Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Top Prospects

By Kevin Chambers
SN Staff

While much of the QMJHL continues their chase for the President Cup and a trip to the MasterCard Memorial Cup, the Saint John Sea Dogs have switched their focus to the 2014 Entry Draft which takes place on May 31 in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

After winning the draft lottery last week the Sea Dogs now own the first overall selection in the draft, making them a perfect 4-0 in the lottery selection process. There is plenty of talent in this draft class but, with no clear cut top prospect, we reached out to our friends at to provide us a little insight into what we might expect from a few of these players that seem likely choices for the Sea Dogs. We won’t be listing all the details for all the top prospects, but these are the ones we feel have the best chance to be drafted by the Sea Dogs with the top pick on draft day.

The top ranked player by is Chad Krys - an American defenseman. He has committed to the US Under-18 NTDP which means he’s very unlikely to report to any QMJHL team for at least two years if at all. The No. 2 ranked player is a defenseman out of Quebec, Samuel Girard, who played for the Elites de Jonquiere in QMAAA this past season. The No. 3 ranked player is the top ranked forward in the draft, Pascal Laberge, who also played in the Quebec AAA ranks and is currently playing in the QMAAA final for the Ch√Ęteauguay Grenadiers. For these two young prospects we reached out to Jean-Francois Dore (@jeffdore), a scout based out of Quebec that has seen plenty of these two kids.

Samuel Girard (Defenseman - ranked No.2 by
7G + 29A = 36pts in 42 GP
Samuel Girard’s best assets are his elite skating abilities, great puck rushing skills, and excellent on-ice vision. Girard has all the offensive tools to have an outstanding QMJHL career. He’s a game breaker and excels when the game is on the line.

The biggest key for Girard will be to continue to get stronger. His defensive game has improved throughout the season. He’s a master of both controlling and organizing his team’s power play unit. No other player in this year’s draft puts his team on his shoulders like Girard. He’s a good kid with outstanding work ethic.

Pascal Laberge (Centre – ranked No.3 by
20G + 23A =  43pts in 40 GP
Pascal Laberge is a six-foot, right handed shooting centre. Laberge is a smooth skating natural goal scorer, but also possesses smart playmaking skills with the ability to find his open teammates with tape-to-tape passes. Currently he is playing in the QMAAA finals and he is having a phenomenal playoffs for his club. He has outstanding hockey sense and can read situations very well and quickly.

A big right handed centre that can take over a game is always a hot commodity on draft day. Laberge has the size and skill to come into the QMJHL and play in a team’s top six immediately and contribute.

I would like to see a little more consistency to his game as Laberge does tend to disappear at times. But, he has continued to improve on this throughout the season.

Switching over to the Atlantic Provinces, we reached out to Al (@hockeyprospctNS) about the two top forwards from Atlantic Canada - Jordan Maher and Mitchell Balmas. Either of these two could be the top pick in this year's draft.

Jordan Maher (Centre - ranked No. 4 by
23G + 24A = 47pts in 24GP
Jordan Maher might just be the hardest working forward in this draft class. He started in major midget last year as an underage player and this year he has played top minutes and responsibility for his team, the Central Ice Pak, which won the right to play in the Atlantic Championships.

Maher’s energy level is typically the highest on the ice and has excellent speed with and without the puck. He has great hands and vision which allows him to make precision passes quickly. Maher is a great finisher with pin point accuracy. He averaged two points per game throughout the season - including the playoffs - along with a goal per game, showing his consistency.

Mitchell Balmas (Winger – ranked No. 7 by
19G + 27A = 46pts in 26GP
Mitchell Balmas is a highly regarded winger from Cape Breton who had a very good season on a major midget team that struggled at times. Balmas has an explosive skating style and is able to use his excellent hands and large frame to protect the puck for long periods of time. He provides a leadership presence for his teammates and is always cognizant of the situation around him and can portray this hockey sense both offensively and defensively.

Balmas excels on the power play and is equally comfortable setting up goals as well as putting the puck to the back of the net on his own. His skill will often draw in defenders, opening up his teammates and allowing Balmas to use his precision passing to find the open man.

If you are interested in reading more about many of the prospects for the upcoming QMJHL Entry Draft, be sure to watch for the 2014 QMJHL Draft Guide from which should be released sometime in early- to mid-May. This guide provides almost 100 pages of information on many of the league’s top prospects. Once again, we would like to thank both Jean-Francois and Al for lending us their expertise in preparing this article.

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