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Catching The Torch: QMJHL end-of-season report cards — Joshua Roy, Riley Kidney, Xavier Simoneau, and William Trudeau

Grading and dissecting the regular-season performances of the Habs’ four QMJHL prospects, and what to expect from them moving forward.

NHL: SEP 21 Canadiens Rookie Camp Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

This time around, we’ll be grading the regular seasons of the Habs’ prospects playing in the QMJHL — Joshua Roy, Riley Kidney, Xavier Simoneau, and William Trudeau. All four were added to the Habs’ pipeline in the 2021 NHL Draft, and have had interesting storylines to follow throughout their respective post-draft campaigns.

We’ll start off with the QMJHL’s leading regular-season scorer in Roy, and move our way down the pipeline with Kidney, Simoneau, and Trudeau’s grades, respectively. We’ll look at their strengths, their weaknesses and their projected path for next season.

Before we get into it, a quick reminder of how the grading system works: there’s a season grade, in which we evaluate the prospect’s performance and whether he matched, exceeded or underperformed his expectations. Then, we grade his individual skills — skating, stickhandling, puck retrievals and receptions, physicality, off-puck play, passing, and shooting — in terms of their current state.

Joshua Roy, W/C — Sherbrooke Phoenix

Season grade: A+

We start off with the QMJHL’s top scorer, who exploded onto the scene after underperforming in his draft year and sliding all the way into the Habs’ lap at 150th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Roy’s 51 goals and 68 assists both tied for fourth in the league, and the forward’s dual-threat offence made him the league’s most prolific scorer by a margin of three. Only William Dufour, the New York Islanders’ 20-year-old fifth-round pick in 2020, eclipsed the 110-point mark along with Roy, and at 6’3” and 205 pounds, Dufour’s size gives him a considerable advantage on his Junior-age peers that Roy does not possess.

His advanced metrics tell the tale of a prospect who simply dominated the offensive side of the puck. Roy’s primary tool to generate offence is his ability to get lost in coverage on the cycle. His expected goals and shot volume data combined indicate that the forward aims to access dangerous ice, and doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck once he gets there.

On top of that, Roy’s ability to play the puck into dangerous areas for his teammates is rewarded by top-five percentile rankings in his rate of primary assists, his quantity of slot passes, and especially his ability to set up a teammate for a shot. His completion rate not being the highest, combined with his rate of slot pass attempts, indicates that Roy is often looking to make the tough play in order to locate a teammate in a prime position to score.

Exhibit A:

The puck skills are alluring, but the prospect isn’t without his weaknesses. His skating still needs some polishing, and his physical involvement isn’t as regular as it could be (although when he does get involved, he wins his battles at a higher rate than 94% of his peers). Both these areas have seen improvements, however, and Roy might just be ready to make the jump to the NHL much sooner than anyone expected. Only turning 19 in August, the forward has an entry-level contract to his name already, and could at the very least slot in for a nine-game trial with the Habs in 2022-23 before likely being sent back down to dominate once again, especially if the Habs aim for another rebuild year.

An honorable mention to Roy’s 12 points through four games to start his playoff campaign with the Phoenix. In our last QMJHL update, I mentioned the need for Roy to show that he can dig deep and find an extra gear come playoff time. Mission accomplished, so far. Roy could even join the Laval Rocket for a playoff push if the Phoenix’s post-season ends beforehand.

Individual skill categories ratings:

Skating: C+
Stickhandling: B+
Puck retrievals/receptions: B
Physicality: C+
Off-puck play: B+
Passing: A
Shooting: A

Riley Kidney, C — Acadie-Bathurst Titan

Season grade: A

One of only seven QMJHL prospects to eclipse the 100-point mark, Kidney’s 30 goals and 70 assists in 66 games also earned him an entry-level contract alongside Roy. The prospect’s vision and wide arsenal of passes make him one of the best playmakers in the league, and his shot has grown to be a decent asset of his, although there still are improvements needed when he releases a puck in-stride.

Kidney’s expected goals are more predominant in the data set than his actual goals, indicating that the prospect’s shot selection, which was previously an issue, is growing in strength. His playmaking and transition numbers make up the major part of his overall placement in the top 5% of QMJHLers when it comes to advanced metrics, as the forward creates zone entries and scoring chances at a level that is close to unmatched in the league. Much like Roy, Kidney’s passing percentage is average compared to his tendency to create high-danger chances for his teammates, indicating a threat-based passing mindset.

Another interesting element of this data set is Kidney’s ability to generate takeaways. This mainly comes from his high-end compete level — rarely will you see Kidney quit on a play, and when he chooses to step up on a puck-carrier, he has the intensity and drive to push through contact and get the puck. His ability to win puck battles along the boards has also improved quite a bit over the course of the season, as the prospect is much smarter now with his physical involvement and the way he approaches an opponent in 50/50 contests.

He gets the puck a lot, and attempts a lot of dekes, but his top hand being locked to his hip results in some bobbled pucks and unnecessary turnovers at times. On top of that, Kidney’s skating stride needs a good amount of work to become a strength, and the prospect can sometimes find himself out of position when defending his own zone. Another year in the QMJHL for Kidney is likely the plan, but we’ll have a clearer idea of what his immediate future holds when training camp rolls around this fall.

Individual skill categories ratings:

Skating: C
Stickhandling: B
Puck retrievals/receptions: B+
Physicality: B
Off-puck play: B
Passing: A+
Shooting: B

Xavier Simoneau, LW/C — Charlottetown Islanders

Season grade: A

Although Simoneau’s season was reduced to 48 games as a result of a couple of injuries, the prospect managed 24 goals and 62 assists for 86 points in that span, placing him in the top-three for points per game (1.79) behind Roy (1.80 in 66 games) and Dallas Stars first-round pick Mavrik Bourque (2.19 in 31 games). In a full season, the prospect would have been on pace for 118 points, which would have made him the runner-up for the QMJHL scoring title.

Simoneau’s advanced metrics show how utterly dominant the 5’7” forward is, both with and without the puck. His playmaking is near irreproachable, with very little preventing him from connecting with his teammates all over the ice, but especially in dangerous areas. On top of that, the diminutive forward is in the league’s elite in both retaining the puck, and taking it away from his opponents.

Andy Lehoux, FC Hockey’s QMJHL scout and the author of these player cards, mentions that only Bourque has put up better overall metrics than the Habs’ 191st-overall pick in 2021. Although Simoneau will be turning 21 years of age in less than a week and is in his final year of QMJHL eligibility, these metrics indicate that the prospect has a tremendous influence on the game when he steps on the ice.

From his tremendous vision and pro habits, to his unparalleled feistiness and intensity, to his leadership and his ability to motivate his teammates, there is so much to like about the Saint-André-Avellin native’s profile as a player. The main knocks on his game, other than his size, are his choppy skating stride and his tendency to get injured often as a result of his intense style of play. A healthy Simoneau, however, has the ability to dictate the course of a hockey game on his own.

Look for him to join the Laval Rocket soon — either at the end of the Charlottetown Islanders’ playoff run, or this fall. It’ll be fascinating to watch him develop as a pro over the course of the next few years.

Individual skill categories ratings:

Skating: B-
Stickhandling: B+
Puck retrievals/receptions: B+
Physicality: B+
Off-puck play: B+
Passing: A
Shooting: B

William Trudeau, LD — Charlottetown Islanders

Season grade: B

Trudeau’s season has been a mixed bag defensively, but the prospect has managed to put together a decent offensive season with eight goals and 36 assists for 44 points in 68 games played, as well as some alluring advanced metrics with the puck.

Trudeau’s ability to regularly put shots on goal and do so from close range has him as a top-6% defenceman in terms of expected goals, although the puck hasn’t been going in as frequently due to his lack of high-end accuracy. His playmaking has been near the top of the charts all season, with great numbers in terms of both quantity and quality. Only three QMJHL blue-liners managed more even-strength primary assists (14) than he has.

Transitionally, Trudeau does an excellent job of carrying the puck out of his zone and finding a passing option at the offensive blue line. That’s his most common decision-making pattern when breaking the puck out, and it’s a very efficient pattern to favour.

Efficient is the best word to describe Trudeau. Not the biggest at 6’0” and 183 pounds, not the fastest, nor the most skilled, he relies on his superior processing to help him find the shortest point between defence and offence. His passes are calculated, his skating patterns serve a purpose, and he has a growing knack for stopping opposing rushes before they occur, with timely neutral-zone pinches and an active stick at the offensive blue line. Defending while skating backwards is still an issue, especially in his own zone, but he often has his best defensive moments in the third period, which is a sign that a player is able to read and adapt to opposing systems efficiently.

Bulking up and working on in-zone box-outs are the next steps in Trudeau’s development, and the 19-year-old still has two seasons of QMJHL action available ahead of him to do so. His intelligence is a tool he can build around to make himself a serviceable bottom-four defenceman down the road.

Individual skill categories ratings:

Skating: B
Stickhandling: B
Puck retrievals/receptions: B-
Physicality: C
Off-puck play: B-
Passing: B+
Shooting: B

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!