In hockey, it's easy to find lots of parallels if you want to go looking for them.
Seven years ago, a highly touted French Canadian goaltender led a slightly overmatched team to a QMJHL championship and an appearance in the Memorial Cup, picking up a Guy LaFleur Trophy for Playoff MVP along the way.
This season, while not exactly the sort of "pedigree" goaltender Bernier was, another French-Canadian goaltender joined the Val d'Or Foreurs mid-way through the season from Charlottetown, and simply sparkled in the playoffs, leading an often overmatched side to rely on his heroics, and leading gunner Anthony Mantha to provide the offence, and that forumla worked all the way to the semi-finals of the Memorial Cup this past spring in London.
That player, of course, was Maple Leafs draft pick Antoine Bibeau, who has used that stellar performance to springboard into our rankings this season, landing at #23.
|Victoriaville, QC, CAN
|188 cm / 6'2"
|95 kg / 209 lbs
|2013 round 6 #172 overall by Toronto Maple Leafs
To see the parallels between this Val d'Or side and the previous season's Maple Leafs is almost a little eerie, as the Foreurs were frequently outshot badly and relied almost exclusively on the offence from Mantha and his linemates, and Bibeau to close the door.
Watching him play, there's many similarities to Bernier; athletic, strong positioning, good reflexes, all the usual tools you'd look for in a goaltender, especially a French-Canadian butterfly goalie. Bibeau's a bit of a late bloomer, and didn't really establish himself as a top QMJHL goaltender until his 19 year-old season (passed over in his first year of eligibility, the Leafs selected him in the 6th round in 2013).
The question with Bibeau now, is "what's next?" Bibeau has turned 20, so while he could return to Val d'Or, I do wonder whether that is in his best interests. After all, the Val d'Or team he would return to will be rebuilding following its championship, with Mantha, and a few other of its best offensive weapons moving on. Best case scenario, Bibeau treads water in the Q for part of the year before getting traded to a contender that has a need for a top goaltender AND has room to add a 20 year old.
However, Bibeau signed an Entry Level Contract this season, and as a 20-year old can move on to the professional ranks.With Drew McIntyre having moved on to Carolina, the Leafs depth chart below the NHL has opportunities available. The Leafs have three young goalies in their system (Bibeau, Christopher Gibson and Garret Sparks) that will likely platoon in some fashion the two roles on the Marlies, and the 5th string goalie spot on Orlando in the ECHL. Bibeau could make the move following the same path as Sparks and James Reimer, spending his first season as a pro soaking up game action at the next level in the ECHL, while possibly getting a spot of action here and there in the AHL.
We've made our positions on trying to rank goaltenders pretty clear in the past, that goalies are voodoo. So it's not really surprising that four people still haven't placed him in their top 25, up from two that just squeezed him in last season (although most everybody did move him up into the Honourable Mention stage of their list).
While I think Bibeau had a pretty strong campaign as far as QMJHL numbers go, and he certainly deserves a bump, landing this high is as much about the lack of talent I see in the bottom of the Leafs prospect pool. - clrkaitken
Bibeau's numbers still haven't blown me away, and the results from the playoffs are encouraging, but we're smart enough not to think just those few games are important enough to change our whole opinion. - JP Nikota
Entry into this year's list came down to four people with very similar point totals; one person just missed the final list by a couple of points, then Dominic Toninato, Brandon Kozun and Antoine Bibeau were each separated on the list by just one point, resulting in an 11-place increase over last summer.