U18 Update 04/20/2011
 
Come Spring time in Canada hockey is the only thing happening in the minds of most. You have the Stanley Cup playoffs and the World Championships for the players who’s teams fell just shy of a post season berth. You also have the CHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup, a great tournament that gets hockey fans in even the smallest Canadian city’s feel like they’re in the spotlight. But there is a forgotten tournament that deserves just as much attention as the other three, a tournament that usually dictates how future World Juniors turn out, this tournament is the World U18 Championships.
   
    Four games in it is clear who the upcoming stars are in this years draft and next years. At the top of the scoring standings is a 2011 draft eligible Russian named Nikita Kucherov, a very underrated threat in this years draft. Kucherov, in these four games, has eight goals and seven assists for fifteen points! How is he not being considered as a first round pick in the draft? One reason why some scouts may not think he’s as good as his stats say he is would be his line mate and potential first overall pick in 2012 Mikhail Grigorenko. They play on the same line in the MHL for CSKA and have torn up that league. Now, as they take over Germany, they are showing the whole world what they are capable of. Grigorenko himself has 13 points in the tourney so far, four goals and nine assists (several we can imagine were to Kucherov). Kucherov actually out points Grigorenko by about 20 points in the 38 MHL games this year, which just makes one wonder even more how this kid is going unnoticed in this years draft. It is also important to know that Ovechkin had a total of 31 points in his 14 games in the U18 Championships, I am by no means comparing these two youngsters to the “Great Eight” but it is just fun to point that out.
 
 
On February 2nd I braved the snow storm that hit Halifax hard and walked through snow that was up to my knees to go see the Halifax Mooseheads host the Drummondville Voltigeurs in a miss matched QMJHL game. The arena was far from packed as I counted just over 100 fans in a barn that usually counts 6 000 to 8 000, not bad for a bottom feeding team.
   
    The Voltigeurs were not expecting much coming into the 2010-2011 season as guys like Gabriel Dumont, their 2010 leading goal scorer, had moved on. But January’s QMJHL Player of the Month, Sean Couturier has carried this Voltigeurs team and leading into their Wednesday night battle in Halifax they sat 4th overall in the QMJHL standings. 

    Right off the get go it was clear which team wanted the victory more, and at the end of the first the Mooseheads had heavily out shot the Voltigeurs, yet the Volts lead 2-1. Sean Couturier showed why he was being considered a first overall pick candidate setting up two glorious scoring opportunities but they were squandered by either a good save by newly acquired Moosehead keeper Frédéric Piché or a blunder by one of his wingers. The Voltigeurs would go own to absolutely implode in the first three minutes of the third by giving up three quick goals and eventually lose 5-2. I was quickly drawn to the conclusion that the Voltigeurs should trade Couturier away now to gain some draft picks to be able to have a quicker rebuild, look at Oshawa with the Tavares deal in his last OHL season. But a team who sits in fourth so late in a season must of done something to get there, and as I researched some of the Voltigeurs more recent games I found that they played a great two game set against Saint John’s about two weeks ago. They did not come out of it with all the points they wanted, but the Sea Dogs are arguably the best team in the CHL at the moment. This leads to the tough question, it being, should the Drummondville Voltigeurs part ways with Sean Couturier to brighten their future?

    In the CHL it is common for an average team with a super star to trade him away to a Memorial Cup contender near the playoffs, last year Niagara dealt defensemen Alex Pietrangelo to the Barrie Colts in exchange to 2011 Entry Draft top ten candidate Ryan Strome. Deals like that just happen. In order to decided wether a trade should be made, one must first decide wether they believe Drummondville can make a serious run in the playoffs. In 2010, with a much stronger roster, they cruised by the Lewiston MAINEiacs in four games before being dismantled by the Saint John’s Sea Dogs in five games. Furthermore the Voltigeurs are only three points up on the 8th place Gatineau Olympiques, which leads me to conclude that a trade involving Couturier should be put in place soon. Who are the likely candidates?

    Well I do not know what teams have left to offer in terms of picks or prospects but one must imagine Saint John’s would not mind a boost upfront, however I would say they are not likely to go after Couturier as their offense is arguably one of the best in the CHL. The Montreal Juniors are a team that has had trouble scoring, so look for them to go after Couturier. Couturier and Louis Leblanc, the Juniors best offensive weapon, really connected in the Hockey Canada summer camp as they came out of it the leading scorers.
   
    Wether Couturier is traded or not will be answered quite soon, but most fans of the NHL are probably much more anxious to, not only find out when he is picked, but to find out if he goes to their favorite team.

- Alex MacDonald
 
 
On Tuesday November 16th the first player rankings for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft were released on NHL.com, although they are not just a straight forward 1 to 60 best player list yet it still gets any die hard Entry Draft fan excited. There are two lists, one for North American Skaters, divided by leagues and One for European Skaters, also divided by league. The four big names to remember at the top of each list would be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (WHL), Sean Couturier (QMJHL), Gabriel Landeskog (OHL) and Adam Larsson (SEL). 

- Alex MacDonald