QMJHL draft-day surprises
By Nathan White
OLIVIER ROY TRADE – As usual, there was a blockbuster deal, which saw potential future Edmonton Oilers puckstopper Olivier Roy go to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Three teams were involved in the deal (four if you count the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who moved Roy to the Lewiston Maineiacs a day earlier). Lewiston, Acadie-Bathurst and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar exchanged 16 draft picks in the complicated swap, that saw Lewiston get the first overall pick.
The move gives the Titan the best goalie in the Atlantic Division, as league finalists Saint John and Moncton look to replace outstanding 20-year-olds Marco Cousineau and Nicola Riopel.
JUMPING TO JUNIOR? – Late in the draft, the Montreal Junior acquired the rights to Montreal Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Leblanc is playing at Harvard. While it’s not uncommon to see NCAA players have their rights traded, it’s often for a low price, which indicates the acquiring team is taking its chances to negotiate with the player. In this case, Montreal paid with a top young player in Guillaume Asselin, and a first-round pick in 2011.
I can’t picture a team paying such a high price if they didn’t already have a deal worked out with the player. Montreal also gave up its first pick this year to acquire Nashville Predators prospect Charles-Olivier Roussel, who will be in the running for the league’s top defenseman award in 2010-11. Looks like Montreal is continuing its strategy of building around a couple of star players.
MATHESON DROPS TO 27TH – Defenseman Michael Matheson was the top-rated player in the draft, but dropped to the Shawinigan Cataractes at No. 27 in the second round. Matheson claims he’s bound for the NCAA, but there were rumours he’d pull the old “I-had-a-last-minute-change-of-heart-in-the-secret-hotel-room-coincidentally-paid-for-by-the-team-that-drafted-me” routine.
They took him in the second round, not the first, and Matheson did not emerge from a shadowy corner to don a Cataractes cap. That may indicate Shawinigan is just taking an honest chance on a talented player. The Cats will likely do everything in their power to land Matheson, as they are gunning to host the 2012 Memorial Cup in their new arena.
KABANOV STAYS PUT – Again, this doesn’t rank as a major surprise, but I had thought the Moncton Wildcats might move the rights to highly-touted, highly-troubled Russian forward Kirill Kabanov. I’m not going to run through the Kabanov saga again here, but Gare Joyce of ESPN.com did a rundown of all the rumors. Moncton may try to bring him back after all, or they may still move his rights before the CHL Import Draft, once they see where Kabanov goes in the NHL draft.
Kabanov has top-five talent, but 13 of the teams at the Draft Combine didn’t even want to interview him. He performed well on the fitness tests he could do with his injured wrist, and I still think Kabanov is going to go in the first round and end up being a good pick.
One thing to watch for, he’s said he’ll never play for Russia again and will look to change his citizenship after being unceremoniously cut from the under-18 national team. The team that drafts him could end up landing a future player for an international team. If a Canadian team takes him, we may see Kabanov with Team Canada down the road, same for Team USA if he goes to an American club. There’s precedent for this, as Petr Nedved became a Canadian citizen when he was living in Vancouver, and played for Canada at the 1994 Olympics (alongside Wildcats associate coach Fabian Joseph).