Current Atlantic Division Standings (at Christmas Break)
TEAM W L OTL SOL P
Moncton Wildcats 24 10 4 0 52
Saint John Sea Dogs 20 13 2 0 42
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 19 15 3 0 41
Charlottetown Islanders 13 19 2 1 29
Acadie-Bathurst Titan 13 19 2 1 29
Halifax Mooseheads 12 18 4 1 29
Analysis - For a division that was supposed to be competitive this season, things are a little disappointing. Three of the four worst teams in the Q are in the Atlantic Division.
The Wildcats are exceeding expectations. With the loss of Barbashev and Dubeau from last years team, most people expected the Cats to be no better than third or fourth in the division. On the other hand, the Charlottetown Islanders and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have been somewhat disappointing so far this year - especially the Islanders. If I was the Islanders coach, I would be watching my back. The Sea Dogs are probably where they should be. Their team has oodles of talent, but the roster is quite young. They will be a top ranked team for the next 2-3 years. The Mooseheads are in the doldrums and will remain there for the next couple of years. The Titan are disappointing (as usual), but have shown signs of life just before the Christmas Break. I expect improved performance in the second half of the season.
Conor Garland continues to tear up the league. He currently has 21 goals and 59 assists for 80 points
after only 33 games. He leads both the QMJHL and the CHL in scoring. To put this into perspective, the next leading scorers in the Q (Guillaume Gauthier & Francis Perron) have only 58 points. I just can't believe how the Americans left Garland off Team USA for the World Junior Championships. That's just daft!!!
The Wildcats have made some moves in the trade period already:
- They acquired 19 year old goaltender Keven Bouchard (as well as a 4th round pick in the 2017 QMJHL draft) from the Baie Comeau Drakkar. In return, they gave up forward Eric Leger and 2nd round QMJHL draft picks in both 2017 & 2018. Bouchard is a highly rated goalie with playoff experience (including the Memorial Cup), and is a 7th round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers.
- They also acquired 19 year old Czech right winger Vaclav Karabacek (and a 2nd round draft pick in the 2016 QMJHL draft) in exchange for a first round draft pick in the 2016 QMJHL draft. Karabacek is a natural scorer and a 2nd round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres.
Because Karabacek is a European, the Cats have released German defenceman Max Glassl from the team in order to make room.
Analysis - These are good moves. We need a starting goaltender on the club and Bouchard fills the bill. I predict that Blade Mann-Dixon will be our back-up going forward. He's been pretty solid since being called up to the club a couple of month ago. Karabachek will give our already potent offence some added punch. It will be interesting to see if he is put on the same line as Garland and Askew. I think these moves indicate that Robert Irving is planning on going for it as far as the President's Cup is concerned. This will be a tough year to do it though. Both Val d'Or and Rouyn-Noranda have potent clubs this year.
It always makes me nervous to see the Wildcats trade away future first and second round picks. We have a bad habit of doing this, which means that we tend to build our team through free agents and gambling lower draft picks on American players leaning towards the US college hockey route. Fortunately, we have had considerable luck with this in the past. Americans are more likely to play for a team like the Wildcats rather than a Quebec based team like Baie Comeau or Val d'Or, mostly for cultural familiarity.
I think we have a good thing going with the Wildcats this year. I hope the management doesn't plan on any more earth shattering trades. I think what they have done so far may be enough.