MONTREAL — Nathan Gaucher entered the Belvedere of the Montreal Science Center on Wednesday morning, accompanied by his father Yannick and mother-in-law. His entourage will be much more impressive when he takes a seat in the stands of the Bell Center on Thursday evening.
The Richelieu native of Montreal’s South Shore expects to be surrounded by around sixty people during the first round of the National League draft.
“A lot of extended family, a lot of friends … everyone wants to come,” said the Quebec Remparts center player. It’s thirty minutes from home, it’s really not very far. That’s why it’s fun! »
The big question is how long all these beautiful people have to wait before they get up in unison and line up to hug the tall redhead. Gaucher, a versatile center player who is part of the Quebec Remparts, is considered Quebec’s best prospect this year. His palms should be getting sweaty and his heart should be beating a little faster, around 20e Rank. In the last third of the first round, most observers see him called to the stands by his future bosses.
“There are many teams at my disposal that love me. There are many things that can happen. It’s hard because you can’t expect anything. If you’re worried, it probably won’t happen. There are 32 teams and anything can happen so we do it and when I hear my name I’m super happy. »
It is possible that the team from his childhood is the one that frees him from his stage fright. The Canadian has a second right to speak in the first round, the 26the total choice. We also suspect that his general manager, Kent Hughes, wanted to capitalize on his many opportunities at the bench to improve his pick rank.
The idea of becoming the first first-round drafted Quebecer by the Habs since Louis Leblanc in 2009 doesn’t scare Gaucher.
“Yes, I am intrigued. With the 26 you are well positionede Choice, we won’t hide it. […] There are a lot of comments about how there is a lot of pressure, it can be difficult, but I think I’m handling that pressure well. I would jump in with my eyes closed. I’m playing hockey in the background. I like playing ice hockey and don’t want to put myself under any more pressure. »
Because the Remparts were still in the playoffs of the QMJHL at the time, Gaucher had to decline an invitation sent to him to attend the Best Prospect Evaluation Week in Buffalo in early June.
The scheduling conflict not only prevented him from taking the physical tests — “it could have done me good,” he regrets — but also prevented him from meeting with the team leaders, who usually take the opportunity to better their young targets get to know .
Gaucher had to make up for lost time in the weeks that followed with a series of virtual meetings. He’s had a lot: around 30 by his estimation, which means he’s spoken to virtually every band on the Bettman circuit.
Some of them have asked to see him in person again this week. His visit to the official consolation hotel, where the media event he had been invited to on Wednesday, made him realize it was really coming.
“It’s the first or second time I’ve seen guys like this, he’s reacting while Juraj Slafkovsky is right next door answering journalists’ questions. Guys going out first, second, third. I was at the hotel yesterday, you see polo shirts with the team logo everywhere, it’s great fun. It’s already tomorrow. We’ll try to rest tonight! »
It’s all heady, but the 6ft 3 behemoth admits he can’t wait to change the subject.
“It’s a fun year, you meet a lot of people, you improve at job interviews. But yeah, I can’t wait to get it over with and focus on winning the cup with the Remparts. These are times I’ve been looking forward to, but I can’t wait for that to be behind me. »
Gaucher is delighted with the return of Patrick Roy behind his youth team’s bench. After discussing the possibility of leaving his post at the end of the season, the 56-year-old coach confirmed this week that he wants to continue the adventure. The Remparts will again be among the favorite teams to win the President’s Cup in 2023.
“Looks like I have no doubts he’s coming back,” Gaucher said. He is passionate about hockey, he will finish his season with us. We want to go far and I’m really happy about his return. »
“He has a lot of experience, he always has goosebumps stories, series stories that he tells in the dressing room. He’s passionate, it’s great fun to learn from a coach like that. It’s motivating. »