American draft: the QMJHL must launch its charm operation

American draft: the QMJHL must launch its charm operation

Jocelyn Thibault believes that the QMJHL still has a lot of work to do to be attractive to American players.

Share June 8, 2020 6:32 p.m. Updated at 11:41 p.m. Share American draft: the QMJHL must launch its charm operationAmerican draft: the QMJHL must launch its charm operation

Jérôme Gaudreau La Tribune SHERBROOKE – The file of American players in the QMJHL returns every year to the office of Commissioner Gilles Courteau. The stakes are high: to be able to compete against the OHL and the Western Canadian League. But to succeed in attracting the Americans, the QMJHL will have to launch above all a charm operation to better sell its program and change the culture established in New England, according to the general manager Jocelyn Thibault.

Much effort has been made in the past by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to break the trend. The arrival of teams from the Maritimes helped attract Americans. We will remember among others Conor Garland of the Moncton Wildcats, champion scorer in 2015 and 2016.

“The American territory reserved for the OHL and the WHL is larger and easier to conquer. In Arizona and California, hockey is gaining in importance, which is profitable for the WHL. For our part, we must limit ourselves to New England, where there is a high concentration of good quality college, university or prep school programs. It is extremely prestigious for Americans to get a scholarship to a good college playing sports and I understand them. “

American draft: the QMJHL must launch its charm operation

Brendan Coughlin was the first player drafted by the Phoenix on Monday in the US player selection round. Provided

A rare presence

The QMJHL held its annual draft of American players on Monday morning. These are rare to come to organizations in Quebec and even the Maritimes.

Take for example the Phoenix. Despite his proximity to the United States and the presence of several English-speaking educational institutions, including Champlain College and Bishop's University, no American player drafted by the Phoenix has played in Sherbrooke since Chase Harwell, selected in the 4th round of the draft. traditional 2013.

However, the formula has changed since 2018. And this, thanks to the recommendations of the general manager of the Phoenix, Jocelyn Thibault,

“We used to have to pick two Americans in the traditional draft. During this time, we saw young Quebecers sadly leaving the amphitheater on the day of the selection session without being drafted while most of the Americans selected never showed up to the camp, or almost. I agree that there will always be players from here who will be ignored in the draft, but with this change of regulations, 36 more Quebecers have a chance to show off. “

This time around, the Phoenix say they are guaranteed to see Boston College Eagles right winger Brendan Coughlin show up at camp. The latter was chosen in 18th place, the last choice of the first round. A Spartans defenseman from the Seacoast Performance Academy, Jordin Palmer, was also chosen by the Phoenix, who did not obtain confirmation of his presence in Sherbrooke.

If Coughlin breaks through the roster, he will become the first American drafted by the Phoenix to play in Sherbrooke in seven years.

For the past few years, the Phoenix have had to content themselves at best with seeing their Americans take a 48-hour trial during camp to allow players from the United States to maintain their eligibility.

“It's up to us to better sell our program. The QMJHL must build on its strengths. A player will be able to study for free at a university with us. Take the case of Gregory Kreutzer, who lives in Michigan. We paid for all his studies and once his major junior internship will be completed, he will have accumulated significant scholarships, which will allow him to continue his studies, ”notes Jocelyn Thibault.

This aspect of the QMJHL remains unknown among Americans, who are however well aware that the Canadian Hockey League remains one of the best junior hockey programs in the world. They only have to look at the results of the draft to understand that the Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Alexis Lafrenière all played in the QMJHL before being selected first in the NHL.

“The QMJHL has proven itself when it comes to the hockey component. To bet more on Americans, we will have to obtain a larger territory. Each year, the general managers make a plea on this to the leaders. But first, the culture of college hockey is strong and that is what we will have to work on to make our league more attractive to players in the United States, “said the former NHL goalie.

A team in the United States?

The best way to change this culture will be to establish one or two QMJHL teams in the United States, Commissioner Gilles Courteau has already stated.

In the OHL, three teams are established in the United States and five in the WHL. Since the MAINEiacs of Lewinston in 2011, the QMJHL no longer has teams in the United States.

However, no expansion is planned and everything will have to go through the transfer or sale of one of the concessions. Which does not seem to happen in the short term.

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