|Couturier's stock has fallen - right into the lap of the Senators?|
In the other Quebec semi, it’s not very Quebec-ish - Saint John against Lewiston. The MAINEiacs (gosh, that name gets more clever every time I hear it) are the 8th seed, while the Sea Dogs are the top ranked team in the nation. So it should be over QUICKly.
Gatineau just eliminated Drummondville in a series that was supposed to feature Sean Couturier, who started the year on top of many lists as this year’s top draft prospect. Couturier didn’t get that memo. He was not impressive at all during games in Gatineau, according to Team 1200 reporters who covered the series.
If Gatineau does its part in the semis, we’ll get a good long, live look at Saint John forward Jonathan Huberdeau, a player who has now passed Couturier on everyone’s draft list. In fact, I think he could move up to number one for many teams.
It would now be an absolute miracle if Huberdeau were still there when the Senators draft sixth this summer. I caught Huberdeau in action Friday night as Saint John finished off Victoriaville. He’s 6 foot 1, 165 pounds but doesn’t play like an underweight player. At all. And he’s really good, with the speed, hands, anticipation and vision you expect from a blue chip prospect.
What sets Huberdeau apart is more of an intangible. He plays with an angry compete level you don’t see in many skill players. In a race or battle, he doesn’t want that puck, he needs it. He’s not only the best 18 year old in the Q, he may be the best player in the Q, period.
Huberdeau’s Central Scouting stock isn’t as high as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, best in the WHL or Gabriel Landeskog, best in the OHL. But that could still change. RNH and Landeskog are done, home in their parents’ basement, waiting for the draft. Meanwhile, Huberdeau is a great bet to win the CHL playoff scoring race - he currently leads everyone in points per game with 21 in 9 playoff games - and hoist a Memorial Cup. That tends to turn heads, especially when you’re only 18.
So the class of the draft is not a trio, it’s a foursome. Huberdeau joins RNH, Larsson and Landeskog as the best of the best. History may even show Huberdeau is the best of the lot. Because Couturier has slipped, a top 5 team like the Devils will probably focus on their desperate need for an offensive defenceman, likely taking Ryan Murphy.
That will leave Couturier for the Senators. They need a centre. It’s just impossible to turn him down at 6. He led the Q in scoring as a 17 year old and was the only guy in this draft to make the Canadian World Junior team this year. Even Huberdeau’s linemate Zack Phillips calls Couturier the hardest guy to play against in the league, simply because he’s so hard to move off the puck.