It’s not a law firm behind Val d’Or’s recent surge, but a trio of draft-eligible prospects led by likely first-rounder Anthony Mantha.
Since the Christmas break, the Foreurs have put together a 9-4-0 record, a breakout that wasn’t entirely unexpected.
After experiencing some difficulties early on, the team started to play better hockey in early November and appeared poised to take a big step forward in the second half.
Mantha scored another pair of goals last night in a 6-5 shootout win over Blainville-Boisbriand to reach the 40 goal mark (in 48 games) and move into a tie with Sarnia’s Reid Boucher as the CHL’s top goal scorer.
McKeen’s correspondent Rick Springhetti provides his observations on Mantha, Matt Murphy, and Vincent Dunn.
Anthony Mantha (RW, 2013), Val D’Or
Viewed as a big player with some offensive potential when drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 QMJHL Priority Selection .. started slowly as a rookie in 2011-12 before exploding after the Christmas break – a run that intensified this season .. given his rangy 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, he can be extremely difficult for opponents to contain when he attacks the net with authority .. a surprisingly fluid skater who generates excellent acceleration speed after his first start-up strides, which could use better quickness .. his turns are improving quickly .. boasts a great array of shots in the arsenal, his wristshot being especially impressive in terms of both accuracy and velocity .. does have a tendency to shoot the puck without first looking at passing option however, when he does try to get it to teammates, his passes are generally crisp .. uses his body well along the boards and in front of the net, but is not an overly aggressive player by nature .. exhibits the potential to be an effective player defensively due to his skating ability and long reach, yet still needs to work on his body positioning .. can have an especially difficult time defending against quicker players who hold on to the puck as he tends to chase rather than effectively close gaps.
Matt Murphy (D, 2013), Val D’Or
The Fredericton, N.B., native was drafted fifth overall by the Foreurs in the 2011 QMJHL Priority Selection .. quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff and is usually matched up against the opposition’s best players .. a smooth skater who can move comfortably in any direction .. his skating ability makes him effective in 1-on-1 situations .. capable of keeping solid gap control against opponents .. stays disciplined and focused when facing hard pressure in his zone .. could do a better job of using his stick to defend in his own zone as it would help him against stronger players .. can have a difficult time facing the more physical opponents .. tends to hold the puck and relies too much on his skating ability to get himself out of trouble – instead of opting for an easier decision .. able to gain the red line with the puck, yet will often resort to dumping it in deep as he doesn’t exhibit great vision as a puckmover .. would benefit from adding more velocity to his point shot as he can labour getting pucks to the net with regularity .. does possess many tools that scouts covet and therefore will likely earn a draft-day selection, albeit his upside may not be as high as some had initially believed just a year back.
Vincent Dunn (RW/C, 2013), Val D’Or
Among the youngest players eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, born just one day before the 9-15-95 cut-off date .. distinguishing himself as a real sparkplug for the Foreurs this season as he is willing to get his nose dirty and also quite capable of aggravating opponents .. missed a couple of games due to a racial comment made to a Mooseheads player .. possesses average skating speed .. his stride can be a little choppy – and his turns are not as balanced as they could be .. generally scores ugly goals as his shooting release is on the slower side .. shows minimal creativity in terms of his puck movement, although that is not really his game at all .. started out the season playing some games at the center position, however he had trouble winning face-offs with regularity and is now being used mainly on the wing where he has shown to be most effective working along the boards .. however, his work as a pivot is quite underrated and this versatility won’t be overlooked by NHL scouts .. displays a knack for cutting off passes as opponents break out of their zone, an attribute that comes to the fore when he is operating in the middle .. works hard in his own zone, winning many hard battles for the puck .. not afraid to block shots and will drop the gloves albeit is not really an enforcer type .. runs full-throttle on adrenaline most of the times, but will have to learn to better contain his emotions as he can go overboard at times.