2018 NHL Draft: Dobson, Veleno bring championship pedigrees to Dallas
With five players ranked inside NHL Central Scouting’s Top 20 in addition to the CHL’s top three goaltenders, there’s lots to be excited about for QMJHL fans at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Halifax Mooseheads star Nico Hischier led off the proceedings last summer and made a successful jump to full-time duty with the New Jersey Devils. His example gives way to another Mooseheads standout, one of Czech descent in high-flying winger Filip Zadina who ranks third in North America.
While Zadina is a name fans can expect to hear inside the opening selections of Friday night’s first round, a pair of other highly-ranked QMJHL products are in the conversation as well, both with championship credentials.
2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup champ Noah Dobson of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and 2017 President Cup champion Joe Veleno of the Drummondville Voltigeurs come in at fifth and eighth on the list respectively.
A native of Summerside, PE, Dobson’s rise to stardom included an impressive 16-year-old season that featured a plus-34 plus/minus rating before playing a key role in Canada’s gold medal effort at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He continued an upward trajectory in 2017-18, being named a QMJHL First Team All-Star with 69 points (17-52–69) over 67 games before guiding his team to QMJHL and Mastercard Memorial Cup supremacy. Dobson was named to the Mastercard Memorial Cup All-Star Team, registering seven points (2-5–7) over four games.
“From winning a gold medal at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka until now, his game has just taken off and he plays with a lot of confidence,” described Troy Dumville of NHL Central Scouting of the 6-foot-3 right-handed shooting defender. “He’s a good skater, moves the puck well, and jumps in and contributes on the offence.”
An alternate captain for the Titan at just 17-years-old, Dobson’s journey to the QMJHL included a stop in Salzburg, Austria where he developed under former NHL forward Brian Savage and ex-NHL head coach Pierre Pagé at Red Bull Hockey Academy. The sixth overall pick of the 2016 QMJHL Draft has progressively grown as a player and person in Bathurst.
“I’ve been playing with him for two years now,” noted Titan captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel. “He’s so mature, how he acts, how he prepares himself for a game or even for a practice. It’s just great to have him around. He’s a great leader for us.”
Dobson’s Ivan Hlinka Tournament teammate and captain Joe Veleno also has the attention of NHL clubs, continuing to develop as the QMJHL’s first-ever player to receive exceptional status. After hoisting the President Cup as a QMJHL champion with the Saint John Sea Dogs last spring, Veleno thrived following a mid-season trade to the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The 18-year-old registered 79 points (22-57–79) over 64 games this past season, with 48 of those points coming under coach Dominique Ducharme in Drummondville.
Veleno continued to build on his offensive skills this past season, but placed a superior focus on becoming a well-rounded and complete centreman to be ready for the next level.
“We know the potential he’s got and all the skills,” said Ducharme, who recently took a job as assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens. “Offensively, we see his points are rising, the number of goals. But also he wants to be the best player he can on the ice and in every situation.”
Dobson and Veleno have won championships in the CHL while other top QMJHL prospects have seen success on the international stage including other Ivan Hlinka gold medalists in Jared McIsaac and Benoit-Olivier Groulx of the Halifax Mooseheads along with Veleno’s teammate and top-ranked North American goaltender Olivier Rodrigue of Drummondville.
Here’s a look at some of those top names and more that were included on NHL Central Scouting’s Final North American Draft Rankings released back in April.
NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING FINAL DRAFT RANKINGS – QMJHL:
NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING FINAL DRAFT RANKINGS – QMJHL GOALTENDERS: