Diligent drafting and careful roster construction have begun to pay dividends for the Quebec Remparts.
Sitting eighth overall in the QMJHL with 30 points through 23 games, the Remparts have shown to be a force, most notably in recent weeks where the club has come away with points in seven of its past 10 outings.
“Everyone has been playing good hockey since we got back from Christmas,” sophomore forward James Malatesta told Kevin Dube of the Quebec Journal. “We work hard in every game and good things happen.”
According to Remparts general manager and head coach Patrick Roy, another key difference about this year’s rendition is the ability of his burgeoning young core to create scoring opportunities with regularity.
“We made a lot of adjustments to how we wanted to play, especially in allowing us to create chances to score around the net,” Roy told Dube. “We have gone from being one of the worst teams in the league at this level over the past two seasons to being in the top tier this year.”
It begins up from where Malatesta – one of four Remparts recognized as Players to Watch per NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2021 Draft – has picked up where he left off following a strong rookie season in which he finished second in team scoring with 45 points, good for seventh among freshmen league-wide and only eight points removed from top spot. The undersized winger has now carried that offensive success into the new campaign in which he is producing just shy of a point-per-game pace with eight goals and 11 assists in 23 contests.
In all, Malatesta forms part of a dynamic offensive group that also counts the likes of 17-year-old centre Nathan Gaucher. Chosen eighth overall in the 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft, Gaucher put together a modest rookie campaign a year ago to tune of 24 points through 59 appearances, but has taken another step this season as he has dazzled with 10 goals and 11 assists across 21 outings.
“I remember when we were trying to convince James to come and play with us, he would often talk about Nate,” Roy told Roby St-Gelais of the Quebec Journal. “We felt that the two had (played well) together in the under-16 and in other events. When we put them together, we felt that good chemistry existed between the two and it just keeps going.”
Quebec also continues to see promising returns from diminutive centre Theo Rochette. Added from Chicoutimi in the midst of the 2019-20 campaign, Rochette has carried forward his offensive game this season in leading all Remparts scorers with 22 points.
Lastly, rounding out the Remparts’ forward ranks is Finnish import Viljami Marjala. Skating in his first season on North American ice, the budding left-wing has needed little to adjust to his new surroundings as he sits fourth in team scoring with 18 points. Like many others on the Quebec roster, Marjala too is a 2021 NHL Draft hopeful.
While the Remparts boast a balanced attack up front, the team is also impressed with the development of its defencemen. This season, the club has introduced up-and-coming blue-liner Evan Nause. The 18-year-old has made an immediate impact, collecting 16 points to rank first in scoring among rookie rearguards league-wide. A talented puck-mover, the 2021 NHL Draft eligible has drawn plenty of praise from his bench boss.
“We have been telling him for a long time that the more he will simplify his game, the better he will be,” Roy told Dube. “He has been keeping his game simple, bringing pucks into the opposing territory, and getting them out of our own (zone) while taking good shots and making good play choices.”
Nause forms part of a blue line brigade that also includes fellow 18-year-old Nicolas Savoie. A native of Dieppe, N.B., Savoie has improved his scoring touch in his third season with the club, a critical jump with the team looking for more scoring support from the back end following the graduation of top scoring defender Darien Kielb. Still, Savoie hopes to continue rounding out his game as the season progresses.
“I could produce more but I think defensively I am playing big minutes,” Savoie told Dube. “I like to play against the big lines and have that kind of responsibility. It is not something I think about too much. I am trying to prove that I am an elite player in this league and that I deserve a chance with an NHL team.”
Added Roy per Dube, “Nico is more defensive. What I like is that we see that he is maturing and that he is starting to feel more comfortable in the offensive aspect of the game. We try to work with him on the quality of his shots from the blue line.”
Sticking in the defensive zone, the Remparts are also getting solid support in the blue paint from overage netminder Thomas Sigouin who has picked up 11 wins on the season while the team is also continuing to integrate 18-year-old William Rousseau who remains undefeated in regulation and is sure to intrigue talent evaluators as draft day nears.
Owning strength between the pipes, an offensive-minded blue line, and a balanced scoring attack up front, the Remparts are well positioned to continue their winning ways as the 2020-21 QMJHL season resumes.