecting the first goaltender of the evening in Lac-St-Louis netminder Kyle Hagen with pick number 15. The Kirkland, Quebec product had an up-and-down Under-15 career with the Lac-St-Louis program in terms of won-lost record, his goals against average, which did not rise above 2.62, attested to his natural abilities.
At the 16th choice, Drummondville used their third pick of the night to take defenseman Marc-Olivier Beaudry. Highly touted by many scouts, the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec native excels in all three zones. His puck skills, both in terms of shot selection and finding passing lanes, is already at a high level for his age.
A trade with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan led to the Voltigeurs acquiring yet another first-rounder at spot number 17. It was here the club selected winger Loic Goyette. While plying his trade with Laval at the Under-15 level in 2019-20, Goyette had a breakout year offensively with 23 points, including 13 goals, in 19 games.
Choosing 18th overall, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar used their second selection of the evening on winger Nathan Baril. The 2019-20 Quebec Under-15 scoring champion, Baril exudes passion from his 5’8” frame. He also displays phenomenal skill, particularly in the attacking zone as his 42 points in 25 games with the Mortagne Noir et Or clearly show.
A trade between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Saint John Sea Dogs sent the 19th overall choice to the Port City in a blockbuster deal that involved last year’s third overall choice, Leighton Carruthers. With the choice, the Dogs grabbed defenseman Nathan Grenier. A dynamic offensive defender, Grenier was a catalyst with the Under-15 Quebec Typhoon program, where he posted 15 points in 23 games two years ago.
Yet another transaction closed off the action in round one when pick number 20 moved from Saint John to the Halifax Mooseheads. The Moose, in turn, used their third selection of the night on Pictou County Weeks winger Logan Crosby. A tall, rangy skater, the 6’3” Crosby recorded 18 points in 29 regular season games before going off in an abbreviated playoff schedule with nine points in just three games.
Rounds 2-14 of the 2021 QMJHL Entry Draft presented by Fenplast will take place Saturday starting at 9am ET/10am AT.