QMJHL’s mandate has changed, Gilles Corto says

Jill Curteau: The development of NHL hockey has also affected the mentality of other leagues, such as the one he leads. The QMJHL Commissioner remembers when his circuit was formed 95 percent of Quebec’s population. But even if this ends, it does not mean that it is negative.

Fan concerns are felt every year during the NHL Draft. Often the number of Quebec players selected in the first round – or chosen at all – is lower compared to what is being done elsewhere in the Canadian Hockey League or even in the United States.

During the last 10 NHL drafts, 123 Quebecers who played for QMJHL were selected, an average of 12 per year. And the trend is not upward. Since 2016, just once, in 2018, QMJHL has surpassed this average. The League produced only 10 Quebecs in each of the last two NHL tournaments.

These numbers may sound very disconcerting, but they reflect QMJHL’s new mandates for several decades now, due to the expansion of the Maritimes and the arrival of many Europeans in North America. The league must now develop talent from around the world while allowing teams to compete.

QMHL on the NHL Project

  • 2016: 14 selected players
  • 2017: 14 selected players
  • 2018: 23 players have been selected
  • 2019: 18 selected players
  • 2020: 19 players have been selected

One of the demands of the NHL has been for us to add Europeans to the League. When we did the expansion at Maritimes, Corto said, we also made sure we had an exclusivity from the players developed there. I don’t just focus QMJHL on Quebec. It is now part of the reality of hockey. Our goal is to find around 400 players, no matter where they come from, in order to put on a good show and get the best players on the ice.

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Under the tutelage of Corto, who became president in 1986, QMJHL saw eight of its players being claimed first in the NHL draft.

Alexis Lafrenière (center) is the third Rimouski Océanic player to be selected at Tier 1 since 1998.

Photo: Getty Images / Mike Stobe

Alexis Lafrenière also put an end to a 17-year famine without Quebecers – that is, since Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003 – when New York City guards set their sights on him last October. Sydney Crosby (2005), Nathan MacKinnon (2013) and Niko Hescher (2017) have followed each other in the meantime.

Corto is not worried about these stats, but rather he insists on the fact that the league is taking advantage of these choices, whether the players are from Quebecers, Canadians or Europeans.

To see Alexis Lavriniere formulated first, it would be as rewarding for me and the league as it was when it was for Sydney Crosby or Nathan MacKinnon.

Gail Corto, QMJHL Commissioner

I am also happy to see former European QMJHL players perform at a high level in the NHL. It gives me great pleasure to see Nikolai Eilers with Winnipeg Jets as Pierre-Luc Dubois or Matteo Perrault admitted. I watch a guy like Jakub Voracek, with the Philadelphia Flyers, he’s totally an NHL player and he’s also been with us.

Hockey and Scale Studies

We often hear that Quebec hockey is in decline, in favor of more summer sports like soccer, baseball or basketball. Rather, Corto sees it as a change in county hockey practices.

Besides performance, hockey’s access to schools adds an additional option for parenting players and also brings studies to the fore, a component developed by Courteau at QMJHL that is particularly close to its heart.

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He explained this as another structure available to an athlete wanting to play hockey. When you know, as a parent, that your child is going to school, that he will train on the premises, use the school bus to get around and play hockey on the weekends, these are important things to do.

On our part, we have also focused on the school by implementing a scholarship program and compulsory attendance at the school.

Gail Corto, QMJHL Commissioner

Curto does not hesitate to say, however, that QMJHL is always open to collaborating with Hockey Quebec and other organizations at Maritimes in order to develop and improve talent and offer more opportunities to players who hope to achieve the most high standards.

The graph shows that the amounts awarded in scholarships to QMJHL players practically doubled between 2013 and 2020.

The amounts awarded in scholarships to QMJHL players practically doubled between 2013 and 2020.

Photo: Radio Canada / Louise Dougway

When requested, the association participates in various seminars, symposia or courses in the four provinces where we have exclusive rights. I would say QMJHL collaborates a lot, he added.

Although there are around 30 Quebecers regular in the NHL this season, the future looks rather bright with more than half of them being 27 years old or younger. The province now hopes that young Quebec hockey players breathe new life into the ranks of young Quebec hockey players, Lavrinier, Dubois, Pierre Olivier Joseph, Samuel Pauline, Jacob Pelletier and Hendrix Lapierre.

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