Welcome to Catching The Torch, where we keep an eye on the Montreal Canadiens’ North American prospects and how their development is faring week by week.
This time around, we’ll be gleaning over the Habs’ QMJHL prospects and how their season is going so far. The last time we set our sights on the Habs’ QMJHL crop as a whole was almost two months ago, so with almost 20 more games played on the season, it’s time for a recap of how they’ve been doing since.
First off, let’s start with the league’s top scorer:
Joshua Roy, LW/RW/C — Sherbrooke Phoenix
Roy has truly been unstoppable since the start of the year, scoring 45 points through 25 games on the QMJHL campaign, including 16 goals. The prospect’s chemistry with Phoenix captain Xavier Parent has been more than evident on a nightly basis, and the two have fed off of each other’s strengths to put the puck in the back of the net with regularity.
The pair have hoisted the club into top-10 CHL status by putting in a near-nightly effort on both special team units and at 5-on-5; Roy currently has a total of only four pointless games on the year.
According to @ByronMBader's Hockey Prospecting model, Joshua Roy's chances of becoming an NHL star nearly tripled after earning 45 points in 24 QMJHL games so far.— Hadi K. Scouting (@HadiK_Scouting) December 7, 2021
His model also suggests that two-thirds of prospects w/ Roy's level of production end up in the NHL. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/9lSdvm4MX2
The Canadiens’ fifth-round pick from this past summer has been out-playing, out-chancing and out-scoring more than one first-round pick from the same draft throughout the league, with Xavier Bourgault, Zach Dean and Zachary L’Heureux trailing him in the post-draft prospect scoring race.
When we last reviewed his game in October, Roy had earned 15 points through seven games for the Phoenix and was alternating between center and wing. Now cemented on Parent’s right flank, the two have continued to wreak havoc in the Q, although Roy’s rate of production has slightly dropped as a result of the larger sample of games.
Voici le but de Joshua Roy qui a mené à la victoire du Phoenix en prolongation face aux Cataractes cet après-midi. pic.twitter.com/5jMrI2PXPg— Phœnix de Sherbrooke (@PhoenixSherbroo) December 6, 2021
With the time he’ll spend fighting for a spot on Team Canada’s World Juniors roster in the upcoming weeks, Roy is likely to lose his throne as the top QMJHL scorer, but should be back in force soon. His mindset once he’s back, especially if he doesn’t get retained for the tournament, will be interesting to follow: will he return hungry and motivated, or deflated?
Sometimes, such a small difference in a prospect’s mindset can be the deciding factor between an NHL player and a perennial AHL forward.
Xavier Simoneau, C/LW — Charlottetown Islanders
Simoneau continues to impress with high-end, team-leading performances for the Islanders through 22 games. His 43 points in that span represent a higher point-per-game rate than Roy’s (1.91 vs. 1.88 — keeping in mind that Roy is still 18 years old while Simoneau is 20), and that rate is good for second in the league behind Mavrik Bourque’s 20 points in 10 games.
As of December 4, the forward had earned 23 points in his last 10 starts and was looking utterly dominant before suffering a major undisclosed upper-body injury which will sideline him for at least four weeks. The Habs’ bad luck with injuries seems to have made its way all the way down the depth chart.
As previously discussed, the promising thing about Simoneau’s game is how translatable it is. He bangs and crashes with a relentlessness and quickness of mind which, on their own, should at least carry him to the NHL in a fourth-line role, but he also shows a depth of skill in multiple areas — puck control, speed, playmaking, shooting, off-puck positioning, habits, and so on — which inspires confidence.
He’s far from a future top-line player, but it’s also hard not to visualize him in a Canadiens sweater, forechecking the tails off the opposition next to Ryan Poehling or Jake Evans in three years’ time. If he can stay healthy, which has been an issue as of late, and especially if the new Habs are serious about strengthening their drafting and developing resources, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him become an immediate-impact AHL player after his QMJHL career. He could then gradually work his way up while growing his game.
One thing that will help the Habs long term is having both farm teams, Laval and Trois-Rivières, in close proximity. Players throughout the structure can be monitored more easily, and development becomes streamlined and efficient (with the right staff).
Riley Kidney, C — Acadie-Bathurst Titan
When we last took a look at the Habs’ QMJHL prospects, Kidney’s production had reached an impressive 12 points in seven games for Acadie-Bathurst. Since then, he’s slowed down with 24 points in his last 18, but remains far and away the highest-scoring forward on his team, ahead of 20-year-old Bennett MacArthur by a margin of 12, and is the 12th-best point-producer in the QMJHL.
MacArthur was sidelined for more than a month due to an injury and has played 10 fewer games than Kidney, but every other player on the team has a similar number of games to the Habs’ prospect and none of them even come close. When watching the Titan’s games and seeing who Kidney plays with on a regular basis, it’s clear that the prospect is carrying his lines.
Mainly paired with undrafted prospect Logan Chisholm and Seattle Kraken fifth-rounder Jacob Melanson, both of whom have 15 and 21 points respectively, Kidney has managed to collect bad passes in stride to avoid plays breaking down, and has countered his linemates’ inefficient finishing with the sheer volume of pucks he’s sent into dangerous spots.
The main elements that separate him from the pack are his stickhandling and his ability to exploit open space with crisp passes. On top of his above-average playmaking, the center’s wrist shot and his ability to find open areas to shoot from have taken a huge leap in the offseason. The prospect now leads his team in goals with 16, whereas he only managed to find the back of the net 13 times in 33 games last year.
The main knock on Kidney’s game is a lack of high-end pace due to unrefined mechanics (posture, extensions, recoveries), as well as a tendency to lose track of plays when the opposition has the puck. But his smarts, skill and offensive consistency are more than enough reason to be optimistic in his case. He has thrived under pressure so far as the Titan’s go-to guy, which can’t be downplayed or ignored either.
William Trudeau, LD — Charlottetown Islanders
After starting his season cold as ice with only two points over seven games for the Islanders in which he seemed almost lethargic, Trudeau has picked up the pace offensively and defensively with 14 points in his last 18 matchups, and more than enough defensive involvement to appease my doubts from earlier this year. His play-driving has kicked up a notch as well, as the prospect has been mixing in more fakes in his rush plays to give himself an extra inch or two to work with.
Grabbing @IslandersHKY defenseman William Trudeau at 113th, @CanadiensMTL are getting a very steady 2-way defenseman who knows exactly how and when to use his body effectively.— Brayden Olafson (@olaf1393) July 24, 2021
He defends with composure & maturity, especially on the PK. Projects as an effective shutdown D-man. pic.twitter.com/vki3DHqaLe
The more I watch Trudeau play for the Isles, the more confident I grow in his projectability. Far from the imposing, physical style of defence-first blueliner that the Habs have grown accustomed to, the beauty of Trudeau’s game comes from its simplicity; he pre-scans frequently to set himself up for success and executes quickly to circumvent opposing pressure. He isn’t flashy like Mattias Norlinder, nor is he physically punishing like Kaiden Guhle, but he’s somewhere in the middle, and that gets the job done.
I don’t think there’s much of a possibility to see Trudeau earn more than a support role in the NHL, but a blueliner with decent enough tools in multiple areas to have a positive impact on his team is not a loss. Especially when picking in the fourth round.
Thanks for reading — follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for more on the Habs’ prospects, and to keep up with the rest of my scouting work!