MONTREAL — Xavier Simoneau calls them “the pros” as if he’d forgotten he’s one too now.
Drouin, Suzuki, Dauphin. They will be his training partners at the Bell Complex in Brossard throughout the summer. Among other things, Josh Anderson is said to be joining the group soon.
Simoneau, who has just signed his first professional hockey contract, was offered the keys to this fine club after defeating the Charlottetown Islanders in the QMJHL playoff finals, an elimination that marked the end of his junior career. He didn’t need to be asked to accept it.
“I really wanted to go there,” said the young hopeful of the Canadian on Tuesday. I can still get by [l’Outaouais] In the beginning there was the organization. But William Trudeau also trains with us and lives in Varennes, about 20 minutes away by car [de Brossard]. He was probably my best friend in Charlottetown, we get along really well so he takes me in and we travel together. I arrive at his house on Sunday evening and go back to my corner at the weekend. »
This valuable weekly routine is much more than an opportunity to stay in shape for the man who completed the Courteau Circuit with 275 points in 262 games. Meeting daily with established players in the National League means watching, saving, testing, failing and starting over until you inevitably improve. At least that’s how the combative attacker perceives it.
“I think it brings with it a lot of great opportunities. There’s something interesting about just seeing the boys train. The fitness trainers who also work with us at the professional level, if they are there, it is because they are good. I had to improve my speed and what’s fun is that the programs are personalized. They will run tests with me to improve certain aspects. This will be good for my off-ice development. But we only practice with pros, we do 1v1 fights, stuff like that. It can only help. »
Aside from perhaps Laurent Dauphin, Simoneau already knows he won’t be playing with his summer buddies next year. With an American League contract, rather than the coveted NHL rookie contract, the sixth-round pick arrives in the 2021 men’s draft. He is therefore not eligible for a recall to the National League for the coming year. But a good first season with the Laval Rocket helps dispel doubts and put the Canadians in the lead.
This is the path Rafaël Harvey-Pinard embarked upon just before him, going from a vague project to a legitimate contender for a place in Canada’s top-12 in just two years.
“I’m often told about it and it’s true that it’s not a false comparison. We are two players who look alike. Even though he’s taller, we’re a bit the same size. Like me, he was drafted at 19. In his freshman year he signed a contract in the American League. If he could, so can I. I follow in his footsteps. I’ll be back,” warns the 1.70 meter tall skater.
“Of course, as a hockey player, you always want to sign higher. But if you look at the hockey level, at the organizational level, it makes a lot more sense to them. And for me too! I’ll be 21, the chances would have been very slim that I would play for CH next year. And the club still has a year to sign me. »
Top scorer for the Drummondville Voltigeurs at 18 and 19, the only player who could match Joshua Roy’s blistering pace (1.80 points per game) when injuries kept him out of the stands last season, Simoneau is in danger of tarnishing Coming to terms with more modest circumstances, thankless defensive play and the occasional catwalk stunt in his transition to the pros.
Alongside the hard-hitting roster of veterans the Canadian may be looking to bring back to his school club, the Saint-André-Avellin pride will compete with other recruits such as second-round pick Jan Mysak and Sweden’s Emil Heineman.
“I don’t have too many expectations. I come as a rookie player who needs to make his place. I started juniors at the age of 16 and had to make my place there. It’s the same except I went pro with bigger, older guys. But it’s hockey. I’m training hard this summer, I’ll arrive really ready. After that, it’s up to me to take my place in the team. »