2021 NHL Draft: 5 QMJHL players to watch
The QMJHL is loaded with centre talent ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft.
After seeing Rimouski Oceanic’s Alexis Lafreniere go No. 1 overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, the 2021 edition doesn’t look to have a strong contender to go first overall. Instead, this class will have depth not just in the first round but throughout the draft. Especially down the middle.
Related: FCHockey’s Top-10 Preliminary Rankings – QMJHL
With FCHockey gearing up for the season, our scouts agreed on five 2020 NHL Draft-eligible players in the QMJHL that you’ll need to see this season, all of which could very well be first-round selections.
Here are FCHockey’s five QMJHL prospects to watch this season:
Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic
While it looks like Lafreniere will be working his magic with the New York Rangers in 2020-21, the Oceanic will still have a top-ranked prospect in their forward corps. Zachary Bolduc will look to fill some of that void left by FCHockey’s No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft: 5 under-the-radar QMJHL players to watch
In 2018-19, the six-foot-one, 174-pound forward played in the QMAAA for the Trois-Rivieres Estacades where he potted 17 goals, 37 assists, and 54 points in 42 games. He added another five points (three goals, two assists) in nine playoff games. Bolduc also dressed for Team Quebec in the Canada Winter Games, collecting three assists in six games and capturing the championship.
He then made the jump to the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers in 2019-20, playing two games before deciding to head back to Quebec and join the Oceanic. It turned out to be the right choice as the forward went on to collect 30 goals, which led all rookies in the league, 22 assists, and 52 points in 55 games. He earned both Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year honours for this and was named to the All-Rookie Team.
“Bolduc is a solid two-way centreman who is being trusted in all situations by his coach and you can see why,” said head Eastern Canada scout Dylan Galloway. “(He) is effective at both ends of the ice, whether that’s winning defensive zone faceoffs, or driving the net for good high danger chances.”
Just as there’s no clear-cut No. 1 in this draft right now, there’s no clear-cut No. 1 from the QMJHL just yet. Bolduc will be looking to cement that title.
Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes
The lone player on this list in their third QMJHL season, Xavier Bourgault has made his presence in the league known. The Shawinigan Cataractes star forward joined the team in 2018-19, collecting seven goals, 13 assists, and 20 points in his first 62 games in the league. He also dressed for Team Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, adding another two assists in five games.
The centreman broke out last season, taking on a bigger role with the team and emerging as a top prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft. He finished the season with 33 goals, 38 assists, and 71 points in 63 games. Entering 2020-21, Bourgault is likely to lead his team in points and he is very much a player to watch for the scoring title in the league.
“The mobility he shows on his feet is excellent,” said Eastern Canada and Crossover scout Josh Bell. “He has good acceleration, utilizes good edgework, and fights for superior positioning. His hands match his feet, he showed tremendous puck movement in this game, combining his hands and feet to cut into the middle and set up his teammates.”
While he has an extra year of QMJHL experience under his belt, Bourgault is one of the top QMJHL prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft.
Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques
Zach Dean came into the league with big expectations after being drafted fourth overall, and he hasn’t disappointed. The centerman impressed in his QMJHL rookie season, scoring 18 goals and adding 28 assists for 48 points in 57 games. His season earned him a spot on the QMJHL All-Rookie Team.
On top of this, he also made time to dress for Team Canada Black at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, collecting seven points (three goals, four assists) in the five games played.
In 2018-19, Dean played for the Toronto Nationals U16 AAA team, racking up and impressing 47 points (24 goals, 23 assists) in 32 GTHL games and another 89 points (36 goals, 53 assists) in 64 U16 AAA games. He then captained Team Newfoundland in the Canada Winter Games, adding 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) to his impressive season.
“Dean is a skilled offense-oriented center who uses his high hockey IQ and great creativity to generate scoring chances,” said Eastern Canada scout Andy Lehoux. “The 176 pounds forward already possesses some of the silkiest hands in the Q, being able to dazzle through defenders and pull out highlight-reel dekes effortlessly.”
Now in his draft year, Dean started the season on injured reserve with a wrist injury. But you can bet he’ll be commanding attention for the rest of the season.
Zach L’Heureux, C/W, Halifax Mooseheads
Among the QMJHL players that are pushing top-10 consideration, Zach L’Heureux could very well be leading that race. The Halifax Mooseheads forward is extremely gifted offensively. In 2019-20, he captured the QMJHL rookie scoring title. He tallied 20 goals, 33 assists, and 53 points in that campaign for the Moncton Wildcats. His season earned him a spot on the QMJHL All-Rookie Team.
The five-foot-11, 196-pound player also played with Team Canada Black in 2019-20, collecting three assists in five games. The call to the national stage came in the season after an impressive Canada Winter Games performance with Team Quebec, where L’Heureux scored 10 goals and added three assists in six games. Team Quebec won the championship in the tournament.
In that season, L’Heureux dressed for the QMAAA’s Chateauguay Grenadiers, racking up 21 goals, 31 assists, and 52 points. That led to him being drafted third overall in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft.
“He’s deceptive, creative, and has incredible control with open space or in the small areas,” said Bell. “It looks like he has the puck on a string at times. Even when he’s challenged physically, he can hold the puck and still get a play off… His vision and awareness are among the best in this class.”
In the 2020 offseason, the Wildcats traded L’Heureux to the Halifax Mooseheads. On his new team, he’ll look to build on his impressive freshman campaign.
Joshua Roy, C/W, Saint John Sea Dogs
Our final QMJHL player to watch ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft is Joshua Roy of the Saint John Sea Dogs. The forward came into the league heavily hyped. He led the QMAAA league in points, with 88 (38 goals, 50 assists) in 42 games for the Levis Chevaliers. At the end of the campaign, Roy earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award and was drafted first overall in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft.
The Quebec native played alongside Bolduc and L’Heureux for Team Quebec in the Canada Winter Games, acting as the alternate captain. He scored four goals and nine assists for 13 points en route to the championship title. This helped to earn him a spot in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he played against Dean and L’Heureux, dressing for Team Canada Red. He had two goals and two assists in the five games played.
“Roy seems like a competent if not still a bit raw two-way playmaking center who could really see his draft stock rise through the season as he fine-tunes his game,” said Galloway. “His excellent habits make for a coach’s dream on both sides of the puck, so if he can maintain that consistency then he should see a lot of ice this season and get a lot of opportunities to improve his skills.”
In his rookie season in the QMJHL, Roy kept the offense coming with 16 goals and 28 assists for 44 points. He will look to build on that in 2020-21 with the NHL Draft in sight. After going first overall in the QMJHL Draft, Roy knows what it takes to be a top prospect.