Welcome back to Catching The Torch, where we keep an eye on the Montreal Canadiens’ North American prospects and how their development is progressing week by week.
After completing the rounds on the Habs’ prospects developing in the NCAA, it’s a good time to head closer to home for an in-depth look at the local Junior circuit and how the four home-grown QMJHL prospects have been performing of late. We’ll start with Joshua Roy, who recently signed a three-year entry-level contract, and move our way down the pecking order with Riley Kidney, Xavier Simoneau, and finally William Trudeau.
Joshua Roy, W/C — Sherbrooke Phoenix
At the time of our last QMJHL update in early February, Roy had accumulated 19 goals and 33 assists for 52 points in 29 games played. Since then, the prospect has brought his season total up to 106 points in 59 games. At one point in March, the 6’0” forward was one assist away from the two-points-per-game mark. It took him 24 games to double his goal-scoring tally, while dominating play at five-on-five, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.
#GoHabsGo prospect Joshua Roy is absolutely filthy. Just stupid numbers this year in the QMJHL. Helluva find in the 2021 fifth-round.— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) March 24, 2022
Hope you're happy @PatrickETallon https://t.co/Ky9VheiClX pic.twitter.com/2zBxZSWCAj
In a full, 66-game season, Roy is projected to earn an impressive 48 goals and 70 assists for 118 points. In the past 15 years, only 11 players have reached the 120-point mark in the QMJHL, and most of them were 19 or 20 years of age. Roy only turns 19 a month before next season begins. These numbers are staggering, especially since Roy’s analytical profile shows that he doesn’t struggle in one area. He’s simply dominant everywhere at his current level.
What especially shows promise is his even-strength play-driving. He sits among the top 5% of prospects in the QMJHL for on-ice goals for, and the top 10% for on-ice goals against, which places him in the top 1% for those two stats combined. Even when relating those metrics to his teammates in order to take team strength into consideration, Roy still outpaces 91% of his peers in that regard. This is especially impressive given that the data set here includes players up to 21 years old, while Roy still has two more years of QMJHL eligibility.
To add to the numbers, the eye test more than checks out. Roy’s tremendous shot, intelligent distribution, and unparalleled hand-eye coordination make him probably the most well-rounded offensive prospect in the Habs’ pool. He can misdirect defencemen and netminders in a multitude of ways, and has a growing tendency to sneak into open ice unnoticed to gain himself some space. Even when he does get stuck in a crowd, Roy’s quick hands and high-end play-reading lead him to make the right play under pressure nine times out of 10.
On the defensive side, when Roy is not dragging his feet at the end of a shift, he uses his intelligence to anticipate passing lanes and disrupt them before they can get exploited. He chooses his spots very well when deciding to either back off or get aggressive, and always shoulder-checks to locate potential pressure release points for both himself and the opposition should a puck become contested.
This might be a bit bold given that Roy is so young, but I don’t believe there’s much left for him to learn at the QMJHL level. Quite the contrary; he might continue being rewarded for the few things he doesn’t do right yet (e.g. shying away from contact rather than initiating it when carrying the puck, sagging at the end of a shift, holding onto pucks along the boards a little too long). The quicker he starts playing professional hockey, the more likely it is that he picks up these pro-level habits by virtue of being forced into situations that warrant them.
Contested board battles, backchecks, and opposing pressure off the rush are three game situations that see a drastic increase from Junior to pro. Roy is smart enough to pick skills up by exposure alone; his improvements in multiple areas are a testament to that. As a result, I wouldn’t be against seeing him with the Habs next year, but the likely outcome is another year in the Q to hone his craft.
Riley Kidney, C — Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Kidney’s growth this season has catapulted him into organizational top-10 consideration, as the prospect has added many tools to his game which should benefit him greatly at the next level. With an impressive month of March, the centre has brought his season total up to 27 goals and 61 assists for 88 points in 58 games for the Titan, sitting 17 points clear of the team’s runner-up.
Back in Kidney’s draft year, I spent a good amount of time throughout the season scouting his profile to see what he does well, and doubled my viewings in the playoffs when he increased his scoring pace. He struck me as a creative, inventive playmaker with some decent compete, but didn’t show much outside of that. What I’m seeing this year from him, however, is a much more complete game. He has rounded out his play with improved shooting mechanics, an inside-driven mindset that wasn’t as prevalent before, and a board game that’s grown in leaps and bounds.
His new-found technique on board battles makes him more adept at separating opponents from pucks, as he manages to close opponents’ hands off efficiently and uses his compete level to push through contact and escape with possession. His skating has more or less remained a weakness, as he keeps his stance a bit wide on his forward strides and his back hunches as a result, but his positional awareness compensates for those shortcomings. He identifies turnovers early, and starts his skating routes before his opponents can pick up on the threat he poses.
Riley Kidney is another #GoHabsGo prospect having themselves a strong year in the QMJHL. Defensive game is lacking a bit but excellent even-strength offensive production from the 2021 second-round pick https://t.co/IXBYHWhDWJ pic.twitter.com/HmoTANXTni— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) March 24, 2022
Kidney’s defensive game is still a work in progress. He’ll miss a shoulder check, hyperfocus on the puck-carrier, or drag himself into a board battle prematurely, but he uses his stick and body well to stifle the threats he does identify. The offensive package is refined and has improved enough over the past year to consider Kidney a potential middle-six centre at the NHL level, with even more room to add elements to his toolkit.
Xavier Simoneau, LW/C — Charlottetown Islanders
Simoneau’s season was interrupted by an ankle sprain which kept him on the sidelines for the entire month of March. The diminutive forward only earned an assist in the first three games of his return, but picked things up on the weekend with six points in two contests. He has been keeping up the same intensity that earned him a sixth-round selection in his final year of eligibility. He now sits at 20 goals and 46 assists for 66 points in only 40 games on the season.
There aren’t many proceedings to report upon as a result of his absence, but the main standout is the sheer quantity of injuries he’s suffered all along his Junior career. Although most are minor bumps and bruises, there was this most recent ankle sprain, along with a concussion in his draft year, both of which he suffered by playing with an edge. The last thing you want is for an athlete to sacrifice what makes them great — and intensity is exactly that in Simoneau’s game — but when his health becomes jeopardized as a result, there needs to be a healthy middle.
Ask Joël Teasdale, who injured the same knee twice in two years, needing months of therapy and reconstruction both times to make it back to the Laval Rocket. At 23 years of age, the high-energy forward is still finding his footing in the AHL as a result, although his season to date isn’t half bad with 22 points in 38 games. Being in the lineup consistently could possibly have earned him a fruitful call-up by now, but his game is set back with every prolonged absence, and the injuries themselves will likely shorten his pro career regardless of where he ends up.
When Simoneau is 100% healthy, there is a lot to love about what he brings. Even his opponents acknowledge him as one of the hardest players to face in the QMJHL. Add on top of that the high-end playmaking and decent shot, and the Habs have a nice package of skills in Simoneau that could be refined into something exceptional for the team.
William Trudeau, LD — Charlottetown Islanders
Trudeau’s offensive involvement has taken a hit since the start of March, with only eight points in 21 games, but his defensive game has continued to steadily climb to new heights. The left-shot defenceman has been more proactive in his own zone, letting go of the almost shy passiveness that riddled his in-zone defending at times. He’s added a bit of muscle and aggressiveness to his game, and isn’t shying away from physical contact as much as he used to. This also translates to his rush game; he’s more aggressive on opposing exit and entry attempts.
An absolute snipe from Budgell ties it up. pic.twitter.com/aVd5I52Ppe— Charlottetown Islanders (@IslandersHKY) April 1, 2022
Here he creates a goal for his team by rushing the puck-carrier at the blue line, maintaining the puck in the offensive zone as a result. These small plays can be the main difference between a goal for and a goal against. Trudeau is learning to experiment with these types of pinches, and experimentation is a surefire way to learn a new skill. If he backs off every time, he never learns the timing and execution required to make this type of play work against pro forwards.
As a general rule, we tend to see a decrease in offensive production as a telltale sign of regression. Although production does hold value when evaluating prospects, it certainly isn’t the be-all, end-all of scouting — even less so for blue-liners. Trudeau is progressing, even though his stat line doesn’t indicate it, and that’s what matters at this stage of his career.
The next step for Trudeau will be to take the reins of the Isles when Vegas prospect defenceman Lukas Cormier inevitably turns pro, whether that’s next season or the one after. Carving out a top-pair role with Charlottetown isn’t out of the question for Trudeau, especially if he continues to make small steps forward as he has been.
QMJHL Season to Date
|Joshua Roy||2021||W/C||QMJHL||Sherbrooke Phoenix||58||43||63||106||1.83||16|
|Riley Kidney||2021||C||QMJHL||Acadie-Bathurst Titan||58||27||61||88||1.52||48|
|Xavier Simoneau||2021||C/LW||QMJHL||Charlottetown Islanders||38||18||45||63||1.66||43|
|William Trudeau||2021||LD||QMJHL||Charlottetown Islanders||58||7||30||37||0.64||41|
Thanks for reading — follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for more on the Habs’ prospects, and to follow along with the rest of my scouting work!