The Next Wave: QMJHL Maritime NHL Draft Prospect Report

The next wave of Maritime talent is ready to embark on a journey to accomplish their dream of playing professional hockey.

From the QMJHL ranks to knocking on the NHL’s door, players from this region continue to excel at the Q level.

The dream of playing pro hockey isn’t so far fetched as once imagined for players coming from the Maritimes.

An opportunity to play and the dream continues to fuel young Maritimers to believe that anything is possible when it comes to the game of hockey.

Over the past five years I have had the privilege of covering the QMJHL from a broadcasting and journalist perspective.

Over that time I’ve witnessed some amazing performances by players that call this region home.

This feature will focus on those Maritimers currently playing and excelling in the QMJHL.

This region continues to produce some of the games brightest up and coming stars.

This year’s crop of 2002 QMJHL NHL Prospects is no different.

Given the current COVID-19 crisis these young players won’t have the opportunity to showcase their talents in the President Cup Playoffs and beyond.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean NHL scouts haven’t seen their development and progression throughout their journey in the Q.

It’s also noteworthy to showcase some overage Maritimers that might have the opportunity to sign pro contracts. For them the dream of playing pro hockey is still well alive.

The unconventional path to the pros or the road less traveled is always the most rewarding.

Josh Currie, Jordan Murray, Zack MacEwen and Philippe Myers are all perfect examples of Maritimers that have reached the pro level in their unique way.

Nothing seems out of reach for young aspiring Maritimers given the one characteristic that defines them all.

Work ethic.

This year’s crop of 2002 born NHL Draft Prospects are blazing their own unique path in the game.

Nicolas Savoie D Quebec Remparts 

Savoie is the quintessential stay at home two zone defencemen. 

The Dieppe, New Brunswick product plays in every situation for Patrick Roy and has certainly had two solid seasons up to date in the QMJHL. The strong skating solid puck moving defencemen isn’t flashy by any means, but that doesn’t make him any less effective.

The one perceived knock against Savoie is a lack of offensive upside. 

At only 6’0 tall, most NHL scouts are also looking for other intangibles that may jump off the page, which could translate to the next level, like offence. Savoie does possess an above average shot from the point and does have the ability to rush the puck, but he choses to play a sound defensive style of game. Savoie was ranked 190th on the NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm List.

Brady Burns F Saint John Sea Dogs 

Brady Burns is a dynamic scoring forward with elite level skill, scoring touch and play making ability.  

Burns was ranked 188th on NHL Central Scouting Midterm Report earlier this season.

If Brady Burns was 6’0 feet tall and above, he would be well inside the first two rounds of the draft rankings, but clearly he’s not. Listed at 5’8 Burns continues to amaze in his second season in the Port City. At times last year Burns seemed lost amongst the trees, but the highly skilled forward had a breakout second half and found a way to excel and have offensive success.

The Port Williams, Nova Scotia product is as elusive as they come and can certainly pick and choose his spots to generate offence at every turn. Burns is a throw back player who is arguably within the top 10 most naturally gifted players in the QMJHL. 

Obviously, Burn’s size and ability to play a full 200ft game has NHL scouts questioning his place in the draft and perhaps at the next level.  Those are pretty massive questions or concerns to be addressed, but it’s all about projecting. 

I can guarantee you no one has ever questioned that young man’s individual skill set and hockey sense.

Burns is a shifty speedy forward, but in my opinion will have to get even faster if he wants to play at the next level. 

Charlie Desroches D Saint John Sea Dogs 

Charlie Desroches is another exceptional defender from PEI. 

There must be something in the water over there, because the Island keep producing elite level defencemen.

Desroches is a highly skilled puck mover and extremely gifted skater with great vision and a first pass.

Desroches had a fantastic rookie season last year in the Port City and was the one bright light on a very young and inexperienced blueline. 

The proud Islander may have seen his draft stock fall slightly, but when I spoke to him earlier this season he had already interviewed with sixteen NHL teams. 

There’s no question, Desroches is a special talent who’s game can certainly translate to the next level. 

The young right shooting D-man thinks the game extremely, but needs to take charge a little bit more in certain areas and at certain times in the game. 

There’s no doubt Jeremie Poirier got all of the attention this season, but in my opinion, Desroches is more complete and plays a much more detailed two-way game. 

Desroches was 169th on the Central Scouting list, which is quite low in my opinion. 

There’s no question, Desroches has been playing in the shadow of Poirier, and needs more offensive opportunities to flourish. 

Desroches has been matched up against other team’s top lines on year long which is great for his defensive game, but that’s a big reason his point totals are down. Poirier logged close to half or well over half the Dogs first power play unit time so Desroches only saw 2nd unit PP minutes while logging 1st PK minutes.

It’s undeniable, Charlie Desroches can flat out play the game. 

The kid from Days Corner, has an extra gear and we definitely saw that in the the second half before the cancellation of the season. The sky is the limit for Charlie Desroches.

Cole Cormier F Quebec Remparts 

Cole Cormier has experienced a lot in his short time in the QMJHL.

From making the Oceanic out of camp last season to being sent back to Midget, to making the Oceanic this season and having success, to being left off Central Scouting’s first list to getting traded to the Quebec Remparts at the deadline, Cole Cormier has seen it all in his short time in the circuit.  

The one constant in all of this has been Cormier’s relentless pursuit of his dream. 

Cormier certainly hit his full stride in the QMJHL this season scoring 16 goals and would have definitely surpassed the 20 goal mark if the season hadn’t been canceled due to COVID-19 crisis.

It was truly great to see him get some recognition for all his efforts on the NHL Central Scouting list at 115th overall. 

Cormier is a powerful skater with great agility and edge control, but perhaps his best weapons are his hockey sense and shot. 

Cormier has a pro release and is always a threat when he’s on the ice, because he can basically score from anywhere. 

Cormier has adjusted very well to playing without the puck and playing against bigger and stronger players. 

At the early stages of the year, Cormier struggled and was getting pushed off pucks because of lack of leverage and understanding hoe to use his lower body to protect and shield the puck from the opposition.

Clearly Cormier has addressed that issue and is starting to put up points at an alarming clip. 

Cormier was born to play the game, and is driven to do whatever it takes to get to the next level. 

Hard work, dedication, persistence, skill and perseverance that’s Cole Cormier.  

Cormier’s draft stock continues to soar. 

You can guarantee Cole Cormier will stay grounded and committed to process and won’t get caught up in looking at the numbers or rankings for that matter. For Cormier it’s all about progressing and getting better every time he steps on the ice. 

Lukas Cormier D Charlottetown Islanders  

After suffering a broken foot earlier in the season Lukas Cormier has seamlessly picked up right where he left off leading the Islanders offensive charge from the backend. 

The dynamic skating defender has drawn many comparisons to NHL standouts like Samuel Girard and Torey Krug.

Cormier has ability to control the pace of the game and is extremely accountable in all three zones and certainly doesn’t shy away from the physical aspect of the game and position.  

Can Cormier jump into the NHL’s 1st round come June?

One knock on Cormier from a NHL Scouting perspective will always be his size. 

Size certainly doesn’t matter when you have Cormier’s overall talent, but the question remains can the St-Marie-de-Kent product handle the physical demands of the game and position at the next level? 

It’s all about projecting, and by all accounts Cormier has excelled at every level thus far so what’s saying he can’t continue to do so. 

Cormier will have to take “a less is more” approach and not force the issue in the second half of the season and beyond. 

In my opinion, that’s one area that Cormier struggles with because he cares so much about winning. You see Lukas Cormier tries to do too much at times which causes him to turn pucks over or get caught up the ice. That’s the only knock that I have on the young man, and to be brutally honest, that aspect of his game is easily correctable. 

Lukas Cormier is amongst the world’s elite and he’s getting better by the minute. 

Cormier was 27th overall on the Midterm List earlier this season.

There’s no place to go but up for Cormier and I think the Islanders star defenceman might in fact sneak into June’s 1st round.

Ryan Francis C Cape Breton Eagles

Ryan Francis was ranked 43rd on the NHL Central Midterm List earlier this season and it’s clear the high scoring kid from Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia has certainly caught the attention of NHL Scouts with his performance over the last two seasons in the QMJHL. 

Francis has a motor that never stops. 

His relentless compete level and determination to win puck battles in all zones of the ice is truly extraordinary. 

From a purely skill perspective, Francis scores off the charts. 

His creativity, vision and passing ability makes him offensive threat every time he steps on the ice.

Photo Credit The Cape Breton Post

Sure Francis plays with Egor Sokolov and Tyler Hinam, but this kid creates his own offence and creates offensive opportunities for them as well.  

Ryan Francis can do it all, but again the knock on the him has always been his size. 

Is he strong enough physically to play at the next level and excel? 

Obviously it would depend on the right organization and the right situation, but who knows? 

It’s all about projecting and that’s extremely hard to do, but that’s part of the job. 

No one has ever doubted Francis’ skill and determination, will that be enough to get him drafted into the National Hockey League?  I don’t doubt it a bite.

Justin Barron D Halifax Mooseheads 

One can only imagine what Justin Barron and his family went through earlier this season dealing with a blood clot that sidelined arguably the best defenceman in the QMJHL.

Thank goodness for the Mooseheads Athletic Therapist Robin Hunter who diagnosed the clot almost instantly or things could have taken a tragic turn. 

It was unclear if the star defencemen would return to action this season, but it was great to see the Halifax, Nova Scotia product return late in the season.

NHL scouts flocked to see Barron play in ultimately the final two weeks of the QMJHL season.

They all know what this kid can do,

NHL Scouts have been watching Barron for quite some time and know exactly what the highly skilled puck moving and transitional defencemen can really do.

Barron’s skill set is off the charts and he checks off all the boxes when it comes to the proverbial NHL defencemen.

There’s no question Justin Barron is arguably the most complete defencemen in the entire QMJHL. Barron was slotted in at 15th overall during the Mid term report.

It would be a shame to that young man drop in the NHL Central Scouting rankings due to him not playing.

Time will tell, but rest assured Justin Barron deserves to be 1st rounder, he’s earned it. 

Pro Potential

Jeremy McKenna and Tyler Hinam are certainly the front runners for potentially signing pro contracts this off season.

Hinam has already committed to the USports route with the Acadie Axemen, but I’m sure Hinam’s play over the course of his QMJHL career has garnered a lot of attention from NHL scouts.

Hinam is a high character player with exceptional drive and compete level.

When the stakes are at their highest Tyler Hinam always rises to the occasion!

The Summerside Sniper has been there all before signing on the dotted line last season with Calgary Flames.

McKenna decided to return to the Moncton Wildcats in October for one final shot at junior hockey supremacy.

His dream to hoist the President Cup and Memorial Cup came to a very sad ending with the cancellation of the season.

McKenna is a natural scorer that undoubtedly will score a ton of goals at the pro level.

The Maritimes continue to produce skilled and high character young men whose passion and love for the game is truly unparalleled.

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