Back-to-back victories over the Val-d’Or Foreurs saw the Rimouski Oceanic wrap up the weekend with four points, a perfect showing that helped the club push its win streak to seven games and earn honourable mention in the latest Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings.
Sitting second in the QMJHL’s East Division with a 30-14-3-4 record and 67 points, the Oceanic’s success this season is headlined by the play of captain Alexis Lafreniere, the reigning CHL Player of the Year and projected first-overall selection in the coming NHL Draft who leads all league scorers with an astounding 84 points counting 24 goals and 60 assists in only 39 appearances.
Throughout the 2019-20 campaign, Lafreniere has continually demonstrated his ability to be a difference maker and dominate in the offensive zone as on just six occasions he has been held off the scoresheet while he also stands at an incredible 23 multi-point performances on the season. Lafreniere’s top-level play has only continued into the new year where he is averaging two points per game.
Limited to seven appearances since the start of January due to his participation in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, under the international spotlight Lafreniere put up an MVP-recognized performance, one that Oceanic general manager and head coach Serge Beausoleil believes will continue to benefit the organization.
“Individual experiences always reflect collectively on our team,” Beausoleil told Jean-Philippe Langlais of the Rimouski Advantage. “He also showed that when the match is on the line, he wants to make a difference. He did it internationally against the best players of his age and he will continue to do so in our league.”
Beyond Lafreniere, joining the budding superstar up front is centre Cedric Pare who sits second in QMJHL scoring with 75 points on the season, while the club is also benefitting from the recent return of right-wing and Calgary Flames draft pick Dmitry Zavgorodniy who after missing 23 games following a collarbone injury has picked up where he left off in registering six points across five appearances, bringing his total to 49 points thorough 28 games.
Rounding out the forward ranks, the Oceanic are also seeing terrific first seasons from 16-year-old centre Zachary Bolduc, a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect who is scoring just shy of a point-per-game pace with 25 goals – sitting second to only Pare – plus 12 assists in 42 contests, while right-wing and 2020 NHL Draft hopeful Adam Raska, Rimouski’s top pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft, has had an impressive debut campaign in coming up with 20 points through 32 games.
Meanwhile, the Oceanic’s youth movement continues on the back end where first-year blue-liner and 2021 NHL Draft prospect Isaac Belliveau has had a dominant inaugural campaign in coming up with 46 points counting nine goals and 37 assists through 49 appearances to lead all QMJHL rearguards in scoring. There was little adjustment time necessary for Belliveau too, who through his first full month of regular-season action had recorded five goals and 17 assists for 22 points in just 17 outings.
Backstopping the group to success is St. Louis Blues draft pick and third-year netminder Colten Ellis who after being sidelined for two months has resumed his role as a key cog in the Oceanic crease. Ellis has been particularly sharp in recent weeks, closing the door in two of his past three appearances in which he has allowed just two goals while coming away with a combined 73 saves and tying Philippe Desrosiers’ all-time franchise shutout record with 11. In all, Ellis owns a 13-5-1-1 showing on the season alongside a steady .914 save percentage that ranks third among QMJHL netminders to have suited up in at least 20 games this season.
When Ellis hasn’t been between-the-pipes, the club has benefited from the play of Creed Jones, acquired in January from the Gatineau Olympiques, who earned a spot on the QMJHL’s Team of the Week. Jones is one of three veterans the Oceanic added before the deadline along with Rouyn-Noranda Huskies Memorial Cup champion Justin Bergeron on defence and former Saint John Sea Dogs captain Nicolas Guay to help provide depth up front.
Those additions, with solid play from a healthy Ellis, youthful exuberance, and a reunited dominant trio of Lafreniere, Pare, and Zavgorodniy will serve the Oceanic well as the club continues 25th anniversary celebrations.
They’ll look to keep their winning-streak intact with a three-in-three weekend beginning Friday in Shawinigan before heading to Gatineau for a pair versus the Olympiques.