For years, the Saint John Sea Dogs have lorded over the league’s draft lottery, whether or not the team was actually bad. But with Gatineau holding the best odds on three different slots, the Sea Dogs had their toughest challenge yet in 2020.
Joseph Veleno (photo by Vincent Éthier/QMJHL Media)|The Hockey News
One of the most surreal subplots in junior hockey came to a halt today, as the Saint John Sea Dogs did not win the QMJHL draft lottery. This may not seem like news, but in the franchise’s short history, Saint John had won the No. 1 pick overall a stunning six times out of a possible seven. Taylor Hall ain’t got nothing on the Sea Dogs.
As an expansion team back in 2005, the Sea Dogs won the right to pick first over their newbie cousins, the St. John’s Fog Devils. Saint John selected defenseman Alex Grant. One year later, the Sea Dogs won the right to pick first again, taking another blueliner in Yann Sauve. They made it three in a row the next season, grabbing D-man Simon Despres.
Over the years, the Sea Dogs would become a player in the league, culminating in a 2011 championship season that saw the team win the Memorial Cup in Mississauga. That team was led by future NHLers such as Despres, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Jurco and Nathan Beaulieu. After that, the franchise continued to win lotteries, including last year when Saint John’s odds were only five percent: they had one ball in the lottery hopper and the pick originally belonged to Blainville-Boisbriand; the Sea Dogs nabbed it in a trade.
Saint John’s best win came in 2015, when a trade with Drummondville got the Sea Dogs into a two-horse lottery with actual bottom-dweller Acadie-Bathurst. Saint John won again (they won in 2014 as well), giving the Sea Dogs the right to draft Joe Veleno, the first player ever granted Exceptional Status to join the ‘Q’ a year early. Veleno eventually became an NHL first-rounder as well and is now working his way up through the Detroit Red Wings system after helping Canada win gold at the world juniors this season.
Given all this history, there were a lot of excited and nervous QMJHL fans awaiting this year’s lottery. Once again Saint John had traded into the proceedings (this time with Halifax) and once again the odds were slim – just 9.5 percent. Making the hill even harder to climb was the fact the Gatineau Olympiques, thanks to some trades of their own, had the first-, second- and third-best odds to win it.
In the end, Saint John only moved up one spot, so Gatineau will pick first, second and fourth this year, while the Sea Dogs go third and Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts stay at No. 5.
The gem of the draft class is defenseman Tristan Luneau, a Drew Doughty-type of talent who played on the midget Trois-Rivieres Estacades and led the team’s blueline in scoring with 30 points in 37 games. Now, Luneau has already verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin (and just had his USHL draft rights snapped up by Sioux Falls) for the future, but he is apparently still open to the idea of playing major junior in the QMJHL.
The 2020 QMJHL draft will take place June 5th and 6th and will be conducted completely online.