San Jose Sharks QMJHL Playoff Preview

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Timo Meier is presented with a team jersey after being selected as the number nine overall pick to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Timo Meier is presented with a team jersey after being selected as the number nine overall pick to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

We end our CHL playoff previews with the league containing the highest influence from the San Jose Sharks, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The QMJHL has a weird format compared to the other leagues as they don’t factor in divisions when deciding playoff matchups. They just have the best teams playing against the worst teams. So maybe the first round won’t be too much fun but this format makes for some exciting late-round matchups.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1) vs. Drummondville Voltiguers 

With Sharks top prospect Timo Meier playing on the top team in major junior hockey, that alone should get fans excited. Unfortunately, this first series will not be as exciting as the Huskies should sweep this series in three games. Nothing to see here, let’s move on.

Charlottetown Islanders vs. Rimouski Oceanic

Of all the series involving a Sharks prospect, this one is probably the least interesting. I mean, Sharks fans would love to see 2014 fourth-round pick Alexis Vanier turn into a competent defenseman, but his skating style is hard to watch at times. One look at Vanier will give Sharks fans memories (good and bad) of Douglas Murray during his days in teal.

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But I have no doubt that if Vanier can improve his skating, he has a ton of potential to reach the NHL; a risk the Sharks have always been willing to take. However, his skating hasn’t improved enough to warrant an entry-level contract thus far. With the amount of contracts being handed out lately, the chance of signing Vanier is waning away.

As a team, the Islanders are going to rely on Pittsburgh Penguins star Daniel Sprong to lead them on a long playoff run. He won’t be back next year so the Islanders need to take advantage of Sprong while he is on the team. Meanwhile, he will be joined by Filip Chlapik to form a formidable duo up front.

However, their first-round opponent is the defending champion Oceanic. Although like most teams at this level, after an appearance in the Memorial Cup, they are missing many of their stars. They do have their starting goalie returning in Louis-Philip Guindon who can steal a short series based on his experience. But there is the chance that Sprong will be too much to handle for the Oceanic which will lead the Islanders to the next round.

Either way, seeing how the defending champions play against one of the most dynamic players in junior should make for an interesting matchup.

Shawinigan Cataractes (12) vs. Sherbrooke Phoenix

Just like the 1-16 matchup described earlier, this 2-15 matchup should be over quickly. What will pique the interest of Sharks fans in this series is that both of these teams have a defenseman whose rights are owned by the team.

On the Cataractes, undrafted free agent Cavan Fitzgerald has been a pleasant surprise for the team after being acquired at the trade deadline. With his offensive production, many fans are starting to see him replace Vanier in the prospect pool. The offensive production from the blueline should be second to none from this team as Fitzgerald and Samuel Girard will strike fear in any team.

There is no doubt the Cataractes will wipe the floor with the Phoenix but the attention will still be focused on the favorite. After adding Fitzgerald and Dmytro Timashov, the Cataractes fired their head coach while leading their division. They still won their division but a move like that signals that management means business. Any finish that doesn’t result in an appearance in the QMJHL final will likely be viewed as a disappointment.

On the other side, Sharks top defensive prospect Jeremy Roy has played for the Phoenix this season. Or has he? His development curve has been one the Sharks have been watching closely and I’m not sure they are pleased. First of all, he has been injured for a good portion of the year and that will hurt any prospect. Also, while he has produced well offensively (in a very offensive role), the Phoenix have opted for Carl Neill to receive the majority of ice time over Roy.

To me this screams of an identical situation that Mirco Mueller experienced with the Everett Silvertips. While in a defensive role, Mueller failed to receive heavy amounts of ice time, a decision that was likely condemned by the Sharks. As a result, Mueller was called up to the NHL prematurely which stunted his development. I have to think the Sharks are frowning on the situation with Roy as well.

Roy is still injured and won’t be participating in this series. But I hope he has a good summer, because I can foresee a situation where he makes the Sharks 2016-17 roster just so the organization can get him out of major junior. I think such a scenario would be unlikely but doing so would be a poor decision.

Next: Sharks WHL Playoff Preview

While he is offensively brilliant, Roy doesn’t have the strength needed to compete in the NHL right now and could use another year of development in the QMJHL. At this point, the ideal situation looks like a contending team rather than an expansion team.

On the bright side if Roy can return from injury soon, he could get some experience playing with the San Jose Barracuda. That will provide a litmus test as to where Roy is in his development. But until then, the offseason and 2016-17 season for Jeremy Roy might be the most interesting case in the Sharks organization.