David Noel. Photo courtesy of the QMJHL

Hard shooting defender David Noel is off to a strong start with Val D'or on pace to surpass last seasons output and is one goal shy of last years eight with seven in 10 less games. Mike Sanderson provides a detailed report on his progress early in the season. Arnaud Durandeau faces a season with last years running mate Nico Hischier. Playing once again on the top line at even strength with top 2018 draft prospects Filip Zadina and Benoît-Olivier Groulx, Sanderson breaks down his game early in the season.

A note on the 20-80 scale used below. We look at five attributes (skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ and physicality) for skaters and six for goalies (athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling). Each individual attribute is graded along the 20-80 scales, which includes half-grades. The idea is that a projection of 50 in a given attribute meant that our observer believed that the player could get to roughly NHL average at that attribute at maturity.David Noël

David Noël 2017 Draft (130th - St. Louis Blues)
Position: D, Shoots L H/W: 6-1", 175 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (18-7-11-18-6)
David Noel. Photo courtesy of the QMJHL

David Noel. Photo courtesy of the QMJHL

Skating: Noël’s skating is good, not great. He will not wow anyone with his movement, but he also is not an anchor on defence. He likes to start the rush behind his own net and move the breakout along, and he is a capable defender at doing that. As long as he keeps his gaps appropriate, and he can anticipate the speed of the oncoming forward, his speed is decent enough to get by. He will need to work on it at the higher levels. Grade: 50

Shot: Noël has an absolute cannon from the point. He can fire it from all parts of the point and make it hard for the goalie to stop, and he can use it as a decoy to open up teammates, or as a pass off the end boards out to the front of the net. He can also fire off a one-timer on the power play or off the rush as a trailer with effectiveness. Rarely, Noël can break in and let go a good wrist shot, opting to go with the slapper when he has the time to unload it. Grade: 55

Skills: Can make a solid first pass out of the zone or feed a teammate in the offensive zone effectively. His puck control is average. His puck play is more of a power game, as he is more of a North-South player. He plays better with the puck if the players are stationary, such as in the offensive zone, than in transition. Grade: 50

Smarts: Noël can run a point on a power play with relative ease. He also shows a good knack of when to join the rush and when to hang back. He also has an effective safety valve on his pairing with David Henley, who has a solid grasp of reading his partner’s tendencies. Noël has a tendency of holding onto the puck a little too long, and it can get him in trouble. Defensively, he is adequate at reading the play and setting the appropriate gaps, but can get burned by speedy forwards or lose his check in front from time to time. Grade: 45

Physicality: Strong and uses that leverage to his own benefit, but he is not a bruiser. He is a defenceman who grew early in his development, and was 6-0” in midget, which made him a physical player at that level, but his size is not imposing at this level. He is a decent penalty killer but can lose battles in front to stronger and bigger forwards. He will need to get stronger to improve in this department. He has had one career QMJHL fight. Grade: 45

Summary: The trade of David Noël from Chicoutimi to Val-d’Or allowed the defenceman’s offensive game to blossom with more ice-time. He is now a fixture on the top powerplay unit of the Foreurs, and runs the unit from the point. Seven goals in his first 17 games of the season is nothing to shake a stick at, including five markers on the power play. He has a solid, stable partner at even strength in captain David Henley, who has provided the yin to Noël’s yang in terms of offensive and defensive play. Noël’s shot from the point is a bullet, and it will be his ticket to the pros. What development he has beyond that will be what takes him further.

Overall Future Projection (OFP): 48.5

Arnaud Durandeau 2017 Draft (165th - New York Islanders)
Position: LW, Shoots L H/W: 5-11", 185 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (18-5-10-15-12)

Skating: Durandeau’s skating stride is both very shifty and very fast. He seemingly floats above the ice and can turn very quickly. He also possesses good breakaway speed that lets him create separation when it is needed off the rush, which was not present in midget and he has developed well in Halifax. His skating, paired with his anticipation, is one of his best assets. Grade: 55

Shot: Durandeau’s shot coming into the Q was his greatest weapon, but his game has changed a bit at the junior level. He loves to curl off the boards on either wing and let a shot go from the circle at about 30 feet out, and he can score consistently off those shots. He was a big scorer in midget but his shot has not progressed as far as one would hope. He is still a threat to score on the rush and from the circles on the power play, but he scores more goals from in front of the goalmouth. Grade: 50

Skills: Plays very well with linemates who are also offensively-minded, and his hockey sense with the puck is excellent. He is a threat constantly with the puck on his stick. He finds teammates well and can hit them in stride with the pass, which keeps defenders honest about his game. His stickhandling in traffic is strong and his moves on the rush give him good separation and space. He shows good poise to know when the seams open up, and when to pounce on an unsuspecting defender. Grade: 50

Smarts: Durandeau’s game is offensive, and his anticipation is a big part of his game. He loves to hang out around the net and wait for rebounds to pounce, or play the tip. He is as much at home on the half-wall as he is in front of the net, and both his shot and pass are threats, which optimizes his talent, since the defenders cannot anticipate one or the other. Without the puck though, his game needs work. He can be invisible for stretches when the puck is in the defensive zone. Very much an offense-first player. Grade: 50

Physicality: Finesse player who looks smaller than his size is listed. He makes his living, usually, in front of the net, and takes that punishment as needed, but he is not a threat for delivering a big hit or being all that gritty in the corners. Grade: 45

Summary: Arnaud Durandeau is right in the mix of Halifax’s top-6 forward group, which includes top 2018 draft prospects Filip Zadina and Benoît-Olivier Groulx, as well as newly-signed with the Blue Jackets Maxime Fortier. Durandeau has played most of his even strength minutes with Groulx and Fortier, on a line that has been a very effective top line for Jim Midgley and has played a lot in the final minutes of games. In a lot of ways, he is like a Filip Zadina-lite. Their skating strides are the same style and their offensive zone instincts are similar, though Zadina has more talent. A former seventh-overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft, Durandeau could have a home in the pro ranks if he bulks up to take the punishment from bigger blueliners, or continues his skating development to outskate them. Ideally, both would happen to optimize his chances in the pro game.

Overall Future Projection (OFP): 50.75

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