Tied for first place entering a matchup at home to the Sherbrooke Phoenix on Wednesday, the Rimouski Oceanic are back at the forefront of the QMJHL just a few seasons removed from their last President Cup title in 2015.
Veteran head coach and general manager Serge Beausoleil’s club boasts a league-low 76 goals against along with the QMJHL’s top penalty kill of 87.9% despite being the second-most penalized team in the league.
Rookie phenom Alexis Lafrenière is the motor that drives the Oceanic offence. The first overall pick of the 2017 QMJHL Draft leads all 16-year-old rookies in league scoring with 32 points including 15 goals and 17 assists over 25 games. He produced six points in as many games with Team Canada Red at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last month in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, BC.
The big contributions from a young star in Lafrenière paired with his club’s rise up the QMJHL standings has Beausoleil optimistic about the path ahead as the Oceanic appear to be contenders in the East Division.
“We are happy to be in this situation,” Beausoleil recently told TVA Sports. “I don’t intend to squander our picks in the draft, but we are certainly open to exploring improvements.”
Beausoleil made a couple of key offseason additions when he acquired two players with a championship pedigree. Overage centreman Samuel Dove-McFalls came over from the Saint John Sea Dogs in June before veteran rearguard Chase Stewart followed suit in late August. Both have been central to Rimouski’s success this season as McFalls sits second in team scoring with 26 points (8-18–26) in 29 games while Stewart has 14 points (4-10–14) over 29 contests.
Former first round selection Alex-Olivier Voyer made his return to the lineup last weekend after a month sidelined by injury. The 18-year-old scored in a pair of victories, tying the game inside the final minute on Friday as Rimouski went on to defeat Acadie-Bathurst 3-2 in overtime before scoring the shootout winner in a victory over Victoriaville on Saturday.
“They were both physical games this weekend and that’s my style of play, I’m able to stand out,” he told Réal-Jean Couture of L’Avantage after the win, “It was a great weekend but we want to keep going in this direction. It’s fun to have a return like this. There was a lot of speculation about how it was going to go, but the results are there.”
Another highly-skilled forward, Russian pivot Dmitry Zavgorodniy is currently representing his country at the World Junior A Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia. He is one of two Russian forwards on the Rimouski roster alongside 18-year-old winger Denis Mikhnin. The two have combined for 16 goals and 41 points, adding some offensive punch to the Oceanic attack.
Perhaps an overlooked part of Rimouski’s offence has come from the back end where Charle-Edouard D’Astous, Dominic Cormier, Forest Wilson and the aforementioned Stewart have combined for 21 goals and 66 points this season.
As mentioned, Rimouski is currently the top defensive team in the QMJHL with goaltenders Colten Ellis and Jimmy Lemay both warranting credit in that area.
Shouldering a bulk of the load has been Ellis who is 13-3-4-0 in 21 games this season, posting a 2.48 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts. His 29 saves in Friday’s overtime win over Acadie-Bathurst earned him first star honours.
“Colten made some saves that got our guys up on the bench,” said Oceanic assistant coach Pierre Rioux after the win. “The stops he made resulted in giving us some energy and that’s possibly what helped us to tie the game.”
The 20-7-4-0 Oceanic have won eight of their last nine games and head out on the road this weekend after Wednesday’s home date against Sherbrooke. They’ll play back-to-back games in Baie-Comeau on Friday and Saturday before 11 days off over the Christmas break.
OTHER CHL TOP-10 SPOTLIGHT FEATURES:
Sept. 28, 2017 – Regina Pats
Oct. 5, 2017 – Victoriaville Tigres
Oct. 11, 2017 – Victoria Royals
Oct. 18, 2017 – Sarnia Sting
Oct. 25, 2017 – Swift Current Broncos
Nov. 1, 2017 – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Nov. 8, 2017 – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Nov. 15, 2017 – Moose Jaw Warriors
Nov. 22, 2017 – Quebec Remparts
Nov. 29, 2017 – Hamilton Bulldogs
Dec. 6, 2017 – Brandon Wheat Kings