KForbesy.ca
28Mar/120

HF: Top 4 QMJHL Goaltenders – Additional Content

Earlier this week, my article looking at QMJHL goaltenders who had their rights owned by NHL teams was posted and so, like I did before with the article on defensemen, I thought I would write a bit more about my thought process and the subject.

First, a quick look at the list:

1 - Christopher Gibson
2 - Louis Domingue
3 - David Honzik
4 - Mathieu Corbeil

And some thoughts:

  • First things first: Wow! What a short list. We're a long way from the QMJHL goaltender factory days of the mid-90s. I mention in the article that eight QMJHL goaltenders were selected in the 1995 NHL draft alone, with three of them being selected in the first round.
  • Only J-S Giguere and Martin Biron from that 1995 class are still in the NHL. Coincidentally, they were the first two picked of the eight Q goalies.
  • The bottom three of that list (Dave Arsenault, Sylvain Daigle and Frederic Henry) never saw NHL action.
  • For a while, it seemed like all you needed was a French name and a pair of goalie pads to get drafted, but a lot of teams have been burned and are a little more careful. Some examples of first rounders who didn't work out: J-F Damphousse (1997), Mathieu Chouinard (1998), Maxime Ouellet (1999).
  • I've also heard a lot of talk about how the mobility of players and the accessibility of education, as well as the rise of the goalie coach has led to improvements across the field of goaltenders. 20 years ago, Quebec was the hotbed for the butterfly style, because that's one of the only spots it was being taught.
  • Last spring, Halifax faced the Montreal Junior in the first round of the playoffs. I found myself sitting beside LA Kings scout Denis Fuguere talking about Kings prospect JF Berube, who was the goaltender for the Junior at the time. Berube was unsigned at the time and when I asked Fugere about it, he said if he had anything to do with it, they'd sign up. Berube signed a contract a few weeks later and played this year in the ECHL.
  • Given Gibson's play (recently named CHL goaltender of the week for the first week of QMJHL playoffs), you've got to think that a similar opinion applies. But depth has to be considered too. Berube was in the ECHL both to get minutes and because of the logjam of talent ahead of him in the Kings system.
  • From Quick to Bernier to Zatkoff to Jones to Berube to Gibson.... Is there any NHL team with anywhere close to similar depth of young goalie talent?
  • Louis Domingue got his start with the Moncton Wildcats, but was traded at the mid-season point of the following year to Quebec when Nicola Riopel was sent down from the pro leagues. Moncton went on to win the QMJHL championship and go to the Memorial Cup that year.
  • I remember at the time of the trade, it was said that Moncton was unsure about Domingue's consistency. That's apparently still a concern, although Domingue has been the starter in Quebec for the playoffs and is playing well.
  • Not playing well for the start of the playoffs in Canucks prospect David Honzik. I've only seen him a few times this year, but he just doesn't seem to be moving as well as he did last year as a rookie in the QMJHL.
  • Victoriaville is now down 0-3 in their playoff series, but turned to rookie Brandon Whitney for the last game. Honzik has another year of QMJHL eligibility and Whitney put up better statistics over the course of the regular season, so it could be a situation worth watching.
  • Last season, Honzik and Danault (who was selected by Chicago in the first round at the draft) were key parts of the underdog playoff run by the Tigres, but it looks like they're struggling to recapture that magic.
  • I had a hard time putting Corbeil last on the list, but someone had to be there. I saw a lot of him when he played for some horrible teams in Halifax and as I said in the article, I don't think he's actually as bad as he was in Halifax, but I'm not sure he's as good as he is in Saint John.
  • One thing I remember from his Halifax days was that he would get down on himself after letting in a goal and start playing deeper in the net. For a goaltender that size, being aggressive and playing at the top of your crease makes it very difficult for a shooter to see anything behind you.
  • Halifax had a weak team while Corbeil was there and it often required him to stand on his head to even give the team a chance to win. The whole squad seemed to deflate if Corbeil let in the first goal or the tying goal, etc. I think that pressure really got to him.
  • One thing he mentioned was that he never played on a winning team growing up.
  • As I detailed in the article, there's a lot of young talent coming up the ranks for young goalies, so all is not lost for the QMJHL goalie factory.
12Mar/120

The night Marty Turco shot last

Marty Turco's return to the NHL might have not go off to the start that he had hoped, but he's back nonetheless. Signed to a late-in-the-season free agent deal by the Boston Bruins after playing the season in Austria, the 36-year-old was pressed into service over the weekend after the Bruins fell behind 3-0 to Pittsburgh. Turco's insertion was hardly the saving grace as the game ended 5-2, but the 36-year-old is once again an NHL goaltender.

And his return gives me the opportunity to tell one of my favourite stories.

Back in the fall of 2004, during the NHL lockout, a exhibition league was quickly formed called the Original Stars Hockey League. Using unemployed NHL players, the league played a number of games across Ontario and Atlantic Canada before eventually folding. The rosters were mostly stocked with players who either didn't want to pursue opportunities in Europe, or were unable to find those opportunities. So the biggest names were guys like Mike Fisher, Todd White, Wade Belak, Aaron Downey and yes, Marty Turco.

By the time the OSHL rolled into Halifax, it seemed the writing was already on the wall. Players were dropping out and the intensity of play rated somewhere between beer league and all-star game. As such, the two back-to-back games that were played in Halifax were done using essentially the same rosters of players (with some local Navy players mixed in as well).

The actual hockey was horrible and since there were less than 1000 people in the Metro Centre, which can hold ten times that amount, for much of the games, there was an unnatural quiet to the arena. This made it very easy to yell down to the players, whether it was for heckling or cheering.

Throughout the games, the big star was Turco. It was clear that he was just playing around for the most part, making the save much more difficult then it had to be, just having fun and as such he got lit up pretty good in both games.  But there would also be moments in time where he just he just turned it on for a half a minute or so and he stonewalled everyone.

What really impressed me about Turco wasn't just his play, but his off-ice conduct and the way he played to the crowd. You could tell he was having fun out there. During the intermissions, he didn't return to the dressing room, but stayed right by the bench, signing autographs. Whenever he came back on the ice after an intermission, he'd wave and circle around and mimic a prat fall. Then during stoppages in play, when they played music, Turco would be there dancing in the crease, or smacking his stick against the pipes to the beat. After every save, he'd always be joking around with the players around him. Over the course of the 2 games, he must of given 6 sticks away to kids in the crowd.

As I mentioned, it was pretty easy to yell down to the players and it was pretty obvious that they could hear you (Aaron Downey actually started yelling back at a heckler at one point). After watching the first game, and seeing Turco play around with the puck, stickhandling around some players behind the net before passing it off and the like, my friend and I started yelling down to Turco during the second game, telling him stuff like "Go for the goal, Marty", "Let Turco shoot". Anyway, with the OSHL, there's a small 2 shooter shootout after every period, so we were always yelling for them to let Marty shoot, even getting a few more people in our section to chant along with us. Finally, after the third period, after Turco had saved one of the shooters against him and let in another one, the ref dropped the puck at centre ice. The chant rose up again, and sure enough, all the players on Marty's team pointed to him. He started skating up the ice, dropping his mask as he went, got the puck, moved in and rang it clean off the crossbar. In mock anger, he tried to break his stick before passing it to a kid in the crowd and then he waved up at us before being mobbed by his teammates.

The OSHL was pretty horrible hockey and I believe that game in Halifax was the last one that was ever played, but definitely getting to see a goalie take a penalty shot was one of the more unique things I've witnessed in hockey.

3Mar/120

HF: Top 10 QMJHL Defensemen – Additional Content

I was meaning to write this earlier but never got the chance. In any case, just over a week ago, I wrote an article for Hockey's Future on the Top 10 QMJHL Defensemen who have been drafted or signed by NHL teams.

Here's a quick look at the list:

1 - Brandon Gormley
2 - Nathan Beaulieu
3 - Xavier Ouellet
4 - Jerome Gauthier-Leduc
5 - Morgan Ellis
6 - Konrad Abeltshauser
7 - Jeremie Blain
8 - Daniel Milan
9 - Adam Janosik
10 - Charles Olivier Roussel

I thought I would take a moment to provide some additional content on the subject, talking mainly about my selections and the construction of the list.

  • I went back and forth about the last three spots on the list and at different moments, I had Samuel Carrier, Jonathan Racine and Troy Vance all factored in there.
  • In the end, the inclusion of Milan and Roussel had a lot to do with already having NHL contracts. For comparison, Blain, Janosik and Carrier are all looking for contracts for next year. Racine and Vance have another year of junior ahead of them before they need to be signed.
  • The acquisition of guys like Ellis and Gormley in Shawinigan have pushed other NHL prospects like Racine and Dillon Donnelly farther down in the lineup. The same goes for 2012 draft eligible Justin Hache.
  • A similar situation in Victoriaville where they brought in Blain and Milan as well as veteran Matthew Hobbs, which moves Troy Vance lower in the lineup.
  • Gormley is entering into a system with a lot of young defensive talent next year with Phoenix with guys like Runblad, Ekman-Larsson, Yandle and Summers. I think he has what it takes to make a name for himself among such a talented crowd. His play at the World Juniors was a statement.
  • Beaulieu's late birthday has him eligible to play pro next year, even though he was drafted last year. He's got talent, but still needs to work on putting it all together. Has shown it in flashes, but at times, it feels like he's trying to catch lightning in a bottle.
  • Completely believe Ouellet is the top blueliner next season and on Team Canada, doing it all for BLB this year.
  • I wonder if Gauthier-Leduc's emergence made it easier for the Buffalo Sabres to trade a guy like M-A Gragani in the Hodgson/Kassian deal?
  • Since the article has been published, Morgan Ellis has been signed by the Montreal Canadiens. I mention this in the article, but he's being used in much more of a scoring role with Shawinigan then what he was with Cape Breton. He had to do everything when he was a member of the Screaming Eagles. The improved surrounding cast with the Cataractes helps his numbers quite a bit as well.
  • I see a lot of Abeltshauser here in Halifax and this season he's been a horse. He'll never use his big frame to crash and bang, but his improvements since being drafted are notable.
  • I'm never really sure about Blain because he doesn't do any one thing that stands out. I suppose his puck movement is his best attribute. Victoriaville is set for a long playoff run and this is probably his last chance to see some serious post-season action (last three years in Bathurst were one series and then out.)
  • Milan obviously not as productive this season, but there was a lot of talk last year about him being drafted in his second year of eligibility. I wasn't surprised that he was signed by Tampa.
  • Janosik's size and strength are the main questions when you consider his pro future.
  • I'm not sure what to think about Roussel though. He was in a very defensive style with the Montreal Junior last year and it just wasn't a good match. There's a bevy of talented defensemen ahead of him in Nashville's system too.
  • Samuel Carrier lucked out landing in Baie-Comeau, but his strength and skating ability are what really holds him back during his play in his own zone.
  • Sawyer Hannay might not get signed by Vancouver but has improved dramatically this year by simplifying his game and avoiding retaliation penalties.