The run on defensemen continues today at #19 with Jérémie Blain, the Oilers 4th round pick (#91) in 2010. Blain leads 2011's 4th-round pick (#92) Dillon Simpson by two spots in our voting, but has risen through the rankings since debuting at #27 in the summer of 2010. Blain was #25 in the winter of 2011, and his strong play in 2010-2011 vaulted him into the top 20 in the midst of a small group of defensemen.
Jonathan likes him more than anyone in the bunch, but Bruce, Scott and myself are not so far behind in ranking Blain in the top 20 as well. Unlike Simpson, Blain was not ranked in the top 25 by our entire panel, thanks to Ben's #30 ranking.
When I spoke to The Scouting Report's Alex Arsenault, he gave us some insight on Blain's game from a scout's perspective:
Blain is an all around defenseman. He makes a very good first pass out of the zone which helps his team on the counter attack. The Titan are a good counter attacking team and Blain gets quite a few assists off of those passes out of the zone...
He has a good active stick to try and block the passing lanes but I would still like to see him use his size to clear the front of the net a bit more...
One thing I liked is that he puts a lot of pucks towards the net. They are low chance shots but very effective for rebounds and deflections because he has a nice wrist shot. In his most recent game he had 3 shots that were nearly deflected in for a goal. Blain has realized that a big booming slap shot isn’t always the most effective way to get the puck to the net...
Blain's return to the Titan lineup after recovering from a foot injury came with a boom. Below is a table of traditional stats for the Titan defense that shows just how important Blain was to the Titan:
He was a +17 in 40 games, bested only by 19-year old Daniel Tanel who was +24 in 65 games. A full season probably would have Blain well in front of Tanel in +/-. His .93 P/G are an outstanding number - that's 66 points over a full season, and though most of them were assists, he's still an outstanding offensive defenseman. He lapped the Acadie-Bathurst field in points per game. The impact Blain had on the TItan is obvious when looking at his splits:
|During Blain's injury
His presence meant half of a goal in goal differential!
Blain is not a scorer, nor even a shooter - he ranked 61st among QMJHL defensemen in dangerous shots - he boosts the offense with his biggest weapon, his first pass. As Arsenault said and Blain's assist totals confirm, he's an excellent passer, averaging nearly an assist per game. Oilers' fans may be disappointed to learn Blain isn't a heavy hitter - he was last on the Titan in hits per game - but he's good positionally and understands passing and shooting lanes, much like Jay Bouwmeester.
Blain has, at the very least, covered his draft position bet thus far. He has one season left to play in the QMJHL and he should be a force in 2011-12. A dominant season would push Blain into the upper echelon of Oilers' prospects and give the organization yet another chance to produce a top four defenseman from a group of late-round picks over the last four years.