QMJHL Blog: Huskies pay steep price for Brouillard

The first-place Rouyn-Noranda Huskies acquired defenceman Nikolas Brouillard from the Québec Remparts. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

It’d be hard to blame Alexis Vanier for waiting until Jan. 6 to unpack his luggage. The 20-year-old has been traded twice over the holiday trading period, which comes to an end on Wednesday. The San Jose Sharks prospect (2014, 102nd overall) first went from the Sherbrooke Phoenix to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on Dec. 29 in a swap for defenceman Nathanael Halbert. Four days later, he was on the move again, this time to the Charlottetown Islanders in exchange for a fifth-rounder in 2016. Teams can only dress three 20-year-olds, so players like Vanier end up getting shuffled around a little more than usual come trading season.

Between the QMJHL returning to action after the Christmas break, the trade deadline and players over in Helsinki participating in the world juniors, it’s been a hectic week for the ‘Q.’ Here are notable stories from around the league:

Contenders get better between the pipes

When the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL returned Philippe Cadorette to the basement-dwelling Baie-Comeau Drakkar, it was pretty obvious the 20-year-old goaltender would be a prime bargaining chip. Sure enough, the Drakkar sent him to the Shawinigan Cataractes in exchange for goalie Samuel Antoine and a 2016 second-round pick (originally belonging to the Moncton Wildcats). The Cataractes are looking like President Cup favourites, and adding a goalie who’s gone on deep playoff runs the past four seasons certainly instills confidence in the crease. Shawinigan entered the season with two rookies and Antoine, who’d only played 11 games in the ‘Q.’

Another team entering the season with an inexperienced crease, the Moncton Wildcats, made a trade with Baie-Comeau for Keven Bouchard when the trade period first opened. They’ve made another slight change in the crease, bringing in Julian Galloway from the Québec Remparts in exchange for rookie goalie Sébastien Dupré. Galloway was pushed into a starting role earlier this year when Callum Booth was out with appendicitis. Moncton is the favourite to win the Maritimes Division, especially after adding Bouchard, Buffalo Sabres prospect Vaclav Karabacek and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Cody Donaghey.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies strengthen blue-line

The first-place Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have been following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy for the most part this season. However, they did make a big splash on Dec. 29 when they brought in defenceman Nikolas Brouillard from the Québec Remparts. He came at a heavy price, costing a 2018 first-round pick, second and third-round selections in 2016 and Alexandre Sills. Brouillard has had 57 or more points in three consecutive seasons. This season, he’s third in d-man scoring with 34 points, and is averaging 1.39 points per game this season. Not bad for a blue-liner. The Remparts brought him in for their Memorial Cup run last year and he brings lots of experience to a Huskies team that’s dominated the QMJHL all season. Brouillard’s been skipped over in the NHL draft, but he’s received training camp invites by San Jose, Winnipeg and Toronto the past three years.

Sprong crushing it in return

It’s not too often you see a second-rounder crack and stick on an NHL roster just four months after being drafted. Daniel Sprong did just that, appearing in 18 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a stretch of healthy scratches, Sprong was returned to an underperforming Charlottetown Islanders. In four games, he has six goals and an assist, including an overtime winner against Halifax on Sunday. In those four games, Charlottetown picked up five of a possible eight points in the standings. If Sprong can jumpstart Filip Chlapik, who is representing the Czech Republic at the world juniors, the Islanders should have a remarkably better second half.

Montpetit chasing franchise record

Sophomore goalie Étienne Montpetit continues to shine for the Val-d’Or Foreurs. He was named the first star of the week after picking up three wins while stopping 74 of 77 shots faced, including a 21-save shutout of the Armada. His 28 saves in a 4-2 win over divisional rivals Rouyn-Noranda put the Foreurs one point behind the Huskies for first place. Montpetit now has 23 wins in 33 games and is inching closer to Roberto Luongo’s franchise record of 32 wins, set in 1996-1997. Not bad for an eighth-round pick.

Expect more trades

Players can’t be traded while participating in the world juniors, however expect a few trades once the tournament ends. Québec Remparts forward Dmytro Timashov, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect currently playing for Sweden, is expected to go to the Shawinigan Cataractes in a three-team deal.