Making their seventh appearance of the season in the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings this week, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar come off an 11-goal explosion in Val-d’Or on Saturday to grab the national spotlight.
Powered by QMJHL scoring leader Ivan Chekhovich, the Drakkar are off to a 16-5-0-1 start under head coach Martin Bernard, taking wins in seven of their last nine contests.
The club’s most recent triumph saw San Jose Sharks prospect Chekhovich scored four times and add an assist, contributing to his league-leading 37 points (19-18–37) on the campaign. The shifty winger continued his offensive tear on Tuesday in Sherbrooke, earning Player of the Game honours with a goal and an assist as Russia defeated Team QMJHL 5-1 in Game 5 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series.
“Ivan has all the skills to score goals,” Bernard told Le Manic’s Steeve Paradis of his star forward. “When he has the puck on his stick he is very dangerous.”
Chekhovich was originally the third overall pick of the 2016 CHL Import Draft after he led Russia to a silver medal at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The 19-year-old left a lasting impression on the Sharks organization last spring when he recorded 11 points (3-8–11) over 10 games in a late-season stint with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda.
“He makes stuff happen,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer during the team’s training camp this past September. “He goes and gets the puck, he’s inside, he plays the way we want to play. There’s a lot of good stuff there.”
Boasting the league’s fourth-ranked power play, Baie-Comeau has also benefitted from the offensive contributions from another Russian in Yaroslav Alexeyev (13-12–25), 2019 NHL Draft prospect Nathan Légaré (14-19–33), Calgary Flames prospect D’Artagnan Joly (10-10–20) and Tampa Bay Lightning second round pick Gabriel Fortier (8-19–27).
The club’s 99 goals currently lead the entire CHL as blueliners Christopher Merisier-Ortiz (3-10–13) and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Xavier Bouchard (1-12–13) have also played supporting roles offensively. Down the middle, 2018 Memorial Cup champion and assistant captain Samuel L’Italien (7-12–19) has brought leadership and experience to the group.
In goal, the Drakkar have alternated between the veteran duo of 19-year-old Kyle Jessiman and third-year netminder Justin Blanchette. The two have combined for a 2.79 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage this season.
After missing the playoffs in 2016 before a pair of first round exits the past two seasons, the Drakkar franchise is looking to get back to the dominance it experienced in 2013 and ’14 when the club reached two consecutive QMJHL Championship Series, falling to Nathan MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads before coming up just short in a seven game defeat at the hands of the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
They certainly have the offensive horses to make something happen this season. The Drakkar have scored six goals or more on seven different occasions.
Despite their dominance on many nights, they’ve had some trouble with the QMJHL’s top-ranked teams in the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Drummondville Voltigeurs, losing two of three against the former while dropping a 7-1 decision against the latter on October 11th.
Looking ahead, the Drakkar approach a pair of home dates this weekend, taking on the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles at home on Friday before another Kia CHL Top 10 opponent in the Moncton Wildcats visit Centre Henry-Leonard on Saturday.
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