So we’re already a few days into the regular season, which means it’s probably time for me to post my predictions. Here we go:
1. Saint John Sea Dogs
No surprise here. A rough start is to be expected, but once the big guns return from pro camps, it ought to be smooth sailing. Anything less than another regular season title would be surprising.
2. Halifax Mooseheads
I really like this team. I’m expecting 80+ points from Nathan MacKinnon this season, they have some serious firepower in their lineup. It’s a young team and maybe they’ll take some time to gel, but I think they’re in for a strong season.
3. Moncton Wildcats
The race for second in the Maritimes Division is likely to be a tight one. Moncton has a fairly veteran lineup, which could vault them past Halifax. The scoring lines have some punch with Marek Hrivik and the Saulnier twins. Add in Brandon Gormley and Moncton could make some noise.
4. Acadie-Bathurst Titan
The Titan may be in a bit of a re-tooling mode after last year’s disappointment, but Zach O’Brien is poised for a big year and I wouldn’t be shocked if Robert Steeves emerged as one of the top goalies in the league.
5. Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
It’s a little ridiculous to think that the Screaming Eagles were hoping to host the Memorial Cup with this roster. Morgan Ellis is one of the best defensemen in the league, and they’ll get good production from overagers Brunelle and Rose, but they have a ways to go yet.
6. PEI Rocket
The Rocket have a young team, and while I expect new coach Gordie Dwyer to make the most of a bad situation, they simply aren’t good enough. I was expecting big things from Ben Duffy this year, and that’s even before this happened.
Telus West Division
1. Drummondville Voltiguers
They’re nothing to write home about, but they have a few serious impact players in Sean Couturier and Ondrej Palat and in Telus West this year, that may be all you need. Even if Couturier is dealt mid-season, they may still finish on top. What a genuinely horrible division.
2. Val-d’Or Foreurs
Could be a big season for Jean-Francois Leblanc, and you can bank on Benjamin Casavant putting up a boatload of points. I’m interested to see how Matt Murphy fares in his first season as well.
3. Gatineau Olympiques
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is going to score. A lot. They don’t have a whole heck of a lot going for them aside from that, though, other than the fact that Benoit Groulx is their coach and his reputation kind of precedes him.
4. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
They have a solid young defense corps, headlined by Dillon Fournier and Simon Desmarais, and Robin Gusse should be solid in goal. They’re still a couple of years away.
5. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Anytime that you can move a team into a new location with the intention of attracting fans and you have the option to make them absolutely horrifyingly bad, you HAVE to do it.
Telus East Division
1. Shawinigan Cataractes
Things are going to be pretty wide open in Telus East this year, and I think five teams have a legit shot of taking the division. Shawinigan has a remarkable amount of work to do in order to not embarrass themselves at the Memorial Cup, but they have a good assortment of veteran forwards and Gabriel Girard between the pipes, who could be one of the best in the league this season. Add in the fact that they’re likely to bulk up even further, and I give them the edge.
2. Victoriaville Tigres
They’re returning some very good players, and if David Honzik repeats his playoff performance then you’re looking at a real strong team.
3. Chicoutimi Sagueneens
The scoring potential that this team has with Charles Hudon, Etienne Brodeur and Guillaume Asselin is actually terrifying. Having the best goalie in the league doesn’t hurt, either.
4. Quebec Remparts
The Remparts had quite an eventful summer, bringing potential 2012 1st overall pick Mikhail Grigorenko across the pond. They have a terrific young core assembled that will take them far in the next year or two, but we’ll likely only see flashes of that this year.
5. Baie-Comeau Drakkar
They’ve made huge strides since last year’s woeful campaign, but they’re still far off. Being in Telus East doesn’t help, since they have a decent team but are going to get beat around by the heavyweights. Put them in the West and they’ll have it locked up by November. Boy, does that division suck.
6. Rimouski Oceanic
It’s gonna be a long year. They have a few solid veterans, which is good news since they’ll be able to unload them to teams that aren’t getting battered by a strong division.
All in all it’s going to be a fun year. There are a lot of real exciting players entering the Q this season, so get out to as many games as you can.