The ‘Q’ season finally gets underway tonight as the Saint John Sea Dogs host the Acadie Bathurst Titan at 6:00 p.m. EST. Here is a look at those two teams, as well as the rest of the Maritime Division.
2011-12: 32-31-2-3 (69 PTS, 3rd in Maritime Division, eliminated in six games by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens—1st round)
Offensive leaders: Zach O’Brien (50G, 51A, 101P in 63 GP), Sébastien Trudeau (31G,64 A,95P in 67 GP)
Bathurst has a way of making other teams second-guess themselves if they’re caught coasting in games against them. They boast several key players on the more experienced side who are prepared to give one final lesson to their successors: how to move from middle-of-the pack to real threat.
Players to watch:
Zach O’Brien (C): 5’10”, 186 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 50G, 51A, 101P in 63 GP. Playoffs: 1G, 7A, 8P in 6 GP
Only Yanni Gourde had more points than O’Brien last year, and the two were the only players to breach the 100-point mark. The overager also recorded a stunning zero penalty minutes in 2011-12.
Brandon Hynes (RW): 5’8”, 170 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 42G, 44A, 86P in 61 GP. Playoffs: 2G, 2A, 4P in 4 GP
Hynes came second in Victoriaville scoring last season and seventh in the league. He has been talked about throughout the course of his career and with this being his last year in the league, he will look to finish in style.
Mathieu Bissonnette (LW): 6’4”, 209 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 36G, 47A, 83P in 65 GP. Playoffs: 2G, 6A, 8P in 6 GP
The power forward is also looking to end his career on a high note, and closes out the trio of experience with his punishing frame.
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
2011-12: 23-42-1-2 (49 PTS, 5th in Maritime Division, eliminated in 4 games by the Saint John Sea Dogs—1st round)
Offensive leaders: Jonathan Brunelle (30G, 55A, 85P in 68 GP), William Carrier (27G, 43A, 70P in 66 GP)
Among the weaker teams last season, Cape Breton certainly does not want to repeat the experience of ending up as the first playoff opponent of the league powerhouse. They have a combination of homegrown talent that have seen their fair share of losses to know how to build on ways to turn it around, and new acquisitions that also wish to start over with carte blanche.
Players to watch:
David Honzik (G), 6’3”, 219 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 22W, 14L, 2OTL, 3.49 GAA, 0.885 SV%, 3 SO. Playoffs: 0W, 2L, 5.33 GAA, 0.804 SV%.
The former goaltender for the Victoriaville Tigres and future member of the Vancouver Canucks has a new project in the Screaming Eagles this season, where he will look to rebound from a surprise early playoff exit after having been an equally surprising cause of the Sea Dogs’ frustration a couple of years back.
William Carrier (LW), 6’1”, 198 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 27G, 43A, 70P in 66 GP. Playoffs: 3G, 3A, 6P in 4 GP.
Carrier has averaged roughly a point per game or more in the last few years and, barring a major catastrophe, it should not be a stretch for him to continue being a reliable offensive source this season.
Justin Haché (D), 6’2”, 180 lbs, age 18
2011-12: 2G, 16A, 18P in 60 GP. Playoffs: 1G in 11 GP
The former Cataracte will put his experience in the Memorial Cup to good use with a team that was quite far from those honours last season (unless you count Morgan Ellis). The New Brunswick native is known more for his steadiness on the back end than his offensive numbers.
2011-12: 39-22-2-5 (85 PTS, 2nd in Maritime Division, eliminated in six games by the Rimouski Oceanic—3rd round)
Offensive leaders: Nathan MacKinnon (31G, 47A, 78P in 58 GP), Alexandre Grenier (25G, 39A, 64P in 64 GP)
The Mooseheads were a breath of fresh air in this division last year: a roster filled with young talent whose experience level, on the whole, was why many teams may not have taken them seriously last season (just ask the Quebec Remparts how they feel about them). Just about everything is serious about these guys, though, including the fact(s) that all those young faces have grown a little grizzlier with a healthy playoff experience behind them and that they are ready for primetime.
Players to watch:
Nathan MacKinnon (C): 5’11”, 179 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 31G, 47A, 78P in 58 GP. Playoffs: 13G, 15A, 28P in 17 GP
Insert prodigal-type comparison phrase here: you have probably heard it all about MacKinnon already. He’s almost not even a player to watch simply because it’s more or less taken for granted that everyone will.
Zachary Fucale (G): 6’0”, 166 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 32W, 18L, 6OTL, 3.16 GAA, 0.892 SV%, 2 SO. Playoffs: 10W, 5L,2 OTL, 2.88 GAA, 0.904 SV%
A goaltending prospect who began turning heads last season as a mere sixteen year old will be on the verge of causing mass whiplash as his team grows into its own this season.
Jonathan Drouin (LW): 5’8”, 158 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 7G, 22A, 29P in 33 GP. Playoffs: 9G, 17A, 26P in 17 GP
Along with MacKinnon, Drouin was the other half of what inebriated Halifax’s playoff opponents last season. Now that Halifax should get a full season of him, the duo will have many interested eyes on them (if all the eyes can keep up, that is).
2011-12: 30-31-3-4 (67 PTS, 4th in Maritime Division, eliminated in four games by the Halifax Mooseheads, 1st round)
Offensive leaders: Alex Saulnier (31G, 52A, 83P in 58 GP), Allain Saulnier (30G, 49A, 79P in 66 GP)
The Wildcats were the first victims of the Mooseheads in their impressive playoff run last season. Their year was an up-and-down one, with a lot more question marks than exclamation points. They have since bolstered their roster by completing deals with, among others, the Memorial Cup-winning Cataractes, and should be in an interesting and more advantageous position to renew their rivalry with the Mooseheads this season for tops in the division.
Players to watch:
Alex Saulnier (C): 6’, 191 lbs, age 20
2011-12: 31G, 52A, 83P in 58 GP.
Alex production has only seemed to increase (almost in sync to the way his brother’s has, even) and this is the final year the Wildcats can count on him and Allain to power them offensively. They are unlikely to disappoint.
Ivan Barbashev (LW): 6’1”, 185 lbs, age 16
Author of four points in two preseason games, Barbashev was the first overall pick in the CHL Import Draft this season and at only sixteen years of age, he is a newcomer that has many fans excited, as he’s already six-foot-three with room left to grow.
Dmitri Jaskin (LW): 6’3”, 205 lbs, age 19
The Russian-born winger actually spent time in the Czech Elite League before making his way to the Wildcats. Like Barbashev, Jaskin has double-points per game status in the preseason and will one day make St. Louis Blues fans pretty happy.
2011-12: 19-43-2-4 (44 PTS, 6th in Maritime Division, eliminated before the playoffs even began)
Offensive leaders: Ben Duffy (34G, 48A, 82P in 68 GP), Matěj Beran (22G, 39A, 61P in 68 GP)
Last season was a season to forget for the soon-to-be-renamed Rocket, who was the only team in the whole league to be excluded from postseason play. They will see an injection of fresh, young talent that casts a hopeful eye on a bright future yet to come, however it may still be awhile before they are able to make a huge jump in the standings.
Players to watch:
Alexis Pepin (C): 6’2”, 196 lbs, age 16
P.E.I. selected Pepin second overall in the draft this year, and he too is no small sixteen-year-old. His first year on the Rocket will fall in several ways under the somewhat dreaded cliché of “a learning experience.”
Maxime Lagacé (G): 6’2”, 180 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 12W, 34L, 5OTL, 4.51 GAA, 0.867 SV%, 1 SO
The Rocket’s mainstay between the pipes will see a lot of rubber thrown at him this season as per usual, and will use his previous “learning experiences” to continue along on his own path of development.
Matěj Beran (C): 6’5”, 208 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 22G, 39A, 61P in 68 GP.
More of a handsy type of sizeable forward, Beran’s skill and ability to put the puck in the net is unquestionable. That’s a good thing, because offensive production is something P.E.I. will need greatly.
Saint John Sea Dogs
2011-12: 31-32-0-5 (67 PTS, 1st in Maritime Division, defending President’s Cup Champions)
Offensive leaders: Danick Gauthier (47G, 39A, 86P in 66 GP), Zach Phillips (30G, 50A, 80P in 60 GP)
As generous as the last handful of years have been to the Sea Dogs, this season will start what is about to get as bumpy as most roads in this province. Saint John may be able to count on a few returnees, especially in light of the lockout, but they will have to work much harder than in recent history to even contend.
Players to watch:
Jonathan Huberdeau (C): 6’1”, 171 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 30G, 42A, 72P in 37 GP. Playoffs: 10G, 11A, 21P in 15 GP
The multiple-time MVP whose resume and accomplishments speak for themselves has yet to move on to the pro leagues and Saint John will definitely be willing to keep him around as long as possible.
Ryan Tesink (RW): 6’, 166 lbs, age 19
2011-12: 13G, 27A, 40P in 36 GP. Playoffs: 7G, 6A, 13P in 17 GP
The playoff performer is another returnee whose presence is more than welcome. Tesink was limited to 36 games last season and contrary to previous seasons where he was more in the “pleasant surprise” category, his experience will need to serve him and the Sea Dogs throughout the upcoming rollercoaster.
Oliver Cooper (LW): 6’2”, 197 lbs, age 17
2011-12: 10G, 14A, 24P in 60 GP.
Cooper’s rookie year was the same as most on a heavily talented team: not necessarily demonstrative of his full potential. Here, he will have a chance to show it as a younger talent having lived and learned the higher echelons of success.
Kathy on Twitter: @czechtacular