The Canadian Hockey League playoffs get underway this weekend, with eight Montreal Canadiens prospects taking part on their respective Junior teams.
Two of those prospects are teammates on the Baie Comeau Drakkar in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and will take on the Shawinigan Cataractes in the opening round that begins tonight.
Charles Hudon was taken by the Habs in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, and Jeremy Gregoire was selected one year and one round later. Both are now members of the Drakkar, and look to begin a lengthy playoff run after becoming regular season champions.
Gregoire was selected by the Habs last season after helping the Drakkar to the QMJHL final, where they ultimately fell to Zach Fucale and the Halifax Mooseheads in a tight, yet short five game series. Gregoire finished last season with 32 points but stepped it up in the playoffs, chipping in 16 points in 18 games with Baie Comeau.
In an effort to push their team over the top this season, the Drakkar went out at the deadline and sold the farm to pick up Hudon from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Baie Comeau sent their next three first round picks and a third rounder to Chicoutimi for the Habs fifth round pick who is in his fourth QMJHL season.
Hudon finished the season with 76 points in 57 games, missing 11 while representing Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship. 76 points puts him on top of the Drakkar in scoring, followed closely by Gregoire, who had 69 points.
The Drakkar have plenty of scoring, but are also the best defensive team in the QMJHL. They allowed just 170 goals in 68 games, the least of any team, and scored 255, fifth most in the Q.
Baie Comeau finished first overall in the QMJHL standings with 99 points, just enough to hold off the Mooseheads who beat them in the Q final a year ago. They will face the 16th ranked Shawinigan Cataractes in the opening round, a team that collected just 49 points this season.
Baie Comeau met the Cataractes six times in the regular season, and won five of them, allowing only six goals in the process. Shawinigan was the second lowest scoring Q team in the regular season, and will continue to find it difficult to score on the league’s stingiest defense.
Shawinigan was able to shut down Jeremy Gregoire much more effectively than most of his opponents this season. In the six head to head games this season, Gregoire had just one goal and two assists for three points against one of the worst teams in the Q.
The same can not be said for the Cataractes’ ability to keep Charles Hudon quiet. In seven games against Shawinigan this season, Hudon torched them for two goals, eight assists and 10 points.
This series is a mismatch of epic proportions, as the Drakkar are on top of the QMJHL world, and Shawinigan are still reeling from selling their future for a Memorial Cup victory in 2012 on home ice.
Shawinigan sold a few veterans at the deadline, and were led in scoring by 16 year old Anthony Beauvillier, who had just 33 points. Their top goal scorer, Gabriel Slight finished the year with just 13 goals.
On the other end of the spectrum, Baie Comeau had 11 players score more than Beauvillier’s 33 points, and had nine skaters score more goals than Slight.
This series is already over, as Shawinigan has almost no chance of even winning a game. They were able to hold the Drakkar to some low scoring games in the regular season, but Baie Comeau wins because of their excellent defense, and will have no problem shutting down the lowly Cataractes.
My prediction: Baie Comeau in 4 sleepers. Gregoire scores 2 goals and 2 assists, while Hudon has 4 goals and 3 helpers for seven points to lead the Drakkar.