After a trip to the President Cup Final last spring, the Shawinigan Cataractes are back and playing with a purpose, getting off to an 8-1 start to the 2016-17 season.
Winners of eight straight, the Cataractes have found immediate success despite the graduation of veterans Dmytro Timashov, Gabriel Gagne, Danny Moynihan and Philippe Cadorette along with star captain Anthony Beauvillier, who is enjoying an extended stay with the New York Islanders out of training camp.
Though they don’t have a scorer inside the QMJHL’s top-20, the Cataractes feature a balanced attack led from the blue line by Cavan Fitzgerald and Nashville Predators prospect Samuel Girard.
Fitzgerald is tied with 17-year-old Slovakian rookie forward Samuel Bucek for the team scoring lead, recording 11 points (4-7–11) over nine games. The QMJHL’s reigning Defenceman of the Year, Girard trails close behind with nine points (2-9–11) over four contests.
“I don’t really think about my statistics too much,” Girard recently told Jonathan Cossette of L’Hebdo du St-Maurice. “Things are going well for us. Our power play is successful and our penalty kill continues to improve.”
With offensive contributions from the blue line, Shawinigan has also seen production from the forward ranks as Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Dennis Yan leads the team with seven goals, sophomore centreman Guillaume Asselin is on a point-per-game pace (5-4–9) and New Jersey Devils prospect Brandon Gignac has eight points (1-7–8) out of the gate.
Second year head coach Claude Bouchard has been encouraged by what he has seen from his club as the Cataractes sit third in the QMJHL in both goals for (41) and goals against (22).
“For the first time since I arrived last year, I am encouraged by what I see,” he told Steve Turcotte of La Presse. “It is more aggressive and the small details are what make the difference. It is important for us to improve our penalty kill. We need to continue to achieve our goals.”
The Cataractes have done all this after losing veteran goaltender and all-time QMJHL shutouts leader Philippe Cadorette to graduation.
Russian Mikhail Denisov and rookie Zachary Bouthillier have filled the void admirably, with the former turning in a pair of 40-plus save victories and the latter off to a 3-0 start in his QMJHL career.
Shawinigan holds a five point lead in the East Division entering Wednesday’s action, with the Quebec Remparts, Victoriaville Tigres and Rimouski Oceanic trailing behind.
A three-game road trip awaits, with a Wednesday night tilt with Quebec, a Friday night trip to Chicoutimi and a Saturday afternoon date in Baie-Comeau as the Cataractes look to come out on the other side still riding high in the CHL Top 10 Rankings.
After coming just wins away from a President Cup last spring, the Shawinigan Cataractes appear as though they’re back to take care of unfinished business and have sent an early message to the rest of the league with their 8-1 start.
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