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Monday, November 1, 2010

Couturier headlines talented draft class in QMJHL

The last time the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League produced as many as four first-round Entry Draft picks was 2007, when forwards Jakub Voracek, Logan MacMillan, Angelo Esposito and David Perron were taken among the top 26 selections.

There's a good chance that mark will be equaled, if not surpassed, on June 24, when the opening round of the 2011 Entry Draft is held at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Heck, don't be surprised if as many as four players are selected from the same team -- the Saint John Sea Dogs. There's also center Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He's collected 50 goals and 127 points in 126 games over two seasons and is considered the can't-miss prospect from the QMJHL.

"I think this year is going to be an outstanding year for the 'Q,'" Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant told "Couturier is obviously a big guy in there, but just from seeing some of the teams already, there's real good young talent in the league. Last year, we weren't too happy with the talent in the Q that went in the draft, but from what I'm seeing, it's going to be a good draft year for the Q in the NHL. We'll have more high-end talent in the league this year, for sure."

Gallant, who led the Sea Dogs to their first QMJHL President's Cup Final with a league-best 109 points and was named the 2010 Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year, can sense a few of his top players gripping their sticks a little tighter in their draft year.

"I think some of these kids are feeling some pressure and not just the top prospects … we're coming back from an outstanding year in 2009-10 where we finished first overall in our league," Gallant said. "We might have started the season a little bit cocky and weren't doing the things we needed to do to play good hockey. When you start thinking about the team first, good things will happen and there's a lot going on in their heads right now. We're going to get there. It's a long season."

Here's a look at some of the top draft-eligible prospects who will be scrutinized, publicized and lauded leading up to the draft.
For a look at the prospects, click here

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