It wasn’t unknown that Shawn Lalonde was a silky, smooth skater, had a great shot and could feather the puck to teammates with the best of them. During the regular season with the Belleville Bulls, the 6’1, 175 lb blue liner totaled nine goals and 22 assists in 66 games. And in 21 playoff games, Lalonde has scored two goals and seven assists.
What he needed to prove was that he could raise his defensive play to a level that was beyond average. Lalonde has worked extra hard on his defensive zone coverage. He has learned to tie the man up and not leave his assigned counterpart in order to seek an offensive opportunity. Lalonde has no fear of dishes out the hits or mucking it up in the corners. It seems like he is rounding out his overall game quite nicely.
Lalonde is currently ranked 32nd among North American skaters, up a bit from the mid-season. A rise on anyone’s rankings can be justified by his improved defensive zone work and consistent offensive contributions.
The 18-year-old blue liner helped guide the Bulls to a first-place finish in the OHL Eastern Conference regular season standings. The Bulls also made it all the way to the OHL Finals where they gave a spirited effort coming back from three games to none to force a seventh game against Kitchener, though lost at that point.
All of these extra games played seem to only raise Lalonde’s value, as he keeps getting better and better.
Hockey’s Future had a chance to meet up with Lalonde prior to the semi-final game at the Memorial Cup against Kitchener.
HF: It seems like your playoff has run through Kitchener this year, how does the team feel about constantly bumping heads with the Rangers?
SL: Playing against a team like the Rangers would make any team better. They were the best in the Western Conference of the OHL and are one game away from perhaps being the Memorial Cup final, but we still get a say in that. I think that in the OHL final when they were up three games to none, they thought they had us down and out. When we came back and forced a Game 7, they saw how good we are. We came to this tournament to win.
HF: After you came back from three games down in the OHL final, what was the morale like in the dressing room?
SL: We felt like we could beat anyone. To be down like that and come back to potentially win the championship takes a lot of heart. We were working well as a team and it showed.
HF: How does it feel to play in the Memorial Cup?
SL: It is really exciting. To play against the best three teams in the country is something that means a lot to our team.
HF: How do you think that the Memorial Cup has gone so far?
SL: There haven’t been any real surprises. The four teams are all pretty equal which is why we are here. All of the games have been close, which is what we have expected. The pace has been fast and there is so much skill to play with and against. It has been a lot of fun.
HF: There was a stretch during the regular season where the Bulls won 12 games in a row and 13 out of 15. What was the feeling like on the team during that time?
SL: We did that as a complete unit. We worked hard, fought adversity, fought injuries and had a key pickup in Jan Mursak that helped right away. He filled in some holes in our roster. Stephen Johnson really stepped up his game when (Shawn) Matthias was out, and the other younger guys came every day to play.
HF: You have improved your defensive game a lot this year, what did you do take make these adjustments?
SL: I think I just needed some time to realize that putting the puck in the net and setting up goals was not all that was needed to be a really good defenseman. Taking the body, never missing your man and playing a simple style is key. The coaches have worked hard with me to bring my game up to a level that they feel that I can reach. They still feel there is more in me, and they will continue to bring it out. I also hit the gym to get stronger.
HF: These are exciting times being that the NHL draft is not too far off. How are you feeling about the upcoming draft?
SL: It definitely enters my mind all the time. It’s difficult to block it out, but you have to. If I don’t block it out I will try to do things that I usually never do and get away from my usual playing style. I try not to get too excited about it, but since it is in my hometown (Ottawa) it is something I am really looking forward to. I know that the scouts will do their jobs and see what I am capable of.
HF: What do you like to do on your down time?
SL: Take it easy, hit the weights, hang out with the guys.
HF: Who is your favorite NHL player?
SL: Pavel Bure
HF: What is your favorite NHL team?
SL: Montreal Canadiens