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INSIDE THE Q: Lavoie heads 2019 draft class

Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie is the top-rated QMJHL prospect for the 2019 NHL draft.
Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie is the top-rated QMJHL prospect for the 2019 NHL draft. - Tim Krochak

It’s way past time for a first look at the top 2019 NHL draft prospects from the QMJHL.

It’s considered a decent crop this year, especially up front. Here is my top 10:

1. Raphael Lavoie, F, Halifax Mooseheads: Unless something changes drastically between now and June, the top Q player will come from the Mooseheads for the sixth time in the past seven drafts. The six-foot-four sniper is already being mentioned as a potential top five prospect and will almost certainly join ex-Mooseheads Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers, Timo Meier, Nico Hischier and Filip Zadina as a top 10 pick.

2. Samuel Poulin, F, Sherbrooke Phoenix: The son of former NHLer Patrick Poulin is big, strong and can score. He was the second overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft and had 45 points in 55 games as a rookie last year. His production is up to around a point per game so far this season.

3. Maxim Cajkovic, F, Saint John Sea Dogs: He was the first overall pick in this year’s CHL import draft and has not disappointed so far in Saint John. The Slovakian rookie has an impressive skill set.

4. Yaroslav Likhachev, F, Gatineau Olympiques: A breakout performance at August’s Hlinka Gretzky Under-18 Championship put the Russian on the radar. Scouts love his drive and tempo.

5. Jakob Pelletier, F, Moncton Wildcats: There is no one from the Quebec league with his vision and puck skills but he’s only five-foot-nine and 160 pounds so he has to work through that shortcoming. But from a strictly talent standpoint he is in the upper echelon.

6. Nathan Legare, F, Baie-Comeau Drakkar: The power forward got off to a tremendous start in his sophomore season, averaging two points per game out of the gate to make him the league scoring leader for a couple of weeks. He’s also still playing his usual heavy game but it’s his offensive progression that has people taking notice.

7. Artemi Kniazev, D, Chicoutimi Sagueneens: The Russian rookie defender is delivering as advertised early for the Sagueneens. He is playing in all situations and has had no trouble transitioning into a new league.

8. Brooklyn Kalmikov, F, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles: His bread and butter is his release, especially on the power play. Kalmikov is deadly from the slot and the face-off dots but also has good overall skills and room to fill out his six-foot frame.

9. Colten Ellis, G, Rimouski Oceanic: NHL teams don’t pick goalies nearly as high as they used to, which is why the River Denys native is on the lower end on this top 10. That said, he is on the short list of the best netminders available for this year’s draft.

10. Filip Prikryl, F, Saint John Sea Dogs: He has been a tad slower than Cajkovic to adapt to the major junior game but he will get there. Watch for his production to improve monthly as he gets more comfortable.

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