Trade deadline winners in the QMJHL




SaltWire Network


So that was quite the deadline flurry to wrap up the QMJHL trade period. Twenty-four players and dozens of draft picks changed teams on the final day of activity as contenders scrambled to put the finishing touches on their rosters. So who helped themselves the most? Here's a look at which teams are now best suited to win it all. Charlottetown Islanders: Head coach/general manager Jim Hulton always shows a shrewd knack for making calculated moves to address specific needs. He never seems to go overboard with how many deals he makes, paying close attention not to disrupt the chemistry of his core. His most important manoeuvres came early when he acquired an experienced goalie in Franceso Lapenna and another veteran on defence in Jeremie Biakabutuka. Despite having elite defenders Noah Laaouan, Lukas Cormier, Oscar Plandowski and William Trudeau on the blue line, the Islanders were a tad thin there and in goal so getting those deals done before Christmas freed Hulton up to take his time getting some scoring depth. He plugged those holes on the final day with the acquisition of Zachary Roy and Dawson Stairs, as well as supporting forward Owen Saye. All three players are 19 years old and Roy and Stairs are both averaging around a point per game so they will complement current Islanders scorers Xavier Simoneau, Brett Budgell, Patrick Guay and Jakub Brabanec quite nicely on the top two lines. Hulton might be the best coach in the league at getting his teams to play as a unit so I can't wait to see how this group comes together leading into the playoffs. Acadie-Bathurst Titan: The firepower on this team was already intimidating but GM Sylvain Couturier then went out and added league scoring leader Felix Lafrance, powerplay weapon Thomas Belgarde and the highest-scoring defenceman in the league, Miguel Tourigny. Mixing them into a group that already included Hendrix Lapierre, Riley Kidney, Bennett MacArthur, Jacob Melanson, Cole Huckins, Ben Allison and Logan Chisholm is downright scary. The challenge now for Bathurst will be keeping the puck out of its own net. The supporting cast on defence behind Tourigny is decent but perhaps not at the level of what Charlottetown or some of the other powerhouses have, while the goaltending tandem of Jared Bednar and Chad Arsenault is still somewhat unproven. The X factor is behind the bench. Couturier replaced veteran Mario Durocher with Jason Clarke in late November and the early results were encouraging. This is Clarke's first QMJHL head coaching gig but he brings a ton of experience and a strong reputation from Junior A leagues in Ontario. If he keeps hitting the right notes and can create an effective team defensive structure, the Titan will be hard to stop. Saint John Sea Dogs: Nobody was busier than Trevor Georgie on Thursday. The Saint John GM made five deadline trades that involved a staggering 14 players and 26 draft picks. New faces Philippe Daoust, Connor Trenholm, Raivis Kristians Ansons, Nikolas Hurtubise and Marshall Lessard are all top-end players, as are defencemen Vincent Sevigny and Yan Kuznetzov who joined the Sea Dogs in December. This team already had players like William Dufour, Josh Lawrence, Brady Burns, Jeremie Poirier, Ryan Francis and William Villeneuve in the fold so there is little doubt this roster now - on paper at least - is worthy of hosting the Memorial Cup in a few months. But the turnover in personnel is rather extreme so the pressure on head coach Gordie Dwyer to turn this group into a cohesive machine in a short period is immense. Quebec Remparts: This was never really the year head coach/GM Patrick Roy wanted to go all in. His core is better suited for a run next season but the Remparts still have enough talent and depth to be a real threat this year. The only trade of any consequence Quebec made was for 20-year-old winger Conor Frenette, who is an underrated scorer and won a league title last year with the Victoriaville Tigers. The price to get him was reasonable so there wasn't much risk adding him to a scoring group that is led by quality players Theo Rochette, Zachary Bolduc, Nathan Gaucher and James Malatesta. The defence corps isn't exactly star-studded and overage goalie Fabio Iacobo is a good goalie who also won last year's President Cup with the Tigres but he was the backup. Shawinigan Cataractes: A top three of Mavrik Bourque, Xavier Bourgault and Olivier Nadeau is as good as it gets in this league but it didn't seem to make much sense for the Cataractes to join the arms race. Veteran GM Martin Mondou made some calculated low-risk additions in Pierrick Dube and Loris Rafanomezantsoa and they'll give Shawinigan excellent help in the playoffs. If the Cataractes can stay healthy in the postseason and ride their top two lines and first two defence pairings, they can certainly make some noise. These are the five teams I see as the leading candidates to win the President Cup but there are a few others who could easily emerge as second-tier spoilers, namely the Sherbrooke Phoenix, Halifax Mooseheads and Gatineau Olympiques. There are enough dangerous forwards and quality defenders and goalies on those teams to make contenders worry. Young teams that are stocked with blue-chip upand-comers are always prime candidates to pull off upsets because they get to play with no pressure in the playoffs. They can sometimes be a nightmare for tense juggernauts that were built to win at all costs. And by the way, evaluating which sellers improved themselves the most during the QMJHL trade period is really an impossible exercise. The majority of significant deals in the Q are based around future considerations that aren't revealed until the summer so most of the noteworthy trades as they appear on paper in December and January are rarely the final price. Willy Palov covers the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Halifax Mooseheads for the SaltWire Network.