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CHL Storylines: Drummondville powering to the top of QMJHL's East

Drummondville Voltigeurs Celebrate Drummondville Voltigeurs Celebrate - Drummondville Voltigeurs (@VoltigeursDRU)

The Drummondville Voltigeurs have been on fire in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, winning 19 of their last 20 games.

Drummondville now leads the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference with a 36-10-5 record and are second in the league behind the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.

At the beginning of January, the Voltigeurs got a nice gift from the Philadelphia Flyers when they returned forward Alexis Gendron to the club. Gendron, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Flyers in 2022, appeared in 17 games with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms and recorded five goals and seven points before returning to Drummondville.

The Voltigeurs acquired the 20-year-old’s rights from the Gatineau Olympiques on Jan. 2 for three draft picks in advance of him being returned to the QMJHL.

Gendron split last season between Gatineau and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and recorded 55 goals and 81 points in 63 games. He added 14 goals and 19 points in 13 playoff games before the Olympiques were swept in the third round by the Quebec Remparts.

“Coming over to Gatineau last season from the Armada really allowed him to shine because it wasn’t just about stopping him solely,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button. “I think he’s got a chance to be an NHL player, even though he’s a late-round draft pick.”

In 10 games with the Voltigeurs so far, the 5-foot-10 winger has continued his strong major junior play, scoring 10 goals with 16 points, but has missed the Voltigeurs’ last three games with an undisclosed injury.

“You’re bringing him in and you’re adding explosive scoring ability,” said Button. “He doesn’t need a lot of chances but he’s going to get them and he can finish.”

Forward Ethan Gauthier and defenceman Vsevolod Komarov have also been huge offensively for the Voltigeurs during their recent hot stretch.

Gauthier, 19, went on a 15-game point streak between Dec. 7 and Jan. 26, recording 14 goals and 23 points during that stretch. The streak was the second longest in the QMJHL this season, only behind Baie-Comeau’s Justin Gill, who had a 19-game point streak that saw him register 14 goals and 38 points.

The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect leads the team with 29 goals and is second on the Voltigeurs in scoring with 55 points, four back of forward Luke Woodworth.

“Gauthier’s contribution to the team go far beyond the stat sheet,” Button explained. “His contributions on the stat sheet are there but he’s a hard competitor, he’s smart, and can do anything in the game. He can play on the power play, penalty kill, and play a skill game or a checking game.

“He can shut down an opponent’s best player and he can play both right wing and centre. He’s such a complete player.”

Vsevolod, 20, was acquired by the Voltigeurs, along with forward Mikael Huchette, in December from the Remparts in exchange for forward Mavrick Rousseau-Hamel, defenceman Nino Tomov, and four draft picks.

The Buffalo Sabres prospect had a nine-game point streak snapped on Jan. 26, registering three goals and 15 points during that frame.

The 6-foot-3 defenceman leads all QMJHL defencemen in scoring with 10 goals and 50 points in 44 games.

“Drummondville has lots of balance to their team, they don’t have anyone who’s in the 70 or 80-point range but you don’t have those really big dips from your top offensive guys,” said Button.

However, the Voltigeurs took a hit on Feb. 2 when the team announced that defenceman Maveric Lamoureux will be sidelined for an indefinite period with mononucleosis.

The 6-foot-7 Arizona Coyotes prospect has been a force this season, recording seven goals and 28 points in 28 games but hasn’t played since Jan. 21.

“You’re talking about somebody that can play 30 minutes a night and is no fun to play against,” said Button. “He’s a massive presence physically because of the way he plays the game. Not having him on your team means you have to find 30 minutes, but they’re going to be completely different minutes split between the rest of the defence.

“Maveric is unique in every sense of the word.”

With Lamoureux joining a list of high-impact injuries that includes Victoriaville Tigres defenceman Tristan Luneau, and Halifax Mooseheads forward Jordan Dumais, one high-impact player finally came off that list earlier this month.

Portland, Everett, and Prince George battle in the West

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The Prince George Cougars have been at the top of the Western Conference in the Western Hockey League for most of the season, but the Portland Winterhawks and Everett Silvertips have now joined them at the top.

Portland now leads the pack with a 35-12-3 record and are two points ahead of the Silvertips and three ahead of the Cougars.

The Winterhawks went 8-2-1 in the month of January and have won eight of their last nine games.

They have been led all season long by overage forward Gabe Klassen, who sits tied for third in WHL scoring with 28 goals and 86 points in 50 games. The 20-year-old has been on a tear with four straight multi-point games including three assists against the Kelowna Rockets on Feb. 2 and two goals and an assist against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.

San Jose Sharks prospect Luca Cagnoni has led the way on the backend for the Winterhawks, leading all WHL defencemen with 11 goals and 64 points in 48 games to go along with a plus-35 rating.

The team added some skilled depth to go along with Cagnoni in December when defenceman Tyson Jugnauth elected to leave the NCAA’s University of Wisconsin and join the Winterhawks.

Jugnauth, a Seattle Kraken prospect, has fit into the WHL game well since his arrival, scoring at a point-per-game level with five goals and 25 points in 23 games with a plus-24 rating.

“When you’re playing in the NCAA, you’re against older, bigger, and stronger players,” said Button. “I would suggest it was an easier adjustment coming into the WHL.”

The other major move the Winterhawks made was acquiring Detroit Red Wings prospect Nate Danielson from the Brandon Wheat Kings at the trade deadline in exchange for forward Nick Johnson, defenceman Rhett Ravndahl, and three draft picks.

Prior to the trade, Danielson had 12 goals and 26 points in 26 games as captain of the Wheat Kings. He also was a member of Team Canada at the 2024 World Juniors in Sweden where he registered a goal and three points in five games en route to a fifth-place finish.

Since joining the Winterhawks, Danielson has maintained his scoring consistency, recording three goals and 14 points in 11 games, including a goal and three points against Kelowna on Feb. 2.

“Teams like Portland, when they’re making trades at the deadline, they’re looking specifically at their competition,” said Button. “[In the Winterhawks’ case] they’re looking at Everett for the U.S. division and Prince George for the conference. So they’re thinking ‘what do we have to do to position ourselves to be as strong as possible against good teams?’”

Everett’s place as part of the class of the West is thanks in large part to the play of rookies Carter Bear and Julius Miettinen.

Miettinen, 17, is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft in June and is No. 39 on Button’s draft list and No. 49 among NHL Central Scouting’s North American skaters.

The Helsinki, Finland native is playing in North America for the first time in his career and after a slow start, his game has picked up since the beginning of December.

In January, the 6-foot-3 forward recorded nine goals and 17 points in 11 games, including a four-point performance against the Wenatchee Wild on Jan. 14.

“It took a little bit of time to get acclimated, but he’s a really good player,” said Button. “He [should be] a top-two round draft pick in [this year’s NHL] draft. He is so good, does so many things well in a game and you can play him anywhere, anytime.”

Miettinen now has 22 goals and 46 points in 53 games this season, which places him in fourth place among rookies in the WHL.

Bear, 17, took home Rookie of the Month honours in January after registering nine goals and 19 points, leading the Silvertips to a 4-1-0 record during that stretch.

The 6-foot centre is eligible for the 2025 NHL Draft and is third among WHL rookies in scoring with 22 goals and 47 points in 54 games behind only Cougars forward Terik Parascak and Medicine Hat Tigers forward Gavin McKenna.

“He’s not a household name when you’re looking at next year’s draft, but when you watch him and see what he’s capable of doing, people will start asking ‘where did he come from?’” said Button. “If he continues on this trajectory from when you look at him last year, there’s no telling where he could be.”

Prince George struggled in the month of January, going 4-3-1 in the month to allow Everett and Portland to close the gap. But they have been off to a good start in February, going 3-1-0 so far.

Prince George has been led all season by overage forward Zac Funk and Minnesota Wild prospect Riley Heidt, who have been in the top five in WHL scoring for most of the season.

Heidt, 18, has 27 goals and 87 points in 50 games and is four points behind Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jagger Firkus for the WHL scoring lead.

Funk, 20, recorded a hat trick against the Victoria Royals over the weekend to bring his goal total to 49 to lead the WHL. His 86 points ties him with Klassen for third place in league scoring.

“The Cougars have no worries, they’re going to be a top two-seed [in the West],” said Button. “There are ebbs and flows in a season with any type of team through the course of a long season. Teams go through stretches where they’re not firing and they’re kids so you have to recognize and manage through it.”

Streaking Knights, Spirit headed for OHL finals showdown

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The London Knights have been the hottest team in the Ontario Hockey League.

They have the best record in the OHL at 38-11-3 and have points in their last 23 games.

London had a 14-game winning streak snapped on Jan. 26 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Peterborough Petes but haven’t lost in regulation since Dec. 10.

Leading the charge has been Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan and Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Oliver Bonk, who have both accelerated their games since returning from Team Canada at the 2024 World Juniors.

Since re-joining the Knights, Cowan has 13 goals and 31 points in 16 games with 10 multi-point games. He is also in the midst of a 21-game point streak dating back to before the World Juniors, recording 16 goals and 42 points during that span.

“I think he has some Doug Gilmour in him, he’s got that moxie and competitive fire,” said Button. “What I love about him is he recognizes who he’s up against, what he’s up against, and then knows how to take advantage.”

Cowan sits tied for eighth in OHL scoring with 25 goals and 70 points in 39 games this season and is two points ahead of teammate Denver Barkey for the most shorthanded points in the league with 11.

Bonk came back from the World Juniors and found his goal-scoring touch, registering 15 goals in his last 16 games. The 6-foot-2 defenceman had a 10-game point streak snapped on Jan. 20 but has 16 goals and 33 points in his last 19 games.

The Ottawa native is third among OHL defencemen in scoring with 21 goals and 57 points behind newly minted Calgary Flames prospect Hunter Brzustewicz and 2024 NHL top prospect Zayne Parekh.

“Defencemen like Bonk, when they go out on the ice, they lower the coach’s heart rate,” said Button. “He’s comfortable being who he is, Oliver isn’t trying to be an 80-point player. We use the term ‘play the game the right way’, and [I think] Bonk almost plays the game in a perfect way.”

London is in a struggle for top spot in the Western Conference with the Saginaw Spirit making a push.

As hot as the Knights have been, the Spirit have matched their pace, winning 12 of their last 13 games.

The Memorial Cup hosts loaded up prior to the trade deadline acquiring Canadian World Junior players Owen Beck and Jorian Donovan, to go along with defenceman Rodwin Dionicio, and forwards Alex Christopoulos, and Ethan Hay, and goaltender Nolan Lalonde.

Since joining Saginaw, Beck has registered nine goals and 24 points in 15 games, including tying a Spirit record with a six-point night in his debut on Jan. 10.

Donovan has also responded well to new surroundings, adding two goals and nine points in 15 games.

After the CHL trade deadline on Jan. 10, the Spirit began their sprint to the top of the league by going 14-1-0 in their last 15 games.

“I think it will be a really hard series between Saginaw and London as I see them as the two best teams in the OHL,” said Button. “The possibility exists that they both can get to the Memorial Cup because we know Saginaw will be there [as the host team], but if they meet in the West final, that’s a pick ‘em series.”