6

QMJHL Playoff Previews: Canucks Prospect Edition

The time has come.

The chase for the MasterCard Memorial Cup is underway in the CHL, with the three leagues beginning their playoffs this week. In the QMJHL specifically, all of the Canucks prospects plying their trade there will appear in the postseason.

Some players will look to make a name for themselves with hopes of securing an entry-level contract, while others will likely play their last game in juniors. There is plenty of intrigue and drama to be had, so let’s preview the Canucks prospects in the QMJHL playoffs.

Zack MacEwen

The newest prospect, Zack MacEwen had a torrid finish to his season, with 12 points (4-8-12) in the seven games since he signed his entry-level contract with the Canucks.

The Gatineau Olympiques will face the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the first round. They went 1-1 against the Eagles this year, losing 2-1 on October 9th and then taking the rematch on October 21st by a 4-2 score.

MacEwen was held without a point in the first game but did post two assists in the second match.

The two teams stack up as follows:

Powerplay Penalty Kill Goals For Goals Against
Cape Breton 22.0% 79.0% 270 230
Gatineau 23.0% 74.9% 234 253

The Olympiques will be in tough to knock off the Screaming Eagles, as Cape Breton has a balanced attack that is hard to contain. They were ranked 5th in goals for, and 7th in goals against during the regular season while Gatineau was 7th in GF and 12th in GA.

If Gatineau is taken out in the first round, I would expect MacEwen to be assigned to the Utica Comets to finish out their regular season. He may not suit up but will get to practice and spend time around the team that he will probably call home next year.

The full schedule for this series is below:

Image: QMJHL

Carl Neill and Guillaume Brisebois

Carl Neill and Guillaume Brisebois of the Charlottetown Islanders (also known as the Carl Neill’s) are a contender to challenge for the President’s Cup. They will be in tough to go all the way, as Saint John, Blainville-Boisbriand and Rouyn-Noranda likely stand in their way, but after finishing first in the Maritimes Division, it’s possible Charlottetown could make an appearance in the Memorial Cup.

The Islanders will face Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the first round. They played two games this season, splitting the series 1-1-0.

Baie-Comeau took the first matchup on October 21st with a 6-3 win, while Charlottetown won the second game by a score of 8-7 on November 3rd.

Brisebois was limited to one assist in the two games, while Carl Neill was still a member of the Sherbrooke Phoenix for both of those games. However, Neill did face Baie-Comeau on four occasions before moving to the Islanders – he had 7 points (2-5-7) in those four games, which included a five assist performance on October 16th.

How the two teams stack up when comparing their regular season:

Powerplay Penalty Kill GF GA
Charlottetown 25.7% 77.2% 303 214
Baie-Comeau 16.6% 78.5% 203 230

The Islanders were first in goals for, and sixth in goals against. The Drakkar were 16th in GF and tied for 7th for goals against.

Baie-Comeau has to hope they can contain the Islanders offence enough to pot a couple of goals and steal the series — highly unlikely. The Islanders loaded up for a run, and look to be poised to do so.

I would expect this series to be over quickly.

I’ve posted the full schedule below:

Image: QMJHL

Dmitry Zhukenov

Image: André Émond

Dmitry Zhukenov and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens take on the Victoriaville Tigres in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs this year. During the season series, Chicoutimi walked away with a 4-2-0 edge but won two of those games in a shootout.

From a Canucks perspective, Zhukenov was prominent throughout the series, posting one goal and eight assists in the six games.

Chicoutimi was absolutely dominate at home this year, posting a 24-9-0-1 record. Given they have home ice advantage for the matchup, it could prove a deciding factor.

Powerplay Penalty Kill GF GA
Chicoutimi 25.0% 76.0% 206 205
Victoriaville 23.8% 79.4% 230 231

Both teams ended the year with very close GF/GA production. Victoriaville gave up more goals and in turn scored more goals.

This is a series that could down to the wire, as both teams appear evenly matched. Chicoutimi likely has the edge due to offensive depth as they added former Dallas Stars first round pick German Rubtsov in the middle of the season.

The full schedule for the Chicoutimi and Victoriaville series is below:

Image: QMJHL

Rodrigo Abols

The last series to feature a Canucks prospect in the QMJHL is the Quebec Ramparts against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

2016 7th round pick Rodrigo Abols and the Titans have experienced a rebound season in what started as a possible rebuild year.

The Ramparts and Titans met twice this season with Quebec taking one in regulation and another in overtime. Abols had one assist in those two games.

The Titans should be able to take this series as they enter with home ice advantage and have done very well with their underlying numbers.

Powerplay Penalty Kill GF GA
Quebec 18.7% 76.9% 187 237
AB Titan 22.0% 77.6% 284 242

The Ramparts goals for were ranked 17th in the 18 team league, ahead of only the Moncton Wildcats (who are not good).  They were 9th in goals against, with the Titans finishing 8th. Acadie Bathurst’s goals for finished 3rd behind Charlottetown and Saint John.

Given Quebec’s anaemic offence and AB’s impressive underlying numbers, I would expect the Titan to punch their ticket to the second round. This is an ideal matchup for the Titan, but should still provide an entertaining series.

The full schedule for the Quebec and Acadie-Bathurst series is below:

Image: QMJHL

At this moment, Dmitry Zhukenov and Carl Neill are not signed to entry level contracts, and some good performances in these playoffs could help their cause.

I would expect Zhukenov to sign one before the June 1 deadline, but there is concern about Neill’s foot speed, so his status might be up in the air.

CHL playoffs are always a roller-coaster with upsets, stacked teams pitted against each other and breakout performances. Bo Horvat used a standout performance in the OHL playoffs to move up to 9th in the NHL Entry Draft, could there be a player who does the same this year?

Let the games begin!