Our most recent QMJHL draft saw our draft list expand from 40 players to 60 players, but it’s also been a big month for adding depth to our existing player evaluations, leading to shuffling in earlier sections of the rankings.
Risers into the top-10
Two players have really stepped up their game over the last four to six weeks. It’s shown both in their production as well as their overall impact. As a result they’ve made significant jumps in the rankings, both now landing in the top-10.
11 to 6. Shawn Carrier | Trois-Rivieres Estacades
I’ve been a bit infatuated with the high-pace, high-skill and smart decision making of Shawn Carrier’s teammate Jeremy Loranger since last summer, and in a way I think it had kept me from fully appreciating the comprehensive impact that Carrier can have on a game. Over the last month I think he’s stepped up his own pace considerably, meaning that his added size, reach and power are reaching all-time high in terms of how they help him to impact the forecheck and generate turnovers. He’s regularly carrying the puck to the middle of the offensive zone and possesses the requisite skill to navigate high traffic while anticipating his openings and exploiting them. His continual read and react sequences at game pace launch him nearly to the cusp of the top-5 in this month’s update.
26 to 9. Emile Guite | St-Hyacinthe Gaulois
This month the player who proved my early-season assessments to be insufficient over and over again was St-Hyacinthe forward Emile Guite. Flanking one of the other most highly-touted forwards in the class, our 4th ranked Caleb Desnoyers, Guite has regularly been the most impactful player on his line, driving pace in transition and making himself available as a threat in open ice. He seeks creative lanes to make himself available or to carry the puck and has both great vision and creative thinking to deceive his opponents. With all of these tools in addition to his mature frame, this might not be the last jump that Guite makes in our rankings before draft day.
The newest 20 players in our QMJHL rankings have not all been added to the tail end of the list, in fact, there are four who have risen over the last several weeks to the point where they would have been included in a previous edition of the ranking, when our top-40 was released in early December, 2022.
26. D | Vincent Desmarais | Magog Cantonniers
The highest of all debuting players, the Magog defender has both good quickness and a calm demeanor with the puck. Deception with the puck comes as second nature to the 15-year-old who manipulates his position relative to the puck well in open space, serving to create additional space for those he's moving the puck to. He absolutely knows how to generate space in his own zone by using strong footwork, secure puck handling, and creative thinking. He is able to convince his opponents of one thing while doing another and in turn give his partner or linemate extra time and space to make the next sequence a success. Desmarais' level of deception gives him a lot of upside. He’s super committed in board battles and doesn't need to sacrifice advantageous defensive positioning to win over possession. If he has an opportunity to activate that does take him out of position he makes that read and executes very efficiently. When he can't afford to hesitate, he doesn't.
31. F | Matteo Norbert | Lac St. Louis Lions
Norbert has a strong presence in the offensive zone and plays well with his head up. He's able to lead with deception and create good isolated scoring chances the second the puck is off of his stick, and sees the ice particularly well when things are slowed down on the powerplay. While he’s not the speediest player in transition, he shows good skill when confronted with pressure and has proven to be capable of managing bad pucks in his feet or while off balance. While I think there could be some superficial qualities to his skill, he has consistently found ways to contribute offensively with creativity and skill at the forefront.
38. F | Jordan Labelle | St-Eustache Vikings
While most of the players featured in this section have landed here on the basis of a change of heart/philosophy regarding their style, or simply a lack of early exposure, Jordan Labelle is simply one who has been on the cusp of my top-40 since August and recently made the push to justify a minor bump. For a very physically mature player, Labelle boasts a high degree of skill and dexterity with the puck, both on his forehand and backhand, making him a significant offensive threat from just about anywhere past the offensive blueline in M18. He executes simple plays simply, and doesn’t overcomplicate aspects of the game that don’t benefit from high complexity. For a player who could easily get away with abusing his physical advantage, Labelle can’t be accused of sitting still or resting on his laurels. When he’s not attacking with the puck, or backchecking, his head is on a swivel and his feet are moving as he attempts to get open. He plays to the whistle and remains disciplined, making him a player capable of having an early impact in the QMJHL.
39. F | Sam Allaby | Rothesay Netherwood School Riverhawks
It’s not unusual to have dueling voices whispering over my shoulder about the reasons to be either pessimistic or optimistic about a given player. I’m having a hard time remembering when those two have battled as fervently as they tend to when it comes to RNS forward Sam Allaby. Frankly, outside influence and opinion probably played more of a role in me not giving way to my own intuition last month and ranking Sam in the top-40. This is a player who each shift I watch, I’m reminded of how he’s able to impact the game in spite of his size. I’ve even had some passionate choice words for the doubters written into my game notes. Although I’ve made note of some isolated instances of passive play away from the puck, more often than not I think Sam is the most engaged and evasive player on the ice. He can stickhandle in a phone booth and always has his head up to deliver the next key offense-generating pass. While I’m sure the voices of pessimism will continue to some extent, I’m officially declaring myself an advocate for Allaby as a top-50 player within this class.
40. D | Xavier Villeneuve | Pittsburgh Penguins Elites
Speaking of players on the smaller side of the physical spectrum of their development, Xavier Villeneuve has done plenty to convince me of his future potential in junior hockey over the last several weeks. While early in the season I regarded Villneuve’s offensive disposition as highly skilled, yet highly reckless, he’s developed a greater degree of discipline throughout the fall and as such offers massive offensive potential with a more limited degree of risk. He has very detailed and nimble footwork that enables him to work evasively in tight spaces, or bait his opponents out of position. He values being the first player to a loose puck in the defensive zone and while there are still some minor lapses in judgment with the puck, he doesn’t get fixated on making up for simple mistakes by taking himself further out of position or attempting to compensate with an overly conservative approach. He’s very pragmatic in all zones and generally checks his emotions at the door. As he becomes stronger and more comfortable with getting roughed up I think he’ll be able to expand his game quite well and wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see someone take a gamble on him earlier in the draft, banking on a Marcus Kearsey or Etienne Morin trajectory.
With the Quebec CCM Challenge featuring an opportunity to focus on the top players from the QM17AAA Espoir and RSEQ circuits, we’re thrilled to begin incorporating some potential diamonds-in-the rough to our rankings.
57. F | Maxime Ly | Richelieu Gaulois M17 AAA
While I didn’t find him to be the most consistent top-performer among the M17 All-Stars at the CCM Challenge, I thought Maxime Ly offered the most versatility and with high-energy spurts during key moments of several games. He’s a very strong and effective forechecker who uses speed and low body position to earl leverage over his opponents. After generating opportunities for possession in the offensive zone he was very quick to make himself available, and exploit small areas of open ice with his acute puck handling skill and aggressive agility.
61. F | Mathis Valente | Mille-Îles Seigneurs M17 AAA
While Valente hasn’t technically cracked our top-60, I felt strongly that he should be included in this feature article because he’s as much a part of this tier as those players ranked 55-60. Valente was one of the most consistent M17 players at the event. He is highly effective in the middle of the ice both with a strong grip to maintain possession and as an outlet with his stick on the ice. He is s also good at identifying passes at game speed in transition. He made quick decisions with the puck in the middle of the ice, identifying and executing optimal passes, or making other subtle decisions to sustain possession.