QMJHL Report: Dynamic Offence Leading Baie-Comeau Drakkar to the Top of the East
There are a lot of talented teams towards the top of the QMJHL standings. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies have been dominant, the Drummondville Voltigeurs are arguably one of the deepest teams in the league, and the Rimouski Océanic are sprinting up the standings with an exciting young club.
Another team that seems to be a possible contender to make it to the President Cup Finals are the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. The Drakkar have a come a long way from finishing last place in the 2015-2016 season. It was not so long ago when Drakkar were a top team in the ‘Q’. However, following back-to-back first place finishes in the East Division, and back-to-back losses in the Finals, the Drakkar fell off the pedestal, and struggled to simply make the playoffs.
This season, however, the team has ran rough shot over most of the league, and has really shown they are a team to be taken seriously. They currently sit first in the Eastern Conference ahead of Halifax, and third in the league behind Rouyn-Noranda and Drummondville. This can be based from the maturity and development of the players on the roster. The play in goal Dereck Baribeau has been exceptional, the back end has improved mightily, and the offence has been one of the best in the league. The scoring outbreak in Baie-Comeau has been made responsible by four players who have had incredible seasons thus far.
Fortier has really been the best centre for the Drakkar this season. The Tampa Bay fifth-round pick from the 2018 draft has certainly picked up his play this year. Following his first full season where he picked up 59 points, Fortier has already surpassed last year’s totals, as he has already scored 60 in 45 games.
He has superb acceleration which gives him a step on the defence. His incredible vision, and ability to find his teammates in high scoring areas is what has given Fortier 38 assists this season, which is tied for seventh in the league. He has extremely quick hands in front of the net, giving him the ability to move the puck into open space and into quality scoring areas. His performance inside the face-off circle has certainly helped the offence this season as well, having won almost 53% of the draws he has taken this year.
One of the most underrated members of Drakkar coming into this season, Alexeyev has been on the top line and power play unit in Baie-Comeau, and has really taken off this year. The 5’9″ Russian came over to the Drakkar this season from Sherbrooke, and has instantly found chemistry with teammates Nathan Légaré and Ivan Chekhovich on the top PP unit. In his first two seasons after being drafted in the first round of the 2016 Import Draft by the Phoenix, he averaged 52.5 points. This season, he is on his on pace for almost 82 points. The undrafted winger has a sneaky wrister that fools most goaltenders, which goes to show why he has 30 goals, and his shooting percentage is at 26.4%.
After a rather mediocre rookie campaign, Légaré has exponentially stepped up his game in his draft year. Standing at 6′ and a solid 200 lbs, he certainly is built like he’s ready to take his game to the next level. An incredible shot, and outstanding awareness in the offencive zone has made Légaré an undeniable threat.
Baie-Comeau knew of his potential when they took him in the first-round of the 2017 QMJHL Draft, and with his play this season, he could easily be in the top half of this year’s NHL Draft. His 64 points has him sitting eighth best in the league, while his 34 goals has him sitting right behind teammate Ivan Chekhovich for best in the ‘Q’. With the man advantage, he is one of the most dangerous players in the league. With 24 power play points, he is tied with Rimouski’s Alexis Lafrenière for second-most in the league.
Chekhovich was a probable to make Team Russia’s World Juniors team, but an injury kept him in Quebec. However, that has not stopped Chekhovich from becoming one of the best players in the QMJHL.
After a couple of respectable seasons in his first two years with Baie-Comeau, the San Jose seventh-round pick’s game has exploded. He leads the league in both points (78) and goals (36), and is fourth in assists (42). His production has only increased as the season goes on. After an incredible start where he scored 11 points in the first five games, Chekhovich scored 15 points in the October, 18 in November, 20 in December, and already 14 this month. His incredible performance in December included missing two weeks with injury and Russia’s WJC Selection Camp. He certainly did not miss a beat, as is in his second game back, he put up seven points. With his maturity, his skills are only enhanced by his intelligence on the ice. Knowing where to go and what play to make has put him in position to take the scoring title.
stats from eliteprospects.com