EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers gathered a number of experiences with their draft picks at the World Junior tournament.
By Darnell Nurse, a top D man in Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who was named a shutdown defender in 2015 and ran away with a template and a gold medal. Jesse Puljujarvi, whom she designed with 17 points in seven games a few months after his appointment to the MVP tournament.
You won some and you lost (so far) some.
When Raphael Lavoie was a striker in the second round last December in the Czech Republic, Howers Director of Player Development, Scott Howson, sat back and watched like a good scout.
“Raphael came to the World Juniors and had a different role. But he seemed to take on the role and earned the coach's trust, ”said Howson, who will leave the Oilers and take up his new job as American Hockey League commissioner in the spring. "He could have been one of those who somehow get lost in the shuffle and don't play much, but he played to the end. I know he didn't hit or produce as much as he might want (just two templates in seven games), but we were happy with what we saw. "
We have heard history at all levels when it comes to Canada's national teams. Literally every invited player is the star of their club team. They're all first-liners, top defenders, and # 1 goalkeeper – but if you pull that red maple leaf, they're just Team Canada members.
"My ultimate goal was to win, so I didn't mind taking a defensive role if it could mean that we would have a gold medal in the end," said Lavoie from his home in Chambly, Que. "I think I made the right choice. I was not the only one to play a more defensive role. Everyone put their egos aside and I think that's why we won the tournament. "
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Lavoie is a large center / right wing with a nasty shot that takes the form of Ryan Getzlaf. "I haven't scored a goal in the NHL yet," he laughs in comparison, but he wants to play along the lines of the big Anaheim center. In the Czech Republic, however, he was in the fourth row with Connor McMichael (Washington) and Akil Thomas (Los Angeles), who was tasked with playing a defensive game and getting in where they could – which Thomas did tremendously when he did the game shed -. Gold medal winner.
"He needs to learn how to do all of these things consistently to pay in the NHL," said Howson of Lavoie, who weighs six feet four and 198 pounds at age 19. He signed his entry-level contract with the Oilers over the weekend – a three-year contract with an average annual value of $ 925,000 – after being selected in the 2019 draft in the second round (38th in total).
"He has to test hard, be reliable," continued Howson. "He's got a great shot. He's a one-shot scorer who only needs one chance. His pace is not always great, as is the case with many of the top juniors because they play so much that they can rest on the ice most of the time, and there was no rest on the ice with the World Juniors.
“I think it brought us up. Now we know that he can do these things if he becomes a professional. "
"It shows another aspect of how I can play hockey," Lavoie added. "That is good for me."
Lavoie was transferred from Halifax to Chicoutimi when the Sagueneens expected a Memorial Cup run this spring. With Monday's news that the rest of the Canadian Hockey League season has been officially canceled, his next stop at Bakersfield will be the American Hockey League
"Boys are much taller," said Lavoie. "It is much more physical and much harder than junior. These are big parts of the adjustments that I have to make."
The Lavoie book states that he has to work on his skating, a line in the scouting reports that is overused in today's game, where everyone skates at NHL level so quickly. As such, Lavoie worked with Oilers Skating trainer David Pelletier, the former three-time Canadian champion and Olympic figure skater with a gold medal.
"Leg strength, nuclear strength, strength," Howson began. "He is a good skater in junior – there is nothing wrong with his step. It is only strength and strength. He has to become a little more powerful. He has to separate himself from people, because if you are a professional, it is about time and Gaining space for you to do plays or shoot a shot. His separation isn't what it needs to be when he's in the NHL. "
What does Pelletier emphasize when he climbs on the ice with Lavoie?
"Edges, crossovers, steps, starts … There's room for improvement almost everywhere," smiles Lavoie. “I drive well for juniors. I can handle boys, I can overtake boys. But I want to be able to take my skating to a professional level. Everything has to get better because next year I'm not going to play against boys who are 16-19 years old. I will play against boys who are 20 years and older.
"Everything just has to be better."