Sweeps, Russian prospects and Q teams in trouble

By Nathan White

It hasn’t been much of a second round in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The second round could be wrapped up by Friday, with no series going longer than five games. Two sweeps are already in the books: The top-seeded Saint John Sea Dogs handled the young Gatineau Olympiques, while the Victoriaville Tigres topped the Quebec Remparts without Patrick Roy’s perennial contenders taking a single game.

The Moncton Wildcats will look to finish off a sweep of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies  at home Friday, while the Rimouski Oceanic will try to stay alive in Game 5 on the road against the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

Some highlights so far: 2011-eligible forward Jonathan Huberdeau of the Sea Dogs has nine goals, tying him for the league lead with 19-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect Gabriel Dumont of the Voltigeurs. Meanwhile, undrafted 19-year-old Michael Kirkpatrick of the Sea Dogs leads the scoring race with 17 points in nine games and Ryan Kavanagh, an undrafted 18-year-old with the Oceanic, leads defensemen with 13 points in 11 games. Kavanagh, who had 57 points in 58 regular-season games after playing just 38 in his draft year, could hear his name called by an NHL team a year late.

LOOKING AHEAD TO L.A.

Speaking of the 2010 draft, Sea Dogs forward Stanislav Galiev had a five-point night in Game 1 against Gatineau. Check out one of his goals at the end of this highlights package.

Galiev was ranked 20th among North American skaters in the recent NHL Central Scouting rankings, second-best in the QMJHL behind Moncton Wildcats defenseman Brandon Gormley (No. 6). Galiev came out on top of the Q’s version of the Seguin-Hall debate in those rankings at least, as fellow Russian Kirill Kabanov plummeted to No. 31 from his midseason rank of No. 15. The Wildcats sent Kabanov home to “get ready for the world under-18 championship” after a variety of problems during the season.

Another interesting note on Galiev: He could be the first Russian-born (i.e. not USSR) player drafted since the fall of the Soviet Union. A whole new generation of players that remember world championships and Ovechkin more than Summit Series, Canada Cups, Kharlamov and Makarov.

PROBLEMS WITH Q’S EASTERN TEAMS

A strange release trickled out from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan Wednesday evening. Apparently longtime owner Leo-Guy Morrissette has regained ownership of the team after passing it on to his children last season. Morrissette was the centre of a relocation drama last season, when he was rumoured to be moving the team to St. John’s, Nfld. At the last minute, he instead announced in a teary-eyed press conference he’d step back as his son and daughter took over. The move was supposed to help regain the fan base in Bathurst, some of which had turned against Morrissette.

It didn’t work: Bathurst was last in overall attendance (1,390) and capacity (39.4%), even worse than last year’s numbers of 1,705 and 48.4%.

Meanwhile, the Halifax Mooseheads were still second overall with an attendance of 5,506. But that number is in a freefall, dropping from 6,684 last season, and 7,556 in 2007-08. The Mooseheads have lost more than a quarter of their fan base, and missed the playoffs two straight seasons.

That’s unacceptable in the second-largest market in a league where only two of 18 teams miss the playoffs. Quebec hasn’t missed the post-season since moving from Beauport in 1997, and Gatineau, a similar-sized market to Halifax with more competition for fans, has never missed since entering as the Hull Festivals in 1973.

The Mooseheads haven’t been the same since emptying the cupboards in the ill-fated Brad Marchand trade and must have a strong bounce-back next year.

NOTE: This post, and ton of other awesome information on hockey prospects, is posted at http://thepipelineshow.blogspot.com/

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~ by Nathan White on April 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “Sweeps, Russian prospects and Q teams in trouble”

  1. Sad to see the Halifax attendance decline. I remember a few years back when they were rated number one in Canada early in the fall and there were about 10,000 screaming fans there at the Metro Centre. They need to get this sort of buzz back in the building.

  2. You’re right Stan, Halifax has lost its rightful place as a marquee junior hockey market. The biggest problem is simple: they just haven’t stocked the team with good players. The Marchand trade cost them big time in prospects and picks and they didn’t reload fast enough. A rebuilding year last year was understandable, but then they went and traded their top Import Draft pick, which could have brought another impact player. Quebec and Gatineau always seem to find ways to put a good team on the ice, and there’s no reason Halifax shouldn’t be doing the same.

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