Xavier Simoneau was in his third and final year of NHL Draft eligibility. Those players don’t usually get drafted, and when you factor in his height (anywhere between 5’6” and 5’7” depending on the source), you can see why he has gone so long without having his name called.
Birthplace: Gatineau, Quebec
Date of birth: May 19, 2001
Weight: 174 lbs.
Team: Drummondville Voltigeurs/Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Simoneau has already played four full QMJHL seasons, and was the captain in Drummondville for the last two years. He was traded to Charlottetown on June 23, and that team now holds his QMJHL rights.
You don’t get on the NHL radar as a small player without production, and Simoneau has proven to be a key player at the Junior level. In 204 career QMJHL games, he had 73 goals and 155 assists for 228 points. His final three QMJHL years have all been over a point per game.
The 2020-21 season was a tough one for Simoneau. He received an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior camp this year, but testing positive for COVID-19 meant he never got an opportunity to step on the ice. He previously represented Canada at the U17 level.
Simoneau wasn’t ranked in our consensus rankings in 2021, as he didn’t have the five required sources to qualify. He was ranked as high as 128 in our 2019 consensus rankings, his first year of eligibility. His highest ranking in 2021 came from The Athletic’s Corey Pronman, who slotted him at #106.
On the ice, he plays bigger than his size. He is a competitor, and a tenacious forechecker. In the last two years, he has focused less on the ability to agitate the opponent, but at the pro level he will not be a top-six player, so he will have to channel that part of his game again. His work ethic allows him to be a top penalty-killer, as he is not afraid to step in front of shots.
He does have a good deal of skill as well, but likely not enough to play an offensive role full-time at the professional level.
In their 2020 NHL Draft Guide, Elite Prospects had this to say about Simoneau.
Easily recognizes coverage assignments and contains bigger opponents on D-side. Simoneau can feather passes with both forehand and backhand just as proficiently. His speed improves with the usage of multiple crossovers. He’s a high-energy forechecker, although he finishes hits he doesn’t need to (should look to use his stick more).
Small players don’t usually get on the radar if they aren’t great technical skaters with speed, and that’s a knock on Simoneau. He doesn’t have that elite part of his game, and it holds him back in his evaluation. With a sixth-round pick, you’re looking for players who can surprise, and Simoneau has done that throughout his hockey career. He may be undersized, but he has played that way his entire career.
The obvious comparisons will be made to another late-round over-age pick by the Montreal Canadiens who also happened to be undersized: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. Even reading the above paragraphs sure sound a lot like the player who earned an NHL entry-level contract through his play with the AHL’s Laval Rocket this year. There are a lot of similarities between the two, both on and off the ice.
Although eligible for his over-age season in the QMJHL, the path for Simoneau likely goes through the professional level. He will have a chance to make the AHL’s Rocket, but the ECHL’s Trois-Rivières Lions are also an option if he can’t earn a regular spot.
Simoneau was the ninth overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL Draft by a Drummondville organization with Dominique Ducharme acting as head coach and general manager. He was also named the CHL’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2019-20 for serving his community through a number of initiatives that included the development of his own outreach program called “Les amis à Simy.” The program rewarded local kids who have done good deeds, highlights the efforts of those with learning disabilities, and helps kids fighting illness or going through tough times in their lives.
For more on Simoneau, you can read this by former EOTP contributor Jack Han, who is a big fan of the forward.