The Halifax Mooseheads remain the top team in junior hockey. Let's take a look at their young stars, one or more of whom could end up in a Jackets sweater in June.
You may have noticed the change to the title of these updates. I'm expanding the updates from a Nathan MacKinnon focus to include Jonathan Drouin and Zach Fucale.
These three players have played a lot of hockey this past week, especially MacKinnon. In addition to their duties with the Mooseheads, all three were named to Team QMJHL in the Subway Super Series against Russia. The Super Series is an annual tournament that serves as a primer for the World Junior tournament during the holiday season. Russia sends over a team of junior-aged players, and completes their roster with top Russians playing in the CHL. The three leagues that make up the CHL each name a team, playing two games apiece against the Russians.
The Q games and the first of the OHL games have already been played. Game two of the OHL portion goes tonight, while the games against the 'Dub take place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
In Game One of the Q portion, Drouin didn't play due to a foot injury while Fucale got the night off. MacKinnon, normally a center, was placed on the wing on the top line. He didn't fare well, ending the night scoreless at a -4. The Russians, led by Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Andrei Vasilevski and Alexander Khokhlachev won the game 6-2.
Drouin and Fucale were both in the lineup for game two. MacKinnon was moved back to center, with Drouin on his wing, a familiar situation for the duo. Fucale got the start, and completed his scheduled half-game, stopping nine of ten Russian shots. The Mac-Drouin combo scored four points apiece in a 5-2 victory. Moosehead teammate and Nashville draft pick Brent Andrews was also a member of Team QMJHL.
Of note to Blue Jackets fans, prospect Boone Jenner is the captain of the OHL squad, which features 2013 eligible Sean Monahan and 15-year old stud Connor McDavid. Top prospect Ryan Murray is on the WHL team, which touts 2013 eligibles Curtis Lazar, Eric Comrie and Hunter Shinkaruk.
MacKinnon's Current Stat Line:
Drouin's Current Stat Line:
Fucale's Current Stat Line:
MacKinnon is currently eighth in league scoring, but tied for second in goals and +/- at +18. Drouin is 14th in league scoring, while Fucale leads the league in wins.
Current Draft Rankings:
NHL Central Scouting: MacKinnon and Drouin are listed as "A" skaters and Fucale an "A" goaltender in their preliminary rankings.
International Scouting Service (ISS): MacKinnon 1st, Drouin 10th (October Rankings)
Future Considerations: MacKinnon 1st, Drouin 14th, Fucale 18th (October Rankings)
CHL Subway Super Series - 5th, 7th November, 2012 (QMJHL Portion)
World Junior Championship - 26 December, 2012 -> 6 January, 2013
CHL Top Prospects Game - Halifax, 16 January, 2013
Mooseheads Team Update
The Mooseheads remain the top team in the QMJHL with a record of 20GP-17W-2L-0OTL-1SOL. for 35 points. In the most recent CHL rankings, the Mooseheads moved into first place for the first time in franchise history. They return home on Friday after a lengthy road trip, in which they went 2-1-0-1.
The first game of the trip was a 5-1 victory over the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Drouin had a goal, while MacKinnon finished with a lone helper. Fucale was in net for the win. Wings prospect Marty Frk scored, along with a pair from Andrew Ryan and a single from Luca Ciampini. The second game was one of the very few stinkers for the Mooseheads this season. Leading 5-1 after two periods, the Rimouski Oceanic scored four in the third to tie the game, and completed the comeback after winning a marathon shootout. Frk and Ciampini continued to provide offense, but MacKinnon and Drouin were held pointless.
On Friday, the Mooseheads took on the Gatineau Olympiques, in a game that was nationally televised on Sportsnet here in Canada. The Moose were looking for revenge, as it was Gatineau that gave the Mooseheads their only loss to that point, in their home opener no less. The Mooseheads were dominant, but Gatineau goalie Eric Brassard stood on his head. The score was 1-1 after two, but the Mooseheads are just too skilled, and scored four in the third period to win 5-1. MacKinnon and Drouin scored a pair of points apiece.
On Saturday, the Moose fell for just the second time in regulation this season when they were defeated by the Victoriaville Tigres 5-4. Halifax didn't go down without a fight, but didn't have enough in the tank. Drouin scored three points, while Frk scored a pair. Frk now has a five-game goal scoring streak, scoring six goals over the streak. This is after only scoring two goals in the previous 13 games.
Halifax's success thus far has been due to their tremendous scoring depth. In addition to the top line of MacKinnon, Drouin and overager Stefan Fournier, secondary scoring has been provided by the Frk-Andrews-Ryan line and the line of Ciampini, Darcy Ashley and Matt Boudreau. Ciampini wasn't drafted, but earned an invite to Habs camp. With the lockout scrubbing training camps, I wonder if he is available for other teams to bring him in for a look. He's a late bloomer, but is showing a real nose for the net this season and could be a dependable AHL scorer.
The defense is led by Konrad Abeltshauser, who leads the QMJHL in assists and points by a defenseman. The rest of the "D" is a mixed bag of shutdown blueliners and two-way guys.
During the national broadcast on Friday, the Sportsnet panel tossed around the idea of the Mooseheads acquiring Jonathan Huberdeau from the Saint John Sea Dogs. This was mainly due to the success of the Huberdeau-MacKinnon-Drouin line in the Super Series. There are a few reasons why I don't think this is a good idea for the Moose, the first of which is the fact that if the NHL lockout ends before the season is lost, Huberdeau is heading to Florida where he stands an excellent chance of sticking with the Panthers. For the price that Halifax would have to pay for him, it doesn't make sense with the risk that he'll bolt for the NHL. The second reason is they simply don't need him. Barring injury, Halifax is loaded with offensive weapons. They are one of, if not the highest scoring team in the CHL. The third reason, and perhaps I am just a bit gun-shy, but I worry about a repeat of the Brad Marchand debacle. The Moose, led by Jakub Voracek, were loaded for a run to a Q championship. They had a ton of offense, but could have used a blueliner at the trade deadline. Rather than fix the need on the back end, Halifax overpaid for Marchand, who ended up being a locker room cancer, earning a benching in Halifax's final playoff games. They were bumped in the second round, and were crippled for the next few seasons. I'm not saying that adding Huberdeau would have the same effect as Marchand, but this time around a tweak of the defense is all that is necessary, not adding another weapon to an already stocked forward group.
The Mooseheads have a tough test on Friday night when they take on the Rouyn Noranda Huskies, and the Val D'Or Foreurs are in town Sunday afternoon. I'll be at both games and will update next week.