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The Québec parenthesis of Ondrej Palat

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(Denver, Colorado) André Ruel remembers the cold. It was spring 2008 and our man was in Toruń, Poland. A medieval city certainly classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, but not a hockey Mecca.

Posted at 17:03

Guillaume Lefrancois

Guillaume Lefrancois
The print

“I was taking notes, but it was so cold in the arena that I couldn’t write! remembers Ruel. To warm up I got my hands on the hot water pipes that are used for heating! ”

Ruel, now agent Pat Brisson’s right-hand man in Quebec, was then assistant to the general manager of the Voltigeurs de Drummondville. What could he do in Poland? He was about to spy on a player who could have escaped the cracks in the system, but who scored another winning goal on Friday: Ondrej Palat.

It is often mentioned that Palat was claimed at the very end of the 2011 draft, in its third year of eligibility. But his path was already complicated before.

Second Division

It all starts with a relegation story. The Czech Republic usually plays in the first division world championships, but that year, for the under 18s, the country returned to the second division.

Ruel is then heading to Kazan for the U18 World Cup in the first division, to watch Dmitri Kulikov there. But a detour to Poland is a must.

“I knew the Czechs had good players, recalls Ruel. Once there, I sent Dominic a report [Ricard, le DG] “He’s a damn good hockey player!” But through an interpreter he told me that he didn’t want to come to North America, because he wanted to finish school. But I kept my relationship. ”

In this championship, where he was 17, Palat scored eight points in five games. “They had no competition, they won by 6-7 goals, against Lithuania and Ukraine. But he, even at 7-0, blocked the shots! I said, “It’s real.” ”

A year later, here he is again at the U18 World Cup in North Dakota. This time the Czech Republic regain their place in the first division, but the Palat is limited to a small point.

“The year before he played on the front line even though he was in the youngest, and there he was on the fourth line! says Ruel. I knew the GM of the Czechs, so I’ll see him to understand. Ondrej had had mononucleosis a month before the tournament. He didn’t even have to go, but he insisted. ”

Ruel therefore knew the context behind the performances. Knowing that Palat was now ready to cross the Atlantic, the Voltigeurs claimed it at 10And ranking in the 2009 European repechage. “A recruiter of Report on the red line said we had made the worst choice in the history of the European repechage! “Remembers Ruel.

Adaptation

Palat’s arrival in Drummondville coincides with Denis Gauthier’s first year with the Voltigeurs, following his playing career.

“My first reaction when I saw it was: ‘It won’t last two weeks in Drummond! admits the former defender. He did fairly simple exercises and ended up on all fours on the skating rink, out of breath. He was a hard worker, but I didn’t see how he would fit in. ”

But in the end Palat found its rhythm and ended its first season with 40 points in 59 outings. In the second year it is an explosion: 96 points, alongside Sean Couturier.

But he’s 19 and playing with one of the best prospects of his year. So many good reasons to ignore him in the NHL.


PHOTO RON CHENOY, USA SPORT TODAY

Ondrej Palat

“We pushed for him, remembers Ruel. Guy Boucher was our former coach and he went to Tampa. So we passed him the word. He asked the scouts for information, but they had Matthew Peca on their roster for the seventh round.

“Let’s call Guy back. Dom told him, “It shouldn’t cost that much, a choice between 7And the round. “Guy gets up, goes to see Steve Yzerman and makes the switch.”

Lightning gets Coyote on 201And choice, with which he selects Peca. Then, at his choice, at 208And degree, Tampa gets its hands on Palat.

It is therefore this player who now has 12 playoff winning goals, a Calder Cup ring and two Stanley Cups. With the chance of a third if the Lightning win their next two games.

“He deserves everything that happens to him,” said Gauthier. Yes, he fell in the right place at the right time. But he benefited as much from this dynasty as he contributed to it. He didn’t have the easiest path and kept fighting. He is an example of determination. In Drummondville, we are proud of him. We have not forgotten it. ”

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