Regular season action in the Canadian Hockey League is set to begin on Friday night with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League opening the 2020-21 season.
The league has gone to a three-division format with teams only playing other clubs in their own division this season.
Friday’s action will mark the first meaningful games played in the league since the 2019-20 season was put on hold in March due to COVID-19.
With the regular season set to begin, we took a look at some of the key players and storylines for each of the QMJHL’s 18 clubs.
Acadie-Bathurst Titan: Goaltender Jan Bednar, selected second overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft, is entering the league with high hopes. The 18-year-old joins the Titan as one of the top-rated European goaltenders for the upcoming NHL draft.
Baie-Comeau Drakkar: 19-year-old Nathan Legare (Pittsburgh Penguins) is coming off a 70-point campaign, a dip from the 2018-19 season, but will continue to be a key component offensively. Overage netminder Lucas Fitzpatrick in goal has continually improved his numbers through four years in the league.
Blainville-Boisbriand Armada: The Armada return five of its top six scorers from a season ago, including overage forward Luke Henman. The 20-year-old posted career numbers last season with 25 goals and 74 points.
Cape Breton Eagles: With some key players graduating, Eagles coach Jake Grimes has said that the team won’t change its style. 2020 NHL draft prospect Ryan Francis is the top returning scorer from 2019-20 while overage winger Shawn Element will also be looked to recoup some of the offensive production lost.
Charlottetown Islanders: Acquired from Rimouski in June, goaltender Colten Ellis (St. Louis Blues) brings a wealth of experience after three solid seasons with the Oceanic.
Chicoutimi Sagueneens: A team facing the graduation of some high-end players from last season, Chicoutimi will look to a pair of 2020 draft-eligible forwards in Dawson Mercer and Hendrix Lapierre to lead the way this season. Overage centre Samuel Houde will also look to take another step offensively after a strong showing last season.
Drummondville Voltigeurs: The graduation of goaltender Anthony Morrone means an opportunity for holdover Francesco Lapenna, who was solid last season in 13 games with the Voltigeurs after being acquired from Val-d’Or. Offensively, the Voltigeurs return high-scoring forward Xavier Simoneau, who saw his production take a jump last season with 89 points.
Gatineau Olympiques: The team returns its top seven scorers from last season, including Kieran Craig and Metis Roelens, who led the team with 48 points each. Five of the seven had at least 40 points.
Halifax Mooseheads: 2020 NHL draft prospect Justin Barron missed half of last season due to a blood clot. Barron entered 2019-20 on the heels of a strong sophomore season with the Mooseheads.
Moncton Wildcats: After posting the best record in the league last season, the Wildcats will have a new look this season after the graduation of a number of key pieces to the roster. Overage forward Gabriel Fortier, who split last season between Baie-Comeau and Moncton, stands to lead the way offensively in his first full season in Moncton.
Quebec Remparts: 17-year-old James Malatesta was a 7th-round pick in 2019 and had 45 points in his first season in the league. Acquired from Sherbrooke in June, overage goaltender Thomas Sigouin gives the Remparts a solid, veteran presence between the pipes.
Rimouski Oceanic: With a mix of veterans and youngsters, the experience of the veterans will be key. That veteran presence includes overage defencemen Justin Bergeron, acquired from Rouyn-Noranda midway through last season, and Anthony D’Amours.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies: Colorado Avalanche prospect Alex Beaucage, who led the Huskies in scoring last season, scored 79 goals over the past two seasons. Defenceman Xavier Bouchard was picked up in a trade with Cape Breton and gives Rouyn-Noranda an added veteran presence on the blue line.
Saint John Sea Dogs: With new coach Greg Gilbert at the helm, the Sea Dogs present an interesting group that includes 2020 NHL draft-eligible defenceman Jeremie Poirier. The youngsters on the roster, including former first-overall pick Joshua Roy and 2020 third-overall pick Leighton Carruthers, should be entertaining to watch as well.
Shawinigan Cataractes: 2020 NHL Draft prospect Mavrik Bourque and veteran Xavier Bourgault are coming off strong seasons offensively while the Cataractes added overage defenceman Jack York from Ontario ahead of the new season. York joins Kirill Nizhnikov, who started the 2019-20 season in the OHL before joining the Cataractes midway through the season.
Sherbrooke Phoenix: 19-year-old Samuel Poulin, a Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder in 2019, is coming off two consistent seasons offensively with the Phoenix. After posting 29 goals and 76 points in 67 games in 2018-19, Poulin has similar numbers last season with 32 goals and 77 points. Bear in mind, those numbers came in 21 fewer games than the previous season.
Val-d’Or Foreurs: Calgary Flames prospect Jakob Pelletier, acquired from Moncton at the QMJHL draft, adds another offensive element to the Val-d’Or roster. St. Louis Blues prospect Jeremy Michel has posted consistent numbers offensively over the past two seasons and could be poised to take another step at 19 years old.
Victoriaville Tigres: Philadelphia Flyers prospect Egor Serdyuk has shown an ability to produce offensively and there is no doubt the Russian forward can continue that this season. Mikhail Abramov, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, had 35 goals last year, a 19-goal improvement from his rookie year.