Sean Couturier, in his 2nd year in the QMJHL, too young to be NHL-drafted, lead the 2009-10 Q in scoring with 68GP, 41-55-96 while playing on the high-scoring Drummondville Voltigeurs. The following season, which just passed, saw him "level off" in production as he posted 36-60-96 in 58 games, which projects to a full 70-game season of 43-73-116. Some add'l context: he played through mononucleosis, played in the U20 WJC (only draft-eligible player on team), his Voltigeurs scored 56 less goals this time around, and he played against kids at 6'4 190lbs.
Now I ask myself, "Self, what does roughly two 40 goal, 1oo point seasons on a non-stacked QMJHL team by an oversized 17-18 y/o mean for the NHL?" I looked as far back as the 2003 draft for any Q forwards of note for context.
Sidney Crosby is a generational talent, regardless of which junior league he played in. Besides him, what forwards of note have come out of the QMJHL since 2003? Let's start with 2006 and Claude Giroux.
As a rookie in the Q in 05-06, Claude led his avg-offense Gatineau Olympiques in scoring in 69GP with 39-64-103, good for 11th in the league. Yet he was the 3rd QMJHL forward taken in the NHL 2006 draft at #22.
Ahead of him at #6 was Derick Brassard, similar in size (Giroux 5'11 169, Brassard 6'0 175) with better numbers in less games (58GP, 44-72-116) in his third Q year on the above-avg-scoring Drummondville Voltigeurs. His draft year saw a 40 point improvement from the previous year, but post-draft he only played 14 games due to a shoulder injury (6-19-25). If not for shoulder surgeries the year after his draft year AND 2009, Brassard might already have been a star in the NHL. Instead he's an inconsistent center for the Blue Jackets.
Also ahead of Giroux at #9 was James Sheppard, a much bigger center at 6'2 200, but worse numbers (66GP, 30-54-84) in his 2nd year on the low-scoring Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. His draft year saw him jump from 14 to 30 goals and 31 to 54 assists. However, his 3rd year saw him slightly improve/level off with ten less games but 12 more points (56GP, 33-63-96) on a high-scoring 06-07 Eagles team. He's now an inconsistent center/winger for the Wild. I don't know why Sheppard was drafted so high, but I'll assume they were enamored by his size.
Getting back to Giroux, his post-draft season saw him score 9 more goals in 6 less games on a high-scoring Olympiques team, finishing 4th in points in Q (63GP, 48-64-112). The season after that, his 3rd and last in the Q, saw him level off in production (55GP, 38-68-106) and finish 2nd in Q scoring on another high-scoring team.
Giroux's Q point totals are similar to Couturier's, with some contextual differences. Couturier excelled the year prior to his draft year, while Giroux's rookie year WAS his draft year. Also, some might argue that Couturier's imposing 6'4 frame helped him score against kids, and may not help him as much against bigger NHL players.
Let's look at some other Q forwards drafted in the NHL's 1st round:
In 2003 only 2 Q forwards were drafted in 1st round:
#16 Steve Bernier, 71GP, 49-52-101 on avg-scoring team.
#22 M.A. Pouliot, 65GP, 32-41-73 on low-scoring team.
Bernier never matched those numbers, while Pouliot had a high-scoring season (70 GP, 45-69-114) two years later on Crosby's team. Both are now NHL depth players. Also of note: Patrice Bergeron drafted #45 from QMJHL (70 GP, 23-50-73, only season in Q).
In 2004 there was only 1 Q forward drafted in the 1st:
#8 Alexander Picard, (now 6'2 206), 69GP, 39-41-80 on avg-scoring team.
Picard produced similar #s the year after, but is now stuck in AHL with 0 NHL goals in 67 games.
In 2005 there were 3 Q forwards drafted in 1st round:
#13 Marek Zagrapan, 5'10 158, 59GP, 32-50-82 on above-avg-scoring team.
#16 Alex Bourret, 5'10 (now 205lbs.), 65 GP, 31-55-86 on avg-scoring team.
Zagrapan produced similar #s the year after, and now plays overseas. Bourret improved to 44-70-114 post-draft on a high-scoring team, but his success didn't translate to the AHL and now plays in ECHL.
2007 saw 4 Q forwards taken in the first draft round:
#7 Jakub Voracek, 6'1 188, 59GP, 23-63-86 on avg-scoring team.
#19 Logan MacMillan, 6'1 183, 68GP, 20-35-55 on avg-scoring team.
#20 Angelo Esposito, 6'1 180, 60GP, 27-52-79 on above-avg-scoring team.
#26 David Perron, 6'0 185, 70GP, 39-44-83 on above-avg-scoring team.
MacMillan & Espo never matched those okay-ish #s and are struggling in the AHL, while Voracek (post-draft year 53GP, 33-68-101, abv-avg-scoring Q team) and obviously Perron look promising.
2008 and 2010 NHL drafts had no Q players taken in round 1, while 2 Q forwards were drafted late-1st round in 2009.
In summation, notwithstanding Crosby and his generational talent, I was shocked to discover how few QMJHL forwards have been drafted in the 1st round since 2003, and even more shocked with how few of them have had NHL success after posting great numbers in juniors (Giroux, almost-Perron, Voracek).
Regarding Sean Couturier, none of the players listed here were nearly as tall as Couturier when drafted. I think his oversized frame hurts Couturier's NHL projection. Also, 96 points in 58 games the year after your breakout year, when your body has already started maturing, isn't as impressive as I once thought. I feel, at that size, he should have DOMINATED to the tune of 50-60 goals and 110-130 points, but then you have the "played thru mono" factor. I haven't dissected the OHL and WHL yet, but I now feel that, since 2003, success in the Q rarely translates to success in the NHL. Sean Couturier might be a great NHL player, or he might be James Sheppard/Alex Bourret/Steve Bernier.