QMJHL Report: Now with Noah Dobson, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies Are Prepped for Post-Season Success
Before Christmas, the Huskies were already one of the best teams in the CHL. They have the best record in the QMJHL (30-7-0-1), and second-best record the CHL, behind the juggernaut that is the Prince Albert Raiders. Rouyn-Noranda has had outstanding offencive production, strong defence, and exceptional goaltending all season, and they have been atop the rest of the league from the start. Then, in mid-December RDS and TVA Sports both broke the news that Noah Dobson will join the Huskies following the tournament. Let’s take a look how good Rouyn-Noranda has been, and how good they are going to be.
Abbandonato Leads the Pack
The scoring, up-and-down the Huskies’ lineup this season, has been outstanding. Four players are scoring at a point-a-game pace, and six have put up over 30 points in the club’s 38 games. Czech native Jakub Lauko has scored 26 points in 26 games before heading to British Columbia to represent his country in the WJC. Justin Bergeron is second in defencemen scoring with seven goals and 27 assists, good for 34 points. However, the top gun on the Rouyn-Noranda roster is Peter Abbandonato. The undrafted centre from Laval has been outstanding the last couple of seasons in the QMJHL. After a mediocre rookie campaign in 2015-2016, Abbandonato really came into is own. Last year he put up 75 points, second-best on the team. This year, he is on pace to blow by last year’s totals, as he has 64 points this season, which is tied with Ivan Chekhovich of Baie-Comeau for best in the league. With a good supporting cast surrounding him, Abbandonato has developed into a real offencive threat this season.
Very “Special” Team
With such offencive threats on the Huskies’ roster, the power play has been outstanding. With a 25.2% success rate, Rouyn-Noranda is fourth in the league with the man-advantage. Felix Biebau has been the beneficiary of his time on the power play. The Mercier, QC native has seven power play goals this season, which is tied for 10th in the QMJHL. Abbandonato has been the quarterback on the top unit, and his 15 assists on the power play is tied for third best in the league. While down a man, they are just as consistent. With a real good group of penalty killers. the Huskies have had an 84% success rate. Vincent Marleau has been one of the top guys in the league on the penalty kill, and it has paid off. His three goals while down a man is tied for third in the QMJHL.
New Talent Comes Into the Fold
On December 20, Huskies GM Mario Pouliot made a move to acquire Côté from the Quebec Remparts. Côté was originally drafted by the Huskies back in 2015 before being traded to Quebec halfway through his rookie season. In his first three seasons, Côté only scored 62 points. This season however, his offencive production seemed to have quite increase. Through the first month and a half, Côté had 15 points in seven games. He then injured his ankle in game against Chicoutimi on October 18. That put Côté on the shelf until December. Since coming back, he has not found his scoring touch that he before the injury. However, his play in his defencive zone and in the face-off circle are what made Pouliot go after the Laurier-Station native. Côté has won 53.6% of the draws he has taken. He’ll be a real important role player for the Huskies come playoff time.
A week before Christmas, Stephane Leroux of RDS reported that a deal was to be worked between the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and the Huskies to trade the New York Islanders’ prospect to Rouyn-Noranda. This of course, coming right before the Word Junior Tournament. Therefore, the trade would not be allowed to be made official following the tournament. Now that Canada has been eliminated, expect the trade to be announced very soon. Dobson only adds to the already talent blueline that Rouyn-Noranda has. His offencive prowess is exceptional for a defenceman, and his shot from the point is one of the most accurate and hard wristers in the league. In his own end, he is just as reliable. He is very capable of shutting down the other team’s top players, and is exceptional in clean zone exits. His numbers have taken a little bit of a dip this season, along with the rest of his Bathurst roster, and still has the ability to be a top d-man in this league.
Hopefully he finds a new kind of stick.
Whether or not you think the Huskies really needed to add any pieces to their lineup, the addition of Côté and the eventual acquisition Dobson, they only made a great team even better. The remainder of the season will be spent fine-tuning,and making sure the team is read for the playoffs. They currently sit six points ahead of Drummondville for top spot in the league with 30 games left to play. Not necessarily going to coast the rest of the way, but the Huskies are certainly not in a desperation mindset. They will be in a comfortable position by season’s end, and if all goes well, they will prepared for long playoff run. A run that will hopefully take them to Halifax for the Memorial Cup.