By Jonathan Russell
This is a big year for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and it has little to do with the P.E.I. Rocket.
The provincial capital currently hosting the TELUS Cup, well known for showcasing the countries raw, young talent; and will also host the QMJHL Entry Draft, which follows the major midget AAA championship by just over a month.
With a lot of the players at this year’s TELUS Cup under the watchful eye of eager scouts from across the country, scouts from the QMJHL will likely get the best look at prospective players, one scout says.
“Looking around the stands there’s a number of Quebec league scouts here,” says Kent Hudson, a scout for the QMJHL’s Lewiston Maineiacs. “I suspect there’s a number of Ontario and other scouts as well, but certainly I think the regional component of it is more suitable (to the QMJHL).”
The TELUS Cup – previously the Air Canada Cup – has produced players like Sidney Crosby and Joe Sakic in earlier years, but what about the 2006 crop in Charlottetown?
“Many of these kids will jump to Major Junior next year,” says Hudson.
“Across the board, a lot of the western kids are drafted; they have a younger age level for drafting purposes. I know a number of the Ontario kids are drafted, or highly touted. And in Atlantic Canada I know specifically that St. John’s (Maple Leafs) has a couple of kids that are listed within the draft, and then obviously P.E.I. as well.”
One of the kids listed within the draft is St. John’s Maple Leafs forward Luke Adam, ranked 6th by QMJHL scouts at 15 years of age.
Adam, standing 6’2” and weighing in at just over 200 pounds led the country in points per game with 2.36 with the Leafs.
But still, with all the talk about rankings and scouts, Adam stays humble about the recent success with his club.
“I guess you could say it’s a big tournament to get scouted,” Adam says about the TELUS Cup. “People are watching, but I guess they’ve been watching all year, so you just got to stay hard working.”
Being ranked 6th by scouts doesn’t add any stress to Adam during this championship, he says.
“Rankings don’t really mean anything. It’s just what certain teams are looking for. It doesn’t add that much extra pressure. You just got to go out and play the same game you’d play if you weren’t in the rankings,” he says, simply.
Adam brushed off the idea of making a big deal of a high rank, but his eyes lit up when the word “team” was brought into the mix.
“It’s definitely all team,” he says, in a distinct Newfie accent. “You play for the team and
not yourself. That’s the main thing. As long as your team’s winning, everyone’s happy.”
“These are kids that are 6’2”, 6’3”, 200 pounds. They’re men, in terms of their size and in terms of their skill.”
But as the rules of the game change, so do what scouts look for, Hudson explains.
“To be quite honest, it’s funny because that’s changed. If you’d asked me that two years ago I would have had a different answer for you.
“The biggest difference now is, we always look for a good sized player, but before two years ago we would be drafting a kid that’s a great big kid, and it really didn’t matter if he could play much. We could teach him how to play.”
Now it’s more about skill than size, Hudson says. Having both is a luxury.
Meanwhile, after a close loss by Patriotes de Chateauguay in round robin play of the tourney, defenseman Yann Sauve walks out of his teams dressing room into the press area, escorted by two men twice his age and half his size.
Sixteen year-old Sauve, ranked number one by QMJHL scouting, stands 6’2” and weighs 220 pounds.
Like Adam, Sauve doesn’t feel any pressure by scouts to play well, and lets his game do the talking.
“It doesn’t affect me. I just play my game and I don’t think about that,” Sauve says. “I know the scouts, Hockey Canada is there and I try to do my best and show how I can play.”
Hudson still likes to see players like Adam and Sauve; big kids who can skate and play, but now more than ever, scouting is about giving an opportunity to the smaller players who prove they have what it takes in terms of skill, he explains.
“Certainly skill always prevails, but now more than ever we’re able to look at the larger scale. A kid that’s 6’2”, if he can’t skate as well as he needs to then he’s not as highly touted anymore.”
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