2022 NHL Draft: QMJHL players to watch
The QMJHL will send a group of captivating prospects to the 2022 NHL Draft.
After contributing to the past two NHL Drafts with a handful of high-end talents, this QMJHL draft class seems less front-loaded, but instead filled with intriguing, fascinating players. From a reliable, impactful blueliner to a highly-skilled scoring winger, there’s a variety of charming prospects poised for major leaps in their development.
With FCHockey getting set for the season, our scouts agreed on five 2022 NHL Draft-eligible from the QMJHL that you’ll need to see this season, all of which could very well be selected in the top two rounds.
Here are five QMJHL prospects to watch this season (in alphabetical order):
Justin Cote, C, DRUMMONDVILLE VOLTIGEURS
After slipping into the second round of the 2020 QMJHL draft, Justin Cote went into his first Major Junior season with the objective of proving himself as a potential NHL prospect. Following a thin three points in his first 11 games, Cote exploded with 22 points (17 goals, five assists) in his final 23 games. He remarkably caught fire in March, scoring 12 goals in nine games.
His offensive prowess was on full display last year, finishing as the most prolific goalscorer amongst QMJHL rookies and within Drummondville’s lineup. Cote has always seemed to have a knack for finding the back of the net, tallying 24 goals in 31 games in Midget AAA and 45 goals in 30 games in Bantam AAA.
Cote was a finalist to the Michel-Bergeron QMJHL offensive rookie of the year, which was ultimately won by Verreault.
“Cote is a talented and competitive attacker who possesses high-end goalscoring skills,” Lehoux said. “The left-handed forward showcased outstanding shooting mechanics, delivering pucks with power and efficiency. He forced netminders to make saves, aiming for dangerous spots, yet always landing it on net.”
With many doubting him for his lack of size, Cote will look to shut his critics and establish himself as a top-tier early round selection.
Nathan Gaucher, C, QUEBEC REMPARTS
Nathan Gaucher is the lone player on this list entering his third QMJHL season, and he will seek to continue on his impressive progression.
After being drafted with the No. 8 pick in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft, Gaucher posted 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 59 games in his first Major Junior season. He took a major leap last year, jumping above a point-per-game pace. Despite playing alongside Viljami Marjala and James Malatesta, each selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NHL Draft, Gaucher finished as the top scorer for Quebec with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games.
He was notably invited to Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team summer development camp.
“Gaucher is a versatile power forward who showed encouraging dual threat capabilities and creativity for a big man.” FCHockey scout Andy Lehoux said. “Thanks to his superb strength, he distributed solid checks around the ice and had a menacing presence in corners.”
Gaucher has already two QMJHL seasons under his belt, which gave plenty of time for scouts to mark him as a top prospect for 2022. He possesses an attracting mix of size and skill, which NHL teams will eagerly jump on, potentially as soon as the first round.
Tristan Luneau, D, GATINEAU OLYMPIQUES
Tristan Luneau is vastly considered as the top QMJHL prospect this year.
The right-handed defensemen has been in the spotlight ever since coming into Midget AAA as an underager. He impressed immediately, accumulating 24 points (four goals, 20 assists) in 42 games at only 14-years-old. Luneau then added 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in 37 games the following year, which earned him the No. 1 spot at the 2020 QMJHL draft.
As soon as he arrived in Gatineau, Luneau was handed out the keys to the blue line. In addition to collecting 4 goals, 14 assists and 18 points in 31 games, the Canadian rearguard amazed by filling major responsibilities, playing important minutes and leading the defensive core with an astonishing poise for his age.
Luneau was awarded the QMJHL Rookie of the Year and Raymond-Légacé defensive rookie of the year honors in respect to his terrific season.
“He is looking like he will be one of the most well-rounded defensemen in the 2022 draft with his combination of skating, size, and offensive and defensive instincts.” FCHockey crossover scout Curtis Schwartzkopf said. “He maintains composure on the offensive blue line, showing a good understanding of where everyone on the ice is and ensuring he is always in position to receive the puck.”
Luneau, who had surgery this summer to correct a lingering injury and is expected to return to the action around the opening of the QMJHL season, will be looking to prove himself as a top-15 pick in the upcoming draft.
Pier-Olivier Roy, D, VICTORIAVILLE TIGRES
Although not having the notoriety of others on this list, Pier-Olivier Roy proved to be a crucial part of Victoriaville’s President Cup run last season. With an ever evolving role and responsibilities, Victoriaville’s prospect polished into a reliable puck-moving defenseman. Roy had 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 22 games last season, as well as adding five assists in 19 playoff matches.
He was deployed in all situations, and trusted in the most important moments. This includes playing more than 36 minutes in Game 6 of the QMJHL finals, the third-highest time on ice amongst both teams.
Roy was a finalist to the Raymond Légacé QMJHL defensive rookie of the year, ultimately awarded to Luneau.
“Roy is a smart two-way defenseman who, faced with significant responsibilities, played an impressively simple, poised and reliable game.” Lehoux said. “‘Roy highlighted an excellent mobility to escape forecheckers with smooth, efficient turns and even flashed snippet of decent puckhandling skills. He distributed the puck around with calmness on the power play, and made key, well-timed pinches to keep the cycle alive.”
In his only Midget AAA season, Roy led all defensemen in scoring with 32 points (two goals, 30 assists) in 42 games. With improved offensive duties this year, he will look to repeat that production at the major junior level.
Antonin Verreault, LW, GATINEAU OLYMPIQUES
Among the players that are the most intriguing, Antonin Verreault combines an incredible hockey IQ, a superb vision, some high-end puck skills and a tremendous mobility into a skill set that deserves first-round considerations.
Verreault, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 QMJHL Draft, had an exciting first season with Gatineau, hovering at near point-per-game pace with 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 31 games. He amazed many with his play on the man-advantage, creating scoring chances with great instincts and puck movement, and notably cumulating a team high nine power play assists.
His fantastic production earned him the Michel-Bergeron trophy, awarded to the QMJHL offensive rookie of the year.
“Thanks to his agility, speed, and creativity, [Verreault] always looks dangerous in possession of the puck, and can find a lot of passing lanes.”FCHockey scout Theo Lambert said. “His placement in the offensive zone is pretty good […] he gets away from opponents to get open in high danger areas and in position to shoot.”
The 5 foot 8 forward faces challenges due to his smaller frame, but he will look to show scouts his overwhelming talent is worthy of a high pick nonetheless.