Entering the season, it looked like it would be a showdown between two East Division teams to see who would be the top team in the QMJHL. The Rimouski Océanic are loaded with elite NHL prospects and depth at every position. The MasterCard Memorial Cup host Québec Remparts aren’t holding back, making a number of major trades. Heading into the week, the Moncton Wildcats were in sole possession of first place and faced the toughest test of their season, lining up to play East Division leading Rimouski, West Division leading Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Remparts.
A week later, Moncton sits in second place with 61 points, tied with Rimouski, which has a game in hand. Blainville-Boisbriand destroyed the Wildcats 8-3 on Friday. The next night Moncton escaped with a 3-2 win over Québec despite being outshot 43-18. On Sunday, they once again were embarrassed, losing 7-3 to Rimouski. Moncton will need to play better to be considered a contender after a terrible three-game road swing.
Here’s what you need to know from around the Q this week:
The new year has been kind to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, winners of six of seven since the start of the year. Last week, they beat Drummondville 6-2 but had a close call the following night against Halifax. Despite a 4-0 lead midway through the game, the Mooseheads stormed back to force overtime. Defenceman Loik Leveille scored the winning goal for Cape Breton. Rookie Evgeny Svechnikov, a potential first-rounder in the upcoming NHL draft, continued to play well, picking up a goal against Drummondville. He now has four goals and 11 points in January.
Rookie Filip Chlapik is dominating for the Charlottetown Islanders, a team that won all three games they played last week. While he didn’t get the chance to showcase his skills in front of scouts after being a late cut by the Czech world junior team, he’s been providing lots of material in the new year. He scored four goals and an assist, extending his point streak to six games. Teammate Alexandre Goulet, a QMJHL first-rounder who received an invite to Montreal Canadiens training camp last fall, also dominated for the Islanders this week, scoring four goals and seven points. While the combo of Chlapik and Goulet wreaked havoc up front, Calgary Flames second-rounder Mason McDonald was spectacular between the pipes. He blanked Sherbrooke 2-0 Friday night, turning aside all 31 shots he faced. Sunday, he made 36 saves en route to a 3-2 win over the Québec Remparts. McDonald is third in the league with a save percentage of .904 and sixth with a GAA of 2.99.
The Saint John Sea Dogs were after a physical forward during the trade period and got just that when they landed left-winger Bokondji Imama from Baie-Comeau. On Wednesday night, he had his first fight as a member of the Sea Dogs in a 3-2 win over Drummondville. He also picked up a goal and two assists last week, scoring in the Sea Dogs’ comeback win over Sherbrooke. Saint John was in a 4-0 hole after the first, but won the game 6-5 when Spencer Smallman scored the game winner with 20 seconds left in regulation.
In his first start for the Québec Remparts, Zach Fucale picked up a shutout in a 6-0 win over the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, who only managed to fire 11 pucks on net. The next game, Anthony Duclair scored his first goal since rejoining the team after a dominating performance for Canada at the world juniors. Rookie Dmytro Timashov had four assists and continues to lead the first-year scoring race with 63 points, 12 more than Chlapik.
First-year player Dzmitry Ambrozheichik had his best week of the season, scoring four goals, including one in each of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s wins. The 5-foot-9, 166-lb. right-winger from Belarus was selected in the first-round of the CHL Import Draft in the spring. On the season, he has 12 goals and 16 assists. Born in March of 1995, Ambrozheichik is not considered a rookie by the league.
The two best teams in the Q, the Moncton Wildcats and Rimouski Océanic, went head-to-head Sunday. The Océanic dominated, winning 7-3, a win that put them ahead of the Wildcats in the standings. The two teams are tied with 61 points, but Rimouski has a game in hand. Florida Panthers fifth-rounder Christopher Clipperton led the way, scoring the first two goals of the game and adding two more assists. Philadelphia Flyers first-rounder and team Canada defenceman Samuel Morin continues to excel since returning from the world juniors. Morin had three assists for the week and now has a goal and six points since his stint with Canada.
A week after picking up his first win since October, Anthony Brodeur (son of NHL legend Martin Brodeur), had a night to remember for the Drummondville Voltiguers against the Halifax Mooseheads. He stopped 53 of the 55 shots he faced, including all 23 in the third period and nine more in overtime. The Voltiguers lost the game in the shootout, but Brodeur walked away with first star honours on a memorable night.
There are only two teams ahead of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the standings, Rimouski and Moncton. Friday night, the Armada faced the Wildcats and demolished them 8-3. Rookie D-man Philippe Bureau-Blais, a 10th-round pick by the Armada in 2014, scored his third and fourth goals of the season. Nikita Jevpalovs also found the back of the net twice and added an assist. It was their second consecutive win against Moncton after beating them 3-2 in a shootout the week before. The Armada have now won three games in a row and eight of their last ten.
After a flurry of trade activity, a devastating injury to starting goaltender Brandon Whitney and the return of Canada head coach Benoit Groulx, the Gatineau Olympiques found stability last week. After being signed by the team after the injury to Whitney, former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle François Brassard stopped 28 of 29 shots in a 4-1 win over Rouyn-Noranda. The next night, he stopped 30 of 32 to beat Saint John 4-2. After losing eight in a row, the Olympiques have three consecutive wins.
Mason McDonald, G, Charlottetown Islanders Rock solid for the Islanders this week, picking up two road wins and stopping 67 of 69 shots, including a 31-save, 2-0 shutout of the Sherbrooke Phoenix. He faced 38 shots from the Memorial Cup host Québec Remparts, making 36 saves in a big road win.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, Val-d’Or Foreurs It was a goal-rush for the Foreurs this week and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Aube-Kubel led the way with five goals and eight points in three games. Unfortunately for the Foreurs, they only managed one win, a 10-2 embarrassment of Victoriaville. Aube-Kubel now has 48 points in 39 games and is set to smash his career high of 53 points last season.
Dzmitry Ambrozheichik, RW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar The Drakkar sailed to a trio of wins this week and first-year player Dzmitry Ambrozheichik led the way with four goals including a pair in a 5-3 win over Victoriaville. He was named first star in that game and received second-star honours a few nights later after scoring against Acadie-Bathurst.
2015 NHL Draft Watch
The BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects game takes place on Thursday in St. Catharines, Ont. Saint John Sea Dogs forward Nathan Noel was added to Team Orr as an injury replacement this week. The QMJHL will have a handful of prospects to keep an eye out for. Team Cherry features Anthony Beauvillier (Shawinigan), Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown), Daniel Sprong (Charlottetown), Evgeny Svechnikov (Cape Breton), Yakov Trenin (Gatineau), Dennis Yan (Shawinigan) and Samuel Montembeault (Blainville-Boisbriand). Team Orr features Timo Meier (Halifax), Nicolas Roy (Chicoutimi), Nathan Noel (Saint John), Thomas Chabot (Saint John), Guillaume Brisebois (Acadie-Bathurst), Nicolas Meloche (Baie-Comeau) and Jérémy Roy (Sherbrooke).