Age can be a crucial factor in determining a player’s production in junior hockey. Most scouts will tell you that a 17-year-old who puts up 100 points in the CHL is an elite prospect while a 21-year-old who puts up 100 points is almost no prospect at all. But sometimes the general rule does not apply to a specific case.
This brings me to the case of Justin Bergeron. The Quebec defensemen was one of the youngest players in last year’s draft, born September 14th 2000. This means that he was eligible for the 2017 draft by just a matter of hours.
Originally drafted in the 4th round by Rouyn-Noranda in the 2016 QMJHL draft, Bergeron was one of the top defensemen in midget AAA, averaging over a point per game for the Magog Cantonniers.
Bergeron then exceeded expectations in his rookie year in the QMJHL, finishing 3rd in rookie scoring for a defensemen with 30 points on the QMJHL’s 7th best team.
Bergeron is a great skater with above average lateral agility and speed. He uses both of these abilities to his advantage offensively and on the power play. He makes good decisions with the puck and likes to rush the puck out of his own zone.
He manages all this despite both his limited role and ice time. Given the increased ice time Bergeron is sure to gain this year, you’ll likely see him play with more confidence and be more of a factor offensively.
Over the course of the season, Bergeron was not afraid to get pucks on net regularly, averaging over 2 shots per game last year despite his limited role. His wrist shot is good, it’s accurate, hard and he possesses a quick release.
His passing game is also very strong while his feeds are both hard as well as on target. Furthermore, his puck placement is excellent enough to orchestrate a teammate’s one timer’s.
Notwithstanding all his strengths, Bergeron does need to escalate his physical play as well as his defensive awareness, but his overall hockey IQ is very good and continues to improve. He rarely makes bad decisions when placed in the offensive zone.
Next season, Bergeron will play regularly on the top pairing as well as the first power play unit. This expanded ice time will certainly bring more exposure for Bergeron. Using that ice time to advantage will boost his confidence. Do not be surprised if Bergeron has a Sean Durzi type breakout season in his D+1 year.
Justin Bergeron already has 6 points in 5 QMJHL games this year. That ranks 1st among all defenseman in the QMJHL. Given that Justin Bergeron is an overager by just mere hours, it would make no sense that an NHL team would pass on him for a second consecutive year.
Drafting players is not an exact science but with overagers, you do have the opportunity to see them more than once. If he had been born hours later than he was, this would be his first eligible year and many teams would be looking at him for a second time. Ultimately logic suggests that they should look at him again now.