The Saint John Sea Dogs were quiet hosts of the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft.
Trading away draft picks to load up on veterans for a successful run at the President Cup meant the reigning league champions didn’t make a pick until late in the third round.
The draft started with no surprises as the top four picks followed the order of QMJHL Central Scouting’s draft rankings. Quebec-born players dominated the start of the draft with nine of the top 10 picks coming from Quebec Midget AAA, including three from the Saint-Eustache Vikings.
In total, 250 players were selected in one day. Here are the top 10 picks and a couple other notable selections from the day:
1. Alexis Lafrenière, LW, Rimouski Océanic
The consensus No. 1 pick was, in fact, the first off the board. The 6-foot, 171-pound forward led the QMAAA with 33 goals and 83 points and a 2.31 PPG as a 15-year-old with the Saint-Eustache Vikings. To put those numbers into context, only Denis Chalifoux (3.17), Mario Lemieux (2.64), Alexandre Daigle (2.619) and Pierre Turgeon (2.463) had more PPG at age 15. Three of those four players went on to be first overall picks in the NHL.
Lafrenière has elite hockey IQ, and will instantly step into a top-six role and provide scoring on a rebuilding Océanic team that’s two years removed from a league championship. He should be a star in the QMJHL until he’s eligible for the NHL draft in 2020.
2. Samuel Poulin, LW, Sherbrooke Phoenix
After hearing his name called by the Sherbrooke Phoenix, Samuel Poulin walked across the stage and shook hands with team brass before giving a hug to his brother Nicolas, a veteran forward also with the Phoenix. Hockey runs in the family with father Patrick Poulin enjoying a 634-game NHL career and CHL player of the year honours in 1992.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound winger had 30 goals and 68 points in his sophomore season with Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix. If not for Lafrenière, the power forward Poulin would have been a lock for first overall.
3. Jakob Pelletier, F, Moncton Wildcats
For the first time since 2011, the Moncton Wildcats made a selection in the first round. The team went into full-on rebuild mode last season and put together one of the league’s worst losing streaks en route to finishing last. Pelletier, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound centre, may be small in size but puts up big numbers, aided by his blazing speed. He had 57 points in 40 games and another 29 points in the playoffs with the QMAAA championship-winning Séminaire St-François Blizzard.
The speedster likes to win, but will have to be patient as this franchise continues a complete overhaul. Moncton made four trades on the eve of the draft as the QMJHL’s pre-season trading period opened up and there should be more roster moves leading up to puck drop in September.
4. Xavier Parent, C, Halifax Mooseheads
Two picks after Samuel Poulin went to Sherbrooke, the Halifax Mooseheads selected his Phénix teammate, Xavier Parent. The 5-foot-7, 164-pound centre finished second in team scoring behind Poulin with 55 points. In 2013-14, Parent had 113 points in 30 games as the captain of his Peewee AAA team. The forward brings speed down the middle to a young Halifax squad that’s finished in the bottom four the past two seasons.
5. Maxence Guenette, D, Val-d’Or Foreurs
The first four players selected were the top-four ranked players by QMJHL Central Scouting, but the Val-d’Or Foreurs broke the streak by selecting the first defenceman of the draft. Ranked eighth, the 5-foot-11, 166-pounder went ahead of Justin Barron and Christopher Merisier-Ortiz, both ranked higher. Guenette had 16 points in 40 games with the Lévis Commandeurs and is best known for his skating and passing abilities.
6. Nathan Légaré, F, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Another player selected a couple spots earlier than projected, Legare was the second of three Saint-Eustache Vikings selected in the top 10 of the draft. The power forward has drawn comparisons to Drakkar forward Shawn Element, who was selected ninth overall last year.
7. Christopher Merisier-Ortiz, D, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
In the first trade of draft day, the Drakkar moved the ninth overall pick and a 2018 first-round pick (acquired via Gatineau) to jump up two spots and select Légaré’s teammate Christopher Merisier-Ortiz. The defenceman picked up 26 points for the Vikings and is destined to anchor the Drakkar power play. It’s fitting a team with a viking ship in its logo grabbed two Saint-Eustache Vikings in the first round.
8. Dawson Mercer, F, Drummondville Voltiguers
From Bay Roberts, NL., Mercer was the first player from outside Quebec selected in the draft. Still, he’s familiar with the province after playing prep school hockey for Bishop’s College in Sherbrooke. Mercer was the top scorer at the Gatorade Excellence Challenge for under-16 prospects in April with 13 points in five games.
9. Xavier Simoneau, F, Drummondville Voltiguers
The Voltiguers continued to bolster their forward corps by picking Gatineau L’Intrépide’s Xavier Simoneau. At 5-foot-5, 172-pounds, Simoneau was the smallest player picked in the first round. A former teammate of current Halifax Moosehead Ben-Olivier Groulx, Simoneau’s point totals dipped from 43 to 28 this season. Projected to go early in the second round by QMJHL Central Scouting, the highly skilled forward was a surprise top 10 pick.
10. Christopher Inniss, D, Rimouski Océanic
Another player making a surprise jump, defenceman Christopher Inniss was originally ranked 23rd, but ended up as the third defenceman drafted Saturday morning. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound defender had six points in 14 playoff games and 10 points in 34 regular season games with the Collège Charles-Lemoyne Riverains. The Rimouski scouting staff were high on the two-way defender and pounced on him much earlier than expected.
13. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads
For the second year in a row, the Halifax Mooseheads traded up in the draft to grab the highest-ranked defenceman. Last year it was Halifax local Jared McIsaac second overall. This year, it was Justin Barron of the Halifax Macs — ranked sixth overall — going to his hometown junior team. To make the move for the two-way blueliner, Halifax traded a first-round pick in 2018 and the 23rd and 59th overall picks of the 2017 draft. With a November 15 birthday, the 15-year-old Barron was the youngest player selected in the first round.
16. Jaxon Bellamy, D, Moncton Wildcats
Although the Moncton Wildcats are rivals with the host Saint John Sea Dogs, they gave the Saint John crowd a reason to cheer when local defenceman Jaxon Bellamy was selected in the first round. Bellamy had 22 points in 32 games with the Saint John Vito’s Midget AAA and was named the league’s rookie of the year.
36. Tommy DaSilva, G, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
At the 2016 QMJHL Entry Draft, four goalies went in the first 30 picks including, Olivier Rodrigue third overall to Drummondville. This year, Tommy DaSilva was the first keeper selected, 36th overall by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. It’s the second year in a row Cape Breton has addressed goaltending needs via the draft after selecting Kevin Mandolese 13th overall last year.
41. Alex Newhook, C, Halifax Mooseheads
Ranked fifth overall before the draft, the Newfoundland player fell to the bottom of the second round to the Halifax Mooseheads. A centre, Newhook played with the York-Simcoe Express Minor Midget AAA where he was the league’s top scorer with 43 goals, 74 points and was named player of the year. Committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season, it’s expected he will play for the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL next season in order to maintain his NCAA eligibility. The chances that Newhook plays in the QMJHL are low, but at pick 41, it was a calculated gamble.
135. Braeden Virtue, D, Québec Remparts
It took a long time, but the Québec Remparts selected the first American of the QMJHL draft with defenceman Braeden Virtue in the eighth round.
250. Braden Doyle, D, Charlottetown Islanders
With the host Saint John Sea Dogs passing on its final two picks, the Charlottetown Islanders officially ended the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft by grabbing Braden Doyle 250th overall in the 14th round.