The Rimouski Oceanic received honourable mention in this week’s Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings after piecing together four-straight road victories to improve to 29-14-3-0 on the season.
The Oceanic trail the Baie-Comeau Drakkar by just eight points for top spot in the East Division after winning seven of their past eight games. That stretch included back-to-back victories over the Gatineau Olympiques in which captain Charle-Edouard D’Astous led the way with four assists. Alexis Lafreniere, a top prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, also picked up a pair of goals in the two contests.
Lafreniere recently returned to the Oceanic’s lineup after spending time with Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, where he registered one goal in five games. His performance with the national team follows his play at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where the Quebec native led Team Canada in scoring with five goals and six assists in five games.
With the Oceanic, Lafreniere has recorded at least one point in 11 of his past 12 outings, notching eight goals and 13 assists over that time. His recent performances include a three-point night in a 4-2 win over the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the Western Conference’s second-best team.
In just his second season in junior, Lafreniere leads the Oceanic in scoring, as he’s tallied 24 goals and 43 assists through 40 games, including 24 points on the man advantage, where Rimouski boasts a 28.4 percent efficiency rating, good for the second-best powerplay in the QMJHL.
But Lafreniere isn’t alone in pushing the pace for Rimouski. Veteran forward Jimmy Huntington, who spent last season with the Victoriaville Tigres, sits just two points back of Lafreniere, as he’s collected 28 goals and 37 assists in 45 appearances. The two lead the Oceanic’s offensive attack from the forward ranks, while D’Astous has collected 55 points from the blue line, good for top spot among all QMJHL defensemen.
Also impressing from the point has been Russian forward Dmitry Zavgorodniy, a seventh-round pick by the Calgary Flames in 2018 and the eighth-overall pick by Rimouski in the 2017 CHL Import Draft. In only his second season in North America, Zavgorodniy is just above a point-per-game pace, as he’s recorded 20 goals and 27 assists through 46 games. That offensive outburst follows his stellar performance with Team Russia at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he notched a staggering 10 points in five games to lead the entire tournament in scoring.
Between the pipes, Colten Ellis, who competed with Team Orr at the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Red Deer, Alta., has been one of the Oceanic’s top players since the calendar turned to 2019, as he’s come away with a 4-1 record and a 1.97 GAA and .922 SV% in January. The Nova Scotia native was recognized as the seventh-best North American netminder in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings.
With the playoff races now coming into focus, the Oceanic will look to continue their winning ways when they open a three-game homestand to close out the month, leading off with a date against the East Division rival Quebec Remparts, followed by matches against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Shawinigan Cataractes.
The KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight takes a closer look at one team from the weekly KIA CHL Top 10 Rankings.
Past KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight editions:
Sept. 26, 2018 – Halifax Mooseheads
Oct. 4, 2018 – London Knights
Oct. 11, 2018 – Victoria Royals
Oct. 18, 2018 – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Oct. 25, 2018 – Prince Albert Raiders
Nov. 1, 2018 – Ottawa 67’s
Nov. 8, 2018 – Moncton Wildcats
Nov. 15, 2018 – Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Nov. 22, 2018 – Red Deer Rebels
Nov. 29, 2018 – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Dec. 6, 2018 – Vancouver Giants
Dec. 12, 2018 – Everett Silvertips
Dec. 20, 2018 – Niagara IceDogs
Jan. 3, 2019 – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Jan. 10, 2019 – Saginaw Spirit
Jan. 17, 2019 – Portland Winterhawks