League Preview: The Telus Central Division
The team that has been most talked about in the Telus Central Division this summer has been the Shawinigan Cataractes. They have a nice core of players coming back and they have loaded up their roster through trades. Like Rimouski, Shawinigan has been climbing up the standings the last two seasons. They were building for this season.
Second place is for up for the taking. It looks like the hometown team has come out the gates as the team to be in second place at the end of the season. The team has always started a little slow at the beginning of the season. This year will be no different with a handful of players heading to NHL Camps. Of course, they won’t be the only team that will lose players but they will have two rookie goalies for the beginning of the year. This team will need time to gel.
It should be interesting how the Victoriaville Tigres and the Drummondville Voltigeurs do this season. The Tigres have one of the most talented goalies in the league with Kevin Poulin. The only problem with Poulin is his consistency from night to night. If he can solve that issue, he will steal games for the Tigres.
During the off-season and at the trade deadline, the Red Sox and the Yankees like to match each others moves. That’s what Drummondville did when the Maineiacs acquired Maxime Gratchev from Rimouski. They went and got Yannick Riendeau from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. To me, it doesn’t make sense but Dominic Ricard (General Manager) thinks they can make a run.
2007-2008 Season: 33-33-0-4 (6th in the Telus Division)
Off-Season Additions: Michael Denocourt (From Rouyn-Noranda), Michael Roski (From Montreal), Timo Pielmeier (From Montreal), Michael Dubec (From Rouyn-Noranda), and Matthew Pistilli (From Gatineau),
Off-Season Subtractions: Kevin Maletto (To Rouyn-Noranda), Samuel Fortier (To Montreal), Dilen Theriault (To Saint John), Linden Bahm (To Halifax), Martin Baca (To Montreal), and Will Johnson (To Montreal)
Players That Aged Out: Sean Smyth, Patrick Bernier, and Oliver Donais
The Cataractes added some offensive punch with Pistilli coming in. He had 37 goals and 56 assists in 63 games with the Olympiques last season. Michael Dubec also brings in the offensive punch with 78 points. His 44 goals also led the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last season. Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll was the leading scorer for Shawinigan with 43 tallies and 40 helpers. Goals shouldn’t be a problem for them.
On defense, Adam Bourque-Leblanc was the offensive leader for them. His 37 points which included eight goals led the team. Simon Lacroix also is another solid defenseman. The New York Islanders draft pick had lit the lamp five times and added 34 assists in 2007-2008.
Montreal Juniors made Timo Pielmeier expendable after Jake Allen’s strong second half performance and his dominating performance at the World Under 18’s. Pielmeier is a solid goalie that hasn’t shown his true potential yet. He’s on a better team this season and his stats should show that.
Prediction: 1st in the Telus Central
2007-2008 Season: 37-26-5-2 (5th in the Atlantic Division)
Off-Season Additions: Maxime Gratchev (From Rimouski), Garrette Clarke (1st Round Draft Pick), Michael Chaput (1st Round Draft Pick), Etienne Brodeur (1st Round Pick), and Filip Janosik (Import Selection)
Off-Season Subtractions: Kevin Marshall (To Quebec), Nicolas Therrien (To Chicoutimi), Brett Gallant (Personal Reasons) and Guillaume Durand (Decided not to come to camp)
Players That Aged Out: Stefano Giliati, Chris Tutalo, Jonathan Bernier (NHL/AHL), Stefan Chaput (AHL), Jakub Bundil (CIS), and Marc-Andre Daneau (CIS)
When you looked at this roster at the beginning of the season, it looked like a rebuilding year. Ed Harding has been able to put a competitive team on the ice. Maxime Gratchev should have a bounce back year this season. It was a shorten season for him in because of injuries last year. He will need to put the puck into the net. Danick Paquette will have to step up offensively. If he can stay out of the box, he has the potential to put up 70 to 80 points. They will need to find that enforcer with Brett Gallant heading back home. Beaton showed flashes last year but needs to put that full season together. Give Michael Chaput sometime to get adjusted to the QMJHL before making an impact night in and night out.
Defensively this team has a strong top four. They have a great mixture of offensive and defensive defensemen. Patrick Cusack had six goals and 29 assists last year. His 35 points was tied with Marshall’s 35 points for the team lead. Michael Ward and Denis Reul are the stay at home defensemen. Expect Reul to have a strong sophomore season this year. Eric Gelinas will put up some offensive numbers this year and continue his success late last season. Clarke is an all around defenseman that has a mean side. Expect him to mix it up this year. The real wildcard is Sean Stagles from Rochester, New York. He will be a powerplay specialist and could take Tom Michalik spot on the roster when players come back from NHL camps.
With no more Jonathan Bernier, Peter Delmas is the number one goalie. He should be fine playing a full load this year but will need to be the catalyst for the team. Is Jonathan Connelly the next Peter Delmas? Some say he was the best goalie in the 2008 Draft. Can lighting strike again in the MAINEiacs favor? We will see when Delmas heads to Colorado’s camp.
Prediction: 2nd in the Telus Central
2007-2008 Season: 29-36-2-2 (9th in the Telus Division)
Off-Season Additions: Alexi Pianosi (From Moncton), Olivier Hinse (From Val d’Or), William Tremblay-Gratton (From Val d’Or), Loic Boivin (From Quebec), Brandan Hynes (1st Round Round Pick), and Andrej Nestrasil (Import Selection)
Off-Season Subtractions: Alexandre Monahan (Val d’Or)
Players That Aged Out: Steven Cacciotti, Louis-Etienne Leblanc, Toby Lafrance
On offense, Maxime Tanguay will be the go to guy this season. Last year he had 16 goals and 21 assists. That was a 23 point drop off from the 2006-2007 season where he had 24 goals and 36 assists. He should rebound and put up solid numbers as a 19-year-old. Dave Nolin will need to continue to develop. As an 18-year-old last season, he had 41 points in 68 games. There will be a lot of young players that will have to speed up the learning curve for this team to compete.
Jason Demers had 64 points last year which was on the second on the team. Demers is a defenseman. He will be a go to guy in many ways. Joel Chouinard is another offensive defenseman and had 8 goals and 27 assists. Alexi Pianosi was dealt by Moncton because they revamped their defensive core. He had a solid year in 2007-2008 with two goals and 15 assists. I thought Victoriaville traded away Krill Tulupov but they received him from Chicoutimi. He will be a valued veteran.
Kevin Poulin is a very good goalie but like I said before, he needs to work on his consistency. He will have a chip on his shoulder because he fell to the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Draft. At the beginning of last season, he was rated as one of the best goalies for the Draft.
Prediction: 3rd in the Telus Central
2007-2008 Season: 14-51-2-3 (10th in the Telus Division)
Off-Season Additions: Olivier Hotte (From Rouyn-Noranada), Yannick Riendeau (From Rouyn-Noranada), Antoine Tardif (From Acadie-Bathurst), Dany Masse (From Acadie-Bathurst), Sean Couturier (1st Round Pick), Dmitry Kulikov (Import Selection), and Igor Golovkov (Import Selection)
Off-Season Subtractions: Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (To Rouyn-Noranda), Mitchell Porowski (To Gatineau), Charles Vouligny (To Acadie-Bathurst), Michael Trudel (Baie-Comeau), Radek Vlasanek (To Acadie-Bathurst), Jonathan Lessard (To Acadie-Bathurst)
Players That Aged Out: Etienne Bellavance-Martin and Garrett Peters
The Voltigeurs added some scoring punch with the addition of Yannick Riendeau and Dany Masse. Both will be 20-year-olds this season. Riendeau had 23 goals and 26 assists in 42 games. He spent some time in France last year also. Masse had 29 goals and a total of 79 points from Acadie-Bathurst. Marc-Olivier Vachon’s 33 points is the most by a returning player. Scoring will need to come from the rookies to if the Voltigeurs want to compete. Sean Couturier, the second overall pick, has three goals for a total of six points. Dmitry Kulikov has three points in two games.
Marc-Antoine Desnoyers will lead the way on the blue line. He had four goals and 13 assists for Drummondville last year. Charles Landry had a very good rookie campaign as a 16-year-old with five goals and eight assists. Overall the defense will be better then last year but I don’t think the team will get 30 wins. They should be looking at the future.
Antoine Tardif is an average goalie but is better then what Drummondville had. His numbers have been at least consistent. In his first two years in the league, he had 14 wins in each season. His goals against average was 3.56 in 2006-2007 and 3.52 last season. His save percentage went up to .892 from .872 from two seasons ago. The Voltigeurs don’t want him stay on the same plateau but they want him to make the jump to the next plateau.
Prediction: 4th in the Telus Central.
That’s My Take
(Nathan also started “The World of Junior Hockey Blog.” His email is email@example.com.)