Cape Breton selects big-bodied defenseman as top player in 2006 birth year
While their neighbors in the United States were celebrating the Fourth of July, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) franchises had a work day Monday.
Their task? The 2022 QMJHL Draft.
The last of the three Canadian Hockey League (CHL) members to sort through the 2006 birth-year class, the QMJHL teams took turns staking claims on Monday, as they conducted the first round of their annual selection process.
The QMJHL is contained within the provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Given its geography, its player pool tends to be filled more exclusively with Canadian players than its CHL counterparts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Western Hockey League (WHL).
The entire first round of the 2022 QMJHL Draft featured Canadian players being selected by the Canadian franchises. That’s about it for any patterns emerging, however, because if there was one word to describe Round 1, it would be ‘balanced’ — or at least something along those lines. There were ten forwards, seven defensemen and one goaltender selected, so if the 18 players on the list wanted to get together for a spring team, they would be in great shape. Four youth teams saw two of their players chosen in the first round, but as a whole, it was pretty well spread out across the region.
Unlike the OHL and WHL Drafts, the majority of the players in the first round played in Ligue de développement du hockey M18 AAA du Québec, which means they were playing against players as much as three years older than them. In the other two Canadian junior leagues, players are more routinely playing against players in their own birth-year.
The Cape Breton Eagles had the first pick for the first time in franchise history, and they used it to select defenseman Tomas Lavoie, described on the QMJHL official site as “an instant centerpiece for an Eagles squad making its first steps back to the postseason picture.” The 6-foot-3, 190-pound blueliner recorded 21 points in 36 games playing for Collège Esther-Blondin in the M18 league.
At No. 2, the Victoriaville Tigres did something most teams stay away from with such a high draft pick – they took a goalie. St-Hyacinthe Gaulois netminder Gabriel D’Aigle is the earliest goaltender picked in the QMJHL Draft since Maxime Daignault was selected at No. 1 overall in 2000. Playing against elite competition didn’t hurt D’Aigle’s stats line – he finished with a 2.59 goals-against average and .919 save percentage — and that’s even more impressive when considering that he was one of the youngest players in his draft class. D’Aigle won’t be turning 16 until Nov. 21.
The Chicoutimi Saguenéens chose winger Maxim Massé at No. 3 overall, after the 6-foot forward finished second in goals among rookies in the Quebec U18 AAA level and 43 points overall in just 40 games. With the next pick, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar went with 5-foot-6 winger Justin Poirier, who didn’t let his size keep him off the scoring charts. Poirier racked up 33 goals and 49 points in 37 games, while finishing second in scoring at the U18 AAA Challenge and first at the QMJHL Cup.
Those first four picks all hail from Quebec; at No. 5, the first Maritime-born player was selected. The Rimouski Oceanic chose Moncton Flyers defenseman Spencer Gill, a native of Baie Verte, NB. He played to a point-per-game average of 30 in 30 in the NB M18 AAA circuit this season.
The No. 6 pick marked the start of a run on Canadians who were playing south of the border this season, as Rouyn-Noranda selected left winger Bill Zonnon out of the Northwood School 18U prep team in Lake Placid, N.Y. With the next pick, Halifax claimed defenseman Owen Phillips, who skated with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 15-Only team this past season.
At No. 11, Cape Breton took William Shields, a high-scoring forward who played for the Bishop Kearney Selects 15-only team this year, and at No. 12, Chicoutimi claimed Sacha Boisvert from Mount St. Charles.
The four teams which produced multiple picks were all Canadian, however. Two players apiece came from Les Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin, Le Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François, Les Vikings de St-Eustache and Les Albatros du Collège Notre-Dame.
Here’s a look at the full first round:
No. 1 – Cape Breton – Tomas Lavoie (Defenseman, Les Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin)
No. 2 – Victoriaville – Gabriel D’Aigle (Goaltender, Gaulois St-Hyacinthe)
No. 3 – Chicoutimi – Maxim Massè (Right Wing, Les Albatros du Collège Notre-Dame)
No. 4 – Baie-Comeau – Justin Poirier (Right Wing, Grenadiers de Châteauguay)
No. 5 – Rimouski – Spencer Gill (Defenseman, Flyers Midget AAA de Moncton)
No. 6 – Rouyn-Noranda – Bill Zonnon (Left Wing, Northwood School Huskies 18U Prep)
No. 7 – Halifax – Owen Phillips (Defenseman, Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 15’s)
No. 8 – Blainville-Boisbriand – Eliot Litalien (Center, Le Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François)
No. 9 – Rimouski – Quinn Kennedy (Center, Halifax McDonald’s MAAA)
No. 10 – Baie-Comeau – Julien Lanthier (Defenseman, Les Vikings de St-Eustache)
No. 11 – Cape Breton – William Shields (Right Wing, Bishop Kearney Selects 15’s)
No. 12 – Chicoutimi – Sacha Boisvert (Center, Mount St. Charles 15’s)
No. 13 – Cape Breton – Thomas Desruisseaux (Center, Les Chevaliers de Lévis)
No. 14 – Moncton – Adam Fortier-Gendron (Defenseman, Les Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin)
No. 15 – Rimouski – Anthony Parè (Defenseman, Les Albatros du Collège Notre-Dame)
No. 16 – Chicoutimi – Xavier Veilleux (Defenseman, Le Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François)
No. 17 – Val-d’Or – Nathan Brisson (Center, Les Vikings de St-Eustache)
No. 18 – Chicoutimi – Jeremy Leroux (Center, École Secondaire Stanstead)
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