Halifax laced with 2013 NHL Eligibles

TSR Features | 21 Mar 2012

Nathan MacKinnon has been nothing short of spectacular in his rookie season.

It’s a pretty disappointing year to be following the QMJHL heading into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. If it wasn’t for Europeans Mikhail Grigorenko and Martin Frk, it would be much worse. Luckily for hockey fans east of Ontario, 2013 is going to be a whole lot of fun. This is especially true for fans in Halifax who are blessed with a few exciting young players playing for the Halifax Mooseheads. While many scouts’ eyes are on Frk this year, Halifax will draw considerable attention looking ahead to 2013.

The Mooseheads finished 6th in the league standings and for many people, have over achieved. They have received exceptional goaltending from a 16-year-old while other 16-year-old’s are contributing up front. They are expected to make a push for the QMJHL title in the 2012-2013 season after these players all have a Q season under their belt along with a little bit of playoff experience.

The team known as the “Herd” is lead by 16-year-old power forward Nathan MacKinnon who has been tearing up hockey leagues since he first laced up the skates. He put up 200 points playing Atom hockey and had seasons of 110 points and 145 points playing Bantam AAA which was the highest level of hockey for a player of his age. The comparisons to Sidney Crosby have been discussed in many hockey circles, and while MacKinnon probably isn’t at that calibre, he’s an exceptional talent in his own right.

The phenom has not disappointed Mooseheads fans in his first QMJHL season, finishing just 7 points back of 17-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko in the rookie scoring race with 31 goals and 78 points. You have to look beyond the score sheet to full appreciate what Nathan brings to the table, however. He has the speed to create breakaways, the skill to score highlight-reel goals, the hockey sense to make tic-tac-toe like plays and the grit to score garbage goals. At 5-foot-11, Mackinnon is already relied upon to take all important faceoffs in all zones of the ice. He’s going to put up a fight to be drafted 1st overall in 2013 and the scary part is, if he was born just over two weeks later he wouldn’t be draft eligible until 2014.

The draft-eligible talent in Halifax doesn’t end there. Jonathan Drouin was taken 2nd overall in the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft and although undersized, Drouin is a tremendous offensive talent. It took a lot of coaxing to bring him to Halifax, and after some well-documented struggles, Drouin’s mid-season arrival injected some offensive depth into the lineup. A 5-foot-11 winger, Drouin tallied 7 goals and 29 points in only 33 points and quickly established himself as one of the top 95’s in the league. Drouin has a deceptive release, smooth hands, and if he can mature physically, he will certainly contend to be a 1st or 2nd round pick in 2013.

And let’s not forget about Zachary Fucale, who has been one of the biggest revelations in the QMJHL this season. A native of Rosemere, Que., Fucule was selected 11th overall in 2011 and has proven why he was the first goalie taken. After starting the year as a backup goalie, Fucale has taken over the starting reigns after Anthony Terenzio suffered a season-ending concussion back in mid-October. Fucale has gone on to have an extremely promising season, posting a 3.16 GAA and .892SV% while appearing in 58 games this year. Fucale even managed to set a QMJHL record for wins by a 16-year-old goaltender, with his 32 wins eclipsing the previous mark of 27 which was established by Olivier Roy in 2007.

In addition to being busy in the crease with Halifax, Fucale also represented Team Quebec at the 2012 U17 World Championships where he started 5 games for his province. Fortunately, Fucale has shown no ill effects of the heavy workload this season and continues to exceed expectations without showing any signs of fatigue. While next year will be a big one for him, you have to peg him as a potential first round pick in 2013 after this strong showing and with a better squad returning to Halifax next year, Fucale will have every opportunity to improve his draft stock.

The Metro Center in Halifax will be full of scouts for Mooseheads games next year when theses 3 special players play their sophomore season. If everything goes well they will be dropping their jaws play after play until mid-May.

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