The QMJHL has seen stronger draft classes than the one they’re putting forward this year. Ethan Gauthier is a good bet to go in the first round, being just the right blend of hard and soft skills that many NHL teams covet. But most of the region’s prospects will probably have to wait a little longer to see which team will select them.
There’s nothing alarming about a down year. It happens. In some way, it can make scouting the region even more interesting. Instead of witnessing obvious talents, scouts get to look for the ones that whisper, the more subtly talented prospects who, with the help of a well-equipped development team, could unleash their potential.
In this edition of Stock Watch, we take a look at those whispering talents. We review the strengths and weaknesses and their performance this season.
Luke Coughlin, D, Rimouski Oceanic (2023 NHL Draft)
As he missed the start of the season due to an injury, Luke Coughlin fell a bit behind other QMJHL prospects, but he’s starting to catch up. His game has gotten more and more structured over the past few months. His defensive zone reads have improved, and his angling and risk management, too.
His skating, by far his best attribute, enables him to jump on attackers in the neutral zone and strip them off the puck, carry possession out of the defensive zone, and elude opponents at the point. He has yet to master the pass-fake-into-step-around moves that so many modern offensive defencemen use to create scoring chances, but he’s becoming better and better at it. Next year, with a little more experience, his production could explode in a bigger role, not unlike what happened with Frédéric Brunet, the Oceanic’s previous quarterback.
At his size, Coughlin will have to become not just a good puck-mover, but a great one to elevate to the NHL. And he will also have to learn how to move ahead of attackers and kill their plays early in transition to avoid those long board battles.
Jan Šprynar, RW, Rimouski Oceanic (2023 NHL Draft)
After watching Jan Šprynar at the Hlinkla and with the Oceanic this season, it’s become apparent that he has more NHL potential than his numbers suggest.
The Czech forward is a goalscorer first and foremost, a player who loves to give the puck quickly to teammates and sneak in between defenders to get it back and fire on net. He hunts space effectively but does so at a relatively low pace. That’s a weakness he will have to fix if he wants to translate his scoring game to the professional level.
Rimouski lacks the high-end playmakers to take advantage of Šprynar’s scoring talent, but that could change over the next seasons. To better take advantage of his future opportunities, he will have to work on his puck-carrying abilities and increase his motor.
Matteo Mann, D, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (2023 NHL Draft)
Matteo Mann, the son of Ottawa Senators assistant general manager Trent Mann, also spent part of the season on the sidelines recovering from an injury. He’s only now getting back to form.
Even more than most prospects in this draft, the team that drafts the 6-foot-5 defenceman will have to stay committed to him for the long haul. While Mann flashes impressive plays in certain games — downhill attacks into offensive zone spaces, two-zone passes, crushing hits, and long-range pokechecks — he is also prone to costly mistakes.
Currently, he lacks the finer technical ability necessary to execute his more high-end ideas. The first step in his development is learning to control his rush defence. Improving his pivots and gap judgments would enable him to stop more attackers from getting around him, limit the time he spends chasing the puck, and increase his offensive opportunities.
Jordan Tourigny, D, Shawinigan Cataractes (2023 NHL Draft)
The Shawinigan Cataractes lost a lot of their talent over the summer, opening the door for Jordan Tourigny to become the primary quarterback of the team, its transition motor and offensive zone playmaker.
Tourigny participates in every facet of the play. Aggressive and confident, he jumps into every rush, tries give-and-goes, dances around forecheckers, and opens up passing plays, but his game would improve with an extra dose of control and foresight. The defenceman’s feet lead the way. They allow him to outmaneuver opponents and stop their rush, but his mobility alone won’t be enough to lift him up to an NHL role.
If Tourigny can learn to better take care of the defensive end, while also continuing to diversify his offensive plays, he will move up significantly on our board.
Étienne Morin, D, Moncton Wildcats (2023 NHL Draft)
As Étienne Morin routinely spends half the game on the ice, it has been hard to evaluate and project him. Constantly on energy-saving mode, we rarely get to see him play at his full pace. Still, when he does jump on the offence, it’s quite evident that he has NHL skills.
He can fire well-placed stingers from the point that barely gives any chance to goalies. And as the season progressed, his passes also started to find teammates in and around the slot more frequently. There’s also a physical side to his game. It shows up on the boards of the defensive zone.
Contrary to other lower-paced, minute-munchers and point-shooters like Evan Bouchard, Morin won’t have a size advantage over his opponents in the NHL. To reach his potential, he will have to improve his skating stride and overall urgency. Becoming more defensively aware and engaged would also help his stock.
Tyler Peddle, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs (2023 NHL Draft)
Not unlike Šprynar, Tyler Peddle is a shooter. He scores by capitalizing on slot passes. But those have rarely come his way this season on the rebuilding Drummondville Voltigeurs. His weaker supporting cast and inability to diversify his offensive game have prevented him from writing his name on the score sheet and even from generating consistent scoring opportunities for himself.
The good news is that the extra time spent defending has transformed Peddle into a better checking presence. His straight-line drive and forechecking pressure could help earn an NHL role down the line Gushchin— and that, even if he doesn’t develop the secondary scoring skills, like the playmaking vision, needed to become a powerplay scorer.