I don't follow Avs prospects amateur development as closely as I'd like but Monday night presented a fantastic opportunity. Four Avs recent draft picks in the same game set in a tough QMJHL West Division showdown. Gatineau scored thrice in the first period and cruised to a 4-1 victory but the fun part was getting to see what we've got in the pipeline with Nicolas Meloche, JC Beaudin, Anthony Greer and Julien Nantel. Of the 4, only Nantel is in his 19 year old season so this is a matchup we'll see quite a bit of over the next year and a half.
Since I don't watch more than a couple junior games a year and don't know squat about teammates and opponent matchups, I looked mainly at player usage, tendencies and for lack of a better term, motivation/attitude on the ice. These are kids playing with and against kids so it's a little tough to objectively evaluate pure skill.
Nicolas Meloche (RHD, Gatineau, 6'3/205, 2015 R2 #40) - This was Meloche's first game with the Olympiques after a trade from Baie-Comeau, an absolutely terrible team this year, earlier in the month. So far this season he's put up 8G/8A in 25 games. Last night he had a couple shots, a couple hits and took a matching minor at the end of the game.
It was pretty obvious that Gatineau Head Coach and friend of the Avs family Benoit Groulx was pretty fired up to have Meloche on the squad. He played damn near the entire PP on the first few that they had and I'd say he played somewhere in the mid-20's for total minutes on the night. Definitely didn't get eased into the lineup. Everything we've heard from the scouting reports was evident, strong physical game, good skating and a heavy shot from the point. He's something the Avs really don't have in the pro development system, a very physical defenseman that has both skill and d-zone prowess. I could see him ending up like a 2nd pairing version of EJ in 6 or 7 years. I really liked his game and I'm sure that's going to improve a bunch once he integrates with the Olympiques' system.
JC Beaudin (LHC, Rouyn-Noranda, 6'1/190, 2015 R3 #71) - Beaudin has settled in to the top center role in RN and deserves it. He's second on the team in all three of the money categories with 18G/27A/45P in 33 games so far. Last night he had 7 shots a couple of hits and an assist.
Like Meloche, Beaudin got a ton of PT in all situations but he really got going in the 3rd period when the game opened up a bit due to score effects. He had a wonderful setup to Julien Nantel on the lone Huskies goal and single-handedly chased down a breakaway and neutralized it without incurring a penalty. I also randomly noticed a sequence when he had 2 dangerous shots in a row from the point, nice to see him being effective from anywhere in the zone. As is often the case with 18 year olds, he seems to have grown noticeably since Avs Camp. He is also something the Avs sorely need in the Pro Dev system, a forward (well, they need any kind of forward really) with some size that can play in all three zones effectively and has scoring skill. I'm trying to think of an Avs player for comparison but there really isn't one now or recently, basically just looks like a good center you'd like to have in your top-9 when all is said and done.
Anthony Greer (LW, Rouyn-Noranda, 6'3/205, 2015 R2 #39) - This was Greer's first game for the Huskies and in the QMJHL after fleeing Boston University for a variety of reasons. Last night he had 3 shots on goal, all 3 good chances too, in what I'd describe as 2nd/3rd line minutes.
As we know, Greer is a big fellow and that was even more evident playing against juniors. Coach Gilles Bouchard moved him in and out of a couple spots, he had some PP time and played on both the 2nd and 3rd lines. The Huskies traded their 3rd line center following the game so there will be some shuffling in the coming weeks. Greer obviously digs driving to the net, not just to the crease line but right smack in the goalie's grille. Good skill to have and once RN figure a way to get him the puck there he's going to score. Not a great comparison but he reminds me a little of Martinsen or Everberg (when he's playing well) so far. It will be interesting to see what he looks like in 2017 when he's ready to turn pro.
Julien Nantel (LHF, Rouyn-Noranda, 6'/200, 2014 R7 #204) - Nantel has played all 3 forward spots this year, last night at RW, and has 13G/17A in 33 games so far. Against Gatineau he had 4 SOG and the lone Huskies goal.
Coach Bouchard obviously has a lot of trust for the 19 year old forward. At the end of the game with the goalie pulled both he and Beaudin were the centers taking faceoffs in the o-zone, Nantel on the right circle and Beaudin on the left. Odd because they're both lefties, but it was effective. I've liked Nantel's game from the time he was drafted, he's very responsible defensively, moves the puck out of the zone well and he's a shot-generating machine, averaging around 3 and half per game this season. It's always in doubt until a contract is offered but I fully expect the Avs to sign him and that he will become an important piece in San Antonio next year. I won't say that this is his ceiling, but if you can find a guy with his skills and mentality to center the 4th line in the NHL, you're doing quite well.
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All in all it was a good game to watch and get a handle on how some of the Avs prospects are faring in their younger stages. QMJHL LIve is handled by the same fine folks that produce AHL Live so I was used to the video quality and camera limitations. The commentary is in French of course so it's easy to miss large chunks of the situation depending on your level of proficiency but in the end it's hockey, a language we all speak to some degree. If the Olympiques and Huskies face off again this year without conflicting with the beloved Avs or Rampage I'd watch again for sure and highly recommend doing so to anyone else who likes to keep current on our youngsters.