It’s hard to believe that Maxime Comtois could fall so far as he has in the space of a single season. Once a presumptive top-five pick, Comtois’ star has fallen to that of a fringe first rounder.
A strong rookie season with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres put the wind into Comtois’ draft year sails. He came into the year drawing comparisons to Rick Nash at the high end and Pierre-Luc Dubois as a comparable on the low end. He was the preeminent power forward to watch in this year’s class.
All Comtois had to do was take even the slightest step forward to maintain his position among the top of the class. Hell, he probably could’ve stayed in that ballpark if he so much as plateaued. Instead, Comtois’ production rate plummeted. For these reasons, Comtois is the 28th ranked prospect in the Nation Network consensus rankings.
- Age: 18-years-old, 1999-01-08
- Birthplace: Longeuil, Quebec, Canada
- Position: LW
- Handedness: L
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 201 lbs
- Draft Year Team: Victoriaville Tigres
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Comtois has trended down this season after entering his draft year as a potential top-five pick. I’m left wanting for the “wow” in his game. He’s steady, and there are pro attributes in his skill set, but he isn’t going to take over a shift. For a guy standing at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, he’s a very good skater with an easy burst out of his stride. He competes for pucks, is good defensively and can get to the tough areas. There is certainly skill in his game, but it’s not of the high-end variety. He can make the odd play using his hands to create space, but he gets more chances with his speed and grit. That’s useful but not the type of player on whom a team is going to use a top-five pick. I keep him ranked this high due to his track record and belief in his tools, but I’d like to see more production.
A big-bodied, poised winger who is dependable in all zones…big, quick and skilled…can generate the speed to separate from defenders, and has the agility and balance to maintain possession in traffic…takes advantage of opponents’ mistakes…impressive smarts…makes proper decisions quickly and plays an up-tempo game…reads the play well, getting himself into solid position…plays a 200-foot game, competes hard, shows up every shift, and is willing and able to play physically…can deliver a strong check and separate opponents from the puck with his size…is a strong playmaker who can protect the puck with his strength and reach while reviewing his passing options…his forte though is his finishing as he has a lethal shot that is both hard and accurate…the kind of guy who leads by quiet example…smooth and effortless…a possible future top-line winger. (November 2016)
At about the same time last season when Dubois shot up like no one saw coming, Comtois was an entirely different player than Victoriaville thought they had. He’s a kid with a big body, pro size at almost six-foot-three, but those who had seen Comtois in midget AAA thought he didn’t have any physical aspect to his package.
“In ‘Victo,’ they asked him to play a more physical game, and he adapted. It took him a couple of months, but he really came around. He reminds me of Rick Nash at the same age, although he’s ahead of where Nash was as a skater. Blake Wheeler is another comparable, although Wheeler progressed a lot more after he was drafted and when he was in the league. I’m not convinced he’s a first-line guy [in the NHL] just yet—I’m on the conservative side, and I’d have to see him sustain for the entire season.”
This season did more to change the type of player I see Comtois developing into than how I view his likelihood of transitioning to professional hockey. I think we can put to rest the notion that Comtois is the next towering forward to come from the QMJHL. His chances of making the NHL entirely? That’s a different story.
Comtois’ production might not reflect as much, but the same skills that first caught the scouting community’s attention are ever present. Comtois can really fly, and not just for a player his size — the guy has wheels. He’s a physical player with an edge, and he uses his speed to bring that physicality to bear on opposition defenders. A dogged forechecker who wins more than his fair share of 50/50 puck battles. All these skills make Comtois a beast from below the hash marks, and an absolute nuisance for opposition defenders.
It’s Comtois’ ability to read the game which most impresses me though. He’s a really intelligent player in all three zones of the ice. His defensive positioning is great, and he was a first unit penalty killer for the Tigres this season.
When I look at Comtois’ production and skills, I see a well-rounded two-way forward that contributes from the middle of a lineup. There’s value in having those guys, especially when they’re cost controlled. That’s why — upside be damned — I think it’s reasonable that we have Comtois at the back-end of the first round.
When we view Comtois’ draft season through the pGPS lens, about nine percent of players in his cohort develop into full-time NHL’ers. That rate is, admittedly, more in line with a fourth or fifth round pick than the back-half of the first. The expected points per 82 games of his cohort is 44.3, which I guess makes up for that fact. The pGPS line assignment for Comtois is as a bottom-six forward.
The obvious hope for whichever team uses a pick on Comtois is that he recaptures the form he showcased last season. I’m unconvinced of that as a possibility, but that kind of potential upside is usually worth the price of admission. That’s why Comtois is our 28th ranked prospect.