MONTREAL – Xavier Simoneau calls them “the professionals”, as if he forgets that he is now too.
Drouin, Suzuki, Delfino. They will be his training companions throughout the summer at the Bell Complex in Brossard. Josh Anderson, among others, is also expected to join the group soon.
Simoneau, who has just signed his first professional hockey contract, was offered the keys to this selected club following the Charlottetown Islanders’ defeat in the QMJHL playoff final, an elimination that marked the end of his junior career. . There was no need to be asked to accept them.
“I really, really wanted to go there, the Canadian’s young hope insisted on Tuesday. I still come from [l’Outaouais] So in the beginning it was the organization. But William Trudeau also trains with us and lives in Varennes, about 20 minutes by car [de Brossard]. He was probably my best boyfriend in Charlottetown, we get along very well, so he hosts me and we travel together. I arrive at his house on Sunday evenings and on weekends I go back to my corner. “
This valuable weekly routine is more than just a keep fit opportunity for the man who graduated from the Courteau circuit with 275 points in 262 games. Teaming up with established National League players on a daily basis means observing, archiving, testing, failing and starting over until you inevitably improve. Either way, that’s how the fighting attacker perceives it.
“I think it comes with a lot of great opportunities. Just by seeing the guys train, there is something interesting about that. Even the physical trainers who work with us, on a professional level, if they are there, it is because they are good. I had to improve my speed and the funny thing is that the programs are customized. They will do some tests with me to improve some aspects. It will be fine for my development off the ice. But just by practicing with the pros, we do 1-on-1 battles, stuff like that. It might just help. “
Aside from perhaps Laurent Dauphin, Simoneau already knows he won’t be playing with his summer mates next year. It is with an American League contract, and not the coveted NHL rookie contract, that the choice of the sixth round in the 2021 draft comes among men. For the next year, therefore, he will not be able to be recalled in the National League. But a good first season with Laval Rocket helps dispel doubts and force the hand of the Canadian leadership.
This is exactly the path taken just before him by Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who went from a vague project to a legitimate contender for a position in the Canadian top-12 in just two years.
“I talk about it often and it is true that it is not a false comparison. We are two players who look alike. Even though it is taller, we are somewhat the same size. He was drafted at 19 like me. He signed a contract with the American League in his freshman year. If he was able to do it, I can too. I follow in his footsteps. I’m coming back, ”warns the 5-foot-7 skater.
“Of course, as a hockey player, you always want to sign higher. But when you look at the hockey level, at the organizational level, it makes a lot more sense to them. And for me too! I will be 21, the chances that I would play CH next year would be very slim. And the club will have another year to sign me. “
Top scorer of the Drummondville Voltigeurs at 18 and 19, the only player capable of keeping up with Joshua Roy’s frenetic pace (1.80 points per game) when injuries had not blocked him in the stands last season, Simoneau risks having to get used to more modest use, ungrateful defensive missions and occasional catwalk matches in its transition to the pros.
In addition to the actual core of veterans the Canadian may want to bring back to his school club, Saint-André-Avellin’s pride will compete with other recruits such as second-round pick Jan Mysak and Swede Emil Heineman.
“I don’t have too many expectations. I come as a novice player who has to replace him. I arrived at 16 in junior and that’s what I had to do in my place. It’s the same thing, except I turned pro with older and older guys. But it’s hockey. I am training hard this summer, I will arrive really ready. After that, it’s my turn to take my place with the team. “