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Scouting the 2012 draft class: Audette 'easy choice for No. 1'

The 2012 QMJHL draft class is following in some pretty big footsteps.

While there are plenty of quality players up for grabs in Saturday’s annual draft in Quebec City, this year’s crop comes after a star-studded 2011 class that featured the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Zach Fucale, Adam Erne, Anthony Duclair and Jeremy Gregoire, among others.

So can it measure up?

Time will tell, but even QMJHL director of scouting Pierre Leduc conceded “last year was a little bit better,” perhaps understating the situation. He also noted that many of the prospects ranked in the first round probably aren’t ready to step right into the league as 16-year-olds.

Following is a look at the draft’s top prospects according to Central Scouting, with comments from Leduc:

1. Daniel Audette, C, 5-7, 166, Esther-Blondin (Que.), 39-25-35-60. The son of ex-NHLer Donald Audette piled up 60 points in 39 games and separated himself from the rest of the pack, according to Leduc. “He’s the most talented player in the draft,” Leduc said. “When you want a goal on the power play or at the end of the game, this is the guy you want. He’s the easy choice for No. 1.”

2. Clark Bishop, W, 5-11, 170, Pennecon (N.L.), 23-18-20-38. Leduc describes Bishop as a solid two-way forward with excellent work ethic. “He’s explosive (as a skater) and he loves to hit,” Leduc said. “He can play at both ends of the ice and he has good ability with and without the puck.”

3. Alexis Pepin, W, 6-2, 196, Charles-Lemoyne (Que.), 38-22-18-40. Pepin is one of the biggest first-round prospects and plays a pro-style game according to Leduc. But he isn’t a natural scorer, Leduc said, despite a 22-goal campaign “He loves to finish his checks, he’s a good skater and he’s an intense player who likes to be involved on the forecheck,” Leduc said.

4. Loik Leveille, D, 5-11, 199, St-Eustache (Que.), 42-10-29-39. Although he’s not particularly strong in his the defensive zone according to Leduc, he led all Quebec midget AAA defencemen in scoring this past season. “He’s a power-play guy and he’s known for his physical game,” Leduc said. “He’s very strong with solid stature and he uses his (strength) in front of the net and in the corners.”

5. Alexandre Carrier, D, 5-10, 165, Antoine-Girouard (Que.), 40-5-25-30. Although he needs to get a lot stronger, he’s the best two-way defenceman in the draft, according to Leduc. “He’s very calm with or without the puck, good anticipation, good first passes, rarely puts himself in trouble with his decisions,” Leduc said. “He’s the most intelligent defenceman in the draft, both ways.”

6. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, W, 5-10, 175, Antoine-Girouard (Que.), 41-11-13-24. Many considered Aube-Kubel one of the most improved players in the draft throughout the season. “A natural, fluid and explosive skater with good hands,” says the QMJHL scouting report. “He is a tireless worker along the boards … He has the assets to be an important player with a major junior team.”

7. Mason McDonald, G, 6-2, 175, Halifax (N.S.), 14-1, 2.01 GAA, .916 Sv%. An imposing presence in the net and a goaltender who likes to move the puck, McDonald is the top-ranked puck-stopper in the draft. “If Mason goes early, we’ll see (15th-ranked Keven) Bouchard go maybe two, three picks after,” Leduc said. “The teams that need a goaltender this year, they need to act fast.”

8. Anthony DeLuca, W, 5-8, 198, Lac-St. Louis (Que.), 43-48-32-80. DeLuca, who was ranked seventh overall last year but wasn’t selected because of the threat he would play NCAA, started the season on a line with Jonathan Drouin and led the Quebec midget AAA league in scoring. He’s a goal-scorer with a good shot and “will be an important offensive asset for a team,” according to his QMJHL scouting report.

9. Cody Donaghey, D, 6-0, 178, St. John’s (N.L.), 17-5-11-16. His scouting report says he needs to be more physical, but he’s a defenceman with “much offensive potential. He handles the puck well, has a very good first pass, is a good skater and has the abilities to (play on) the power play.”

10. Lucas Batt, 5-11, 179, Notre Dame (Sask.), 42-15-23-38. He’s the third Newfoundlander ranked in the top 10 this year along with Bishop and Donaghey. “His primary quality resides in his intensity each shift through his work ethic and determination,” his scouting report reads. “He likes to cause turnovers through his forechecking, his work in the corners and along the boards.”

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