League Preview: The Telus East Division

The Telus East Division has two dominant forces; the Rimouski Oceanic and the Quebec Remparts are the class of the Division.  The Oceanic have been looking forward to the 2008-2009 season since the 2006 Midget Draft where they had four of the top ten picks.  They have the 2009 Memorial Cup in their sights, as they are hosting the tournament next May.

On the other hand, the Quebec Remparts have made their moves through trades. Days before the 2008 Draft, they acquired one of the premiere defenseman in this league in Kevin Marshall.  They weren’t done when they traded away Angelo Esposito to the Montreal Juniors.  In return, they got Jean-Simon Allard.

He had 16 goals last season.

The Chicoutimi Sagueneens will be competitive but don’t expect them to fight for the Divisional Crown.  They have traded away Bobby Nadeau who was their starting goalie last year where he put up very good numbers.

The Baie-Comeau Drakkar was one of the elite teams in the Telus Division last year.  They were stunned in the first round by the Rimouski Oceanic.  They are losing some big pieces from last year’s team.

Rimouski Oceanic

2007-2008 Season:
33-36-1-0 (7th in the Telus Division)

Off-Season Additions:
Sébastien Piche (From Rouyn-Noranda), Maxim Gougeon (From Rouyn-Noranda), Luca Cunti (Import Selection)

Off-Season Subtractions: Maxime Gratchev

Players That Aged Out: Francois Bolduc, Sebastien Bernier, and Michael Frolik (AHL)

Philippe Cornet, Patrice Cormier, and Jordan Caron only combined for 61 goals and 133 points last season but this year will be their breakout year.  They will all be 18-year-olds this coming season.  Expect those numbers to jump up.  Add their Import selection, Luca Cunti, who’s also an offensive force.  He played with the Chicago Steel last season where he lit the lamp 11 times and added 21 helpers in 34 contests.  He only played half of the season because he couldn’t clear NCAA Clearinghouse to join St. Cloud State.  No one player will carry the offensive load but it won’t be scoring by committee either.

Sébastien Piche has been a valued commodity in this league the last few years.  He was one of the key to the Maineiacs success two years ago when they went to the Memorial Cup.  At the trade deadline the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies re-acquired him for their playoff push from Shawinigan.  He was drafted by the Huskies and was traded by the Maineiacs to Shawinigan during training camp last summer.  Alexandre Neron led the Rimouski defense last year with 10 goals and 34 assists.  Emmanuel Boudreau also had a solid year with 6 goals an 25 points.

Maxim Gougeon was on a bad team for most of last season (Drummondville).  When he was traded to the Huskies, his goals against average went down slightly.  With the defense in front of him, he should have a very good season.

Prediction: 1st in the Telus East

Quebec Remparts

2007-2008 Season: 38-28-1-3 (5th in the Telus Division)

Off-Season Additions:
Kevin Marshall (From Lewiston), Jean-Simon Allard (From Montreal), Charles Lavigne (From Moncton), Guillaume Monast (From Halifax), Benjamin Breault (From Baie-Comeau), Samuel Carrier (1st Round Pick), Dmitri Kugryshev (Import Selection)

Off-Season Subtractions:
Angelo Esposito (To Montreal), Vincent Bourgeois (To Montreal), Benjamin LaConte (To Rouyn-Noranda), Dominik Bohac (To Rouyn-Noranda), Loic Boivin (To Victoriaville), Phillipe-Louis Lacroix (To PEI), Felix Petit (To Baie-Comeau)

Players That Aged Out: Pierre Bergeron, Maxime Lacroix and Kevin Desfosses

On offense, they have Kelsey Tessier coming back.  He led the team with 81 points including 36 goals.  He should continue to be a top offensive contributor this season.  Jean-Simon Allard offensive production will have to replace Esposito’s and Petit’s production.  Allard suffered a jaw injury in training camp and will be out a few weeks.  Mikhail Stefanovich needs to put together a full season.  He had a strong first half last season but fizzled at the end. David Gilbert showed some promise after he was acquired in the Brad Marchand trade.  Dmitri Kugryshev has had a good preseason so far with two goals and two assists in one game.

Defensively, Kevin Marshall steps in as the number one defenseman.  With the Lewiston Maineiacs last season, he had 11 goals and 24 assists.  He also had 143 penalty minutes.  Mikael Tam had a very good rookie year with 11 points and 106 penalty minutes.  Samuel Groulx also had a solid sophomore campaign with 25 points.  His five goals were tied for first among the defenseman on the team.

The weakness on this team is the goaltending which is ironic with Hall of Fame Goaltender Patrick Roy as their Head Coach.  Charles Lavigne is a 20-year-old and was decent on a bad Moncton Wildcats team last season but the other goalies in camp have no QMJHL experience.

Prediction: 2nd in the Telus East

Chicoutimi Saguenéens

2007-2008 Season: 37-25-2-6 (4th in the Telus Division)

Off-Season Additions: Francis Boulianne (From Val d’Or), David Bouchard (From Halifax), Nicolas Therrien (From Lewiston), and Michal Hlinka (Import Selection)

Off-Season Subtractions: Jean-Daniel Turgeon, Bobby Nadeau, and Maxime Provencher

Players That Aged Out: Francis Pare, Francis Verreault-Paul, and Bryan Wilson

The offense is young, after Pare’s 102 points last year, Nicolas Deschamps 67 points was second on the team.  The second round selection of the Anaheim Ducks can’t have a sophomore slump for this team to have offensive success.  Jacob Lagace also had a very good year with 62 points.  Deschamps and Lagace will be a one-two punch to keep and eye out the next two seasons. Joel Champagne will have to add a little more offense.

On defense, Kirill Tulupov is a defensive defenseman that likes to hit.  He had 2 goals and 13 assists between Victoriaville and Chicoutimi.  He will have something to prove after the New Jersey didn’t sign him this summer.  He’s now a NHL free agent.  Mathieu Bolduc and Sebastien Rioux are also very good puck moving defenseman in the QMJHL.  Both players had nine goals.  Bolduc had 23 assists and Rioux had 27 assists.

Francois Levesque will take care of the goaltending duties for the Sagueneens.  Nadeau was shipped to the Prince Edward Island Rocket this summer.  The back up situation will be interesting.

Prediction: 3rd in the Telus East

Baie-Comeau Drakkar

2007-2008 Season: 45-19-4-2 (2nd in the Telus Division)

Off-Season Additions: Felix Petit (From Quebec), Olivier Tremblay (From Montreal), Marek Benda (From Cape Breton), Michael Trudel (From Drummondville), Tommy Samson (From Val d’Or), Jesse Cere (From Val d’Or), and Radovan Pulis (Import Selection)

Off-Season Subtractions: Mathieu Leclaire (To Rouyn-Noranda) and Benjamin Breault (To Quebec)

Players That Aged Out: Francois Bouchard (Could come back but is AHL bound.), Marc-Andre Dorion, Matt Marquardt and Jean-Philip Paquet

Baie-Comeau missed its chance last season when they were bounced out of the playoffs by the Rimouski Oceanic in the first round.  The graduation of Francois Bouchard to the AHL, will hurt the team offensively.  The addition of Felix Petit will offset the departure of Benjamin Breault but they don’t have that elite player like Bouchard was.  Samuel Morneau will have to have a big year, as a 17-year-old, he had 42 points.  That will have to increase for this team to battle with Rimouski and Quebec.

Pierre-Luc Lessard will lead the blue line crew this season as a 20-year-old.  He had 2 goals and 14 assists after he was acquired from the PEI Rocket.  As a draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, he could be heading to the AHL also.  Overall the defense is pretty young as a group.  It looks like next year will be the year that they blossom.

In the pipes, Marco Cousineau had a solid sophomore season in goal.  He had 2.81 goals against average, and a .903 save percentage.  He also had 34 wins and 19 losses on the season.  The Anaheim Ducks selected him in the third round in the 2008 NHL Draft.  They added Marek Benda from Cape Breton to be their back-up.  He was outplayed by Olivier Roy last season but will be a serviceable back-up.

Prediction: 4th in the Telus East

That’s My Take

(Nathan also started “The World of Junior Hockey Blog.”  His email is fourniern@students.nescom.edu.)

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