The Montreal Canadiens currently have seven drafted prospects playing in the CHL, and fortunately for management they'll have time to evaluate their draft picks beyond the regular season, seeing as how every one of them is headed to the playoffs in their respective leagues. This is a perfect time to take a look at how they developed this season. A stick tap goes out to Pension Plan Puppets for the idea.
Daniel Audette, Centre, Sherbrooke Phoenix, 18 years old, (5th round 2014)
Despite a drop in total points compared to his output last season (68 GP, 21G, 55A) Audette has managed to increase his point-per game totals. In addition, he increased his goal production, nearly cracking the 30 goal mark. As far as 5th round picks go, Audette's QMJHL career has been quite impressive so far. He finished the 2014-15 season 30th in QMJHL points per game.
For the second consecutive season Audette led Sherbrooke in scoring, powering the Phoenix to a third-place finish in the West division, and a match up with the Charlottetown Islanders. Given that Sherbrooke entered the league in 2012-13, this will be their first trip to the QMJHL playoffs.
Charlottetown finished just below Sherbrooke in the standings, and should provide them with a fierce resistance in the first round. The two teams split their meetings this season, with the Islanders blanking the Phoenix the last time they met on January 16, by a score of 2-0.
Jeremy Grégoire, Right Wing, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, 19 years old, (6th round, 2013)
Coming back from an injury is never easy, but Grégoire made it look that way. Despite missing half the season with an wrist issue, he triumphantly returned to the lineup and immediately started producing. His points-per-game ratio was 20th in the league, and he managed to increase his goals-per-game production to 0.625, up from 0.538 the previous season.
The captain of the Drakkar will face the Saint John Sea Dogs in the first round, in a series that should favour Baie-Comeau. The Drakkar are 3-1-0 against the Sea Dogs in the last two seasons, and will count on Grégoire, Luca Ciampini,and overager Maxime St.Cyr to lead the charge.
Michael McCarron, Centre/Right Wing, Oshawa Generals, 20 years old, (1st round, 2013)
McCarron's season is a tale of two teams, as his trade away from the London Knights led to an immediate decrease in production.
Drafted as a right-winger, McCarron has spent the majority of his season down the middle, and has established himself as one of the most dominant physical prospects in the league.
He finished 21st in the OHL for points-per-game, with 1.21, eclipsing his paltry previous season mark of 0.51. His scoring may have slowed down with the Generals, but his sudden explosion of offense can only be seen as a positive development for Montreal's hulking prospect.
Oshawa had a fantastic season, clinching first place in the Eastern Conference, and second overall in the OHL. They'll face the Peterborough Petes in the first round, in what seems like a massive mismatch at first glance. The Petes finished with 58 points to Oshawa's 108, and have the lowest point totals of all teams in the playoffs this season.
Tim Bozon, Left Wing, Kootenay Ice, 21 years old, (3rd round, 2012)
Bozon's season has been one of redemption, starting off with the biggest battle of his career; the fight against a deadly bout of meningitis. Once the illness was conquered, Canadiens management decided the best course of action for Bozon would be an overage season in the WHL, seeing as how an assignment to the AHL would lead to a major decrease in ice time.
Despite having lost a lot of his hand/eye coordination, and a massive amount of muscle, Bozon worked hard over the summer to get himself into playing shape, and it seems to have paid off. He finished 13th in the WHL in goals, and participated in 29.81% of Kootenay's scoring.
The Ice are set to face off against the dominant Calgary Hitmen in the first round, which doesn't bode well for Kootenay. Calgary finished with 95 points, 17 points ahead of Kootenay.
Brett Lernout, Defenceman, Swift Current Broncos, 19 years old, (3rd round, 2014)
The 6'4" defender had a breakout season in terms of offense, almost doubling his 2013-14 output of 22 points. He finished 21st in defenceman scoring throughout the WHL, participating in 19.51% of Swift Current's scoring plays. His offensive prowess didn't end there, as he created 13 goals, good enough for 6th among all WHL defencemen. His percentage of team-goals created was a touch over 6%, finishing 3rd in the league compared to his fellow blue liners.
His Broncos are in tough during the first round, as they're set to play the Regina Pats. Regina finished ahead of Swift Current in the East division, earning 12 more points throughout the 72 game season. Not only did Regina top Swift Current in the standings, they also produced a much more appealing goal difference, +25 compared to the Broncos' -24.
Nikita Scherbak, Right Wing, Everett Silvertips, 19 years old, (1st round, 2014)
If there were any concerns over Scherbak's transition to Everett this season, they quickly disappeared, as the young Russian powered the Silvertips to a first place finish in the U.S. division.
Undeterred by playing in his third country and for his third coach in three years, Scherbak managed to up his offensive production, often turning his endless stream points into highlight reel events. He reached the 160 point mark in 130 games between two teams during his WHL tenure, and all signs point to him being a late round steal by Trevor Timmins & Co.
This will be Scherbak's first taste of playoff action, as his Silvertips will face the Spokane Chiefs in round one of the playoffs. Everett should be considered a massive favourite in this match up.
Zachary Fucale, Goalie, Quebec Remparts, 19 years old, (2nd round, 2013)
Fucale's season has been forgettable, save for his gold medal victory during the 2015 World Junior Championship.
The first time I got a chance to watch Zachary Fucale play was during 2012-13 regular season, and my first impression was underwhelming to say the least. He seemed to allow a rather large amount of bad goals, and even when you kept Halifax's run-and-gun style in mind, his numbers were mediocre at best. Unfortunately, since then his numbers have not improved, in fact, they've tanked. Fortunately, he was involved in a mid-season trade, having been sent to the Quebec Remparts.
The Remparts were in a much healthier situation than the Mooseheads, but Fucale failed to bounce back, producing some godawful results in the process. The good news is that Fucale will have a chance to redeem himself during the QMJHL playoffs, and the Memorial Cup.
The Remparts will take on the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the first round, which should be a favourable match up for Quebec, considering how they finished with 15 points higher than their first-round opponents in the regular season standings.
(various statistics were sourced from the CHL Stats website, a great resource for all junior hockey fans)