Recrutes asked two QMJHL coaches about five prospects that were drafted/signed by the Montreal Canadiens organization this summer – Charlottetown GM/coach Jim Hulton and Acadie-Bathurst coach Mario Durocher. Here are their responses:
Coach Jim Hulton – With the loss of (Cedric) Desrisseaux and (Thomas) Casey we had a big void to fill offensively, and this is a guy we took a long run at the deadline last year but they decided not to move him. We kind of planted the seeds six months ago, a guy we’ve long admired. We think he really helps fill that offensive void. We haven’t picked our captains yet but I think it’s safe to say he’s going to have a letter.
He plays well beyond his size. He’s got a high revving engine, he competes, he’s tenacious. A lot of the attributes that we want in our players. We think he’s going to be an offensive leader and pave the way. He’s always been among the best players in the league. He came into the league as a high draft pick and we’ve heard wonderful things about his character and his leadership as well, so that can only help the rest of your room. He’s got the mantle of leadership and readily assumes it. There’s a reason Montreal picked him up..because he’s overcome so much adversity with his size in his career.
Coach Mario Durocher – That was a good choice (by Montreal). I like the kid, he’s a hard worker, hard-nosed, good skater. He’s not big but he’s not scared of anything. We almost tried to get him but we ended up getting Lapierre. He can play power play, PK, go out against the big lines.
He’s got a good chance to play in Laval. He’s got a big heart. The kind of player the coaches like.
Coach Jim Hulton – Cedric kind of grew into his offensive game. First-round draft pick in the Q and it took him a while to find his footing I guess in terms of elite-level offence. He had a major breakthrough this season. I think confidence, experience, etc. The one thing with him is he’s got pro-level speed, and when you put up the numbers he did people start to take notice. He’s got a goal-scorer’s shot, good release. He’ll have to prove that he can play through traffic at that level. I think that’s why it was an AHL deal right now and not a two-way NHL deal.
Coach Mario Durocher – He’s a pure goal scorer. He will probably play ECHL and Simoneau will play AHL. He had a very good year as an overage. He was confident but when he was going to play against bigger guys…I’m not sure if he can handle the physical play of the AHL, but let me tell you, he can shoot the puck.
Coach Jim Hulton – Our top four is going to be pretty strong. Most definitely a good value pick for the Canadiens. He’s a kid I could have seen go a round earlier. His main calling card for me is his IQ. He thinks the game like a pro. He adapts really well to different situations. His trajectory, improvement and his story is stuff that you don’t hear very often. It’s a great story and a great kid. An 11th-round draft pick in this league. He’s never been the go-to guy on any of his teams but quietly goes to work. He’s a late birthday…had he been eligible for the draft the year before he might not have even got drafted, but he’s continued to improve so much on a yearly basis.
It’s a possibility (that he plays two more years in the QMJHL). Selfishly I’d hope so, but I’m not sure with the way he’s improved and the way he thinks the game. He’s going to have to prove at the next level…the knock against him is his feet against speed, so…does it take him two years in junior and a couple of years in the AHL to figure that out? Time will only tell.
He’s got a really good compete level, a really smart stick defensively, sneaky good offence. He’s a go-to guy for us in all situations, but he kind of flies a bit under the radar because there’s not a lot of flash and dash to his game but he’s efficient, he competes and moves pucks.
He self-adjusts. Some players you have to show video, you have to show them the board before they can adjust certain parts of their game but he can adjust on the fly, and that’s what happens at the pro level, you have to or else you don’t survive. He’ll take a game plan and he can put it into practice almost immediately, and having been around junior that’s a rarity at his age.
I know he was on a fairly specific strength routine this offseason. Against speed, can he narrow the gap a little bit by increasing leg strength. Can you narrow it a bit more by working on your skating technique? So he’s done both, he’s had a specific strength program he’s been working on, and I’m sure once Montreal got involved with the training it’s helped as well.
We think quite frankly that we’ve got a 1a and 1b in terms of top pairings. Our power play last year we had Plandowski and Trudeau on one unit and Cormier and Laaouan on the other. We’ll mix and match. Part of the attraction with Trudeau was that he’s all about team. He’s not a numbers-driven guy, he’s not a ‘me-first’ guy, so Willy just kind of plays the situation we put him in and we tend to put him in a lot of situations.
He’ll be in our leadership group whether he’s wearing a letter or not. He doesn’t waste words, he’s not a real vocal guy but a great teammate, always a smile on his face, a great work ethic in practice and a wonderful example for the younger players in the room.
Coach Jim Hulton – He did look good in the playoffs. I will be the first to admit that I was just lukewarm on him early but he took it to another level in the playoffs. He was Bathurst’s best player by far and he added more grit to his game than I thought he’d shown in the past, and he really pushed the pace for them.
Coach Jim Hulton – If he can get his feet up to a pro pace, he’s got the skills. This kid’s put up numbers throughout his minor hockey career and if you look at his numbers in the Q it’s impressive…he’s just a bit of an ugly duck with his skating right now.
Coach Mario Durocher – He was a first-overall pick in the Q but not my favourite pick. I (coached) against him in Saint John a lot. I think his first year was tough and we hear about little things that happened in Saint John that happened with the team but in his second year, I think he improved his shot. He’s able to shoot the puck from everywhere and score. He just needs to be faster and working in the d zone; I don’t think he knows the name of his goalie. Offensively I don’t have worries about him, but he’s more of a shooter.
I think he’s a guy that will take the long road…ECHL, AHL. He will need to adjust to every calibre, but changing teams last year for sure was a good move for him too. Getting in shape was the first thing he needed to work on. He’s a big guy though; he’s a big body. But you need to skate at the pro level, and that’s what he’ll have to work on.