A shoulder injury cost Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect Dillon Fournier much of his 2013-14 season in the QMJHL. This year’s Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookie tournament afforded him the opportunity to test his legs — and his mettle.
“This year I’m coming off shoulder surgery. I haven’t played in a while, so it’s just a matter of getting my legs under me and getting some confidence,” he said. ““You want to get that first hit out of the way early, make sure you feel good, and get your confidence high. There was so much excitement and so much anticipation for the first game that it was nice to finally get out there.”
And the verdict?
“Yeah. It feels great. I worked hard this summer to make sure that it was 100 per cent. It feels good,” Fournier said.
The second round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft was on his way to a career year with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last season when he suffered the injury. The defenseman had a career-high in goals already just 36 games into the season, scoring 13 times. And his 32 points was only six away from his career best. His confidence was growing and he said that’s continued into his second season with the Blackhawks’ rookies.
“I’m more confident, more comfortable with how the pro game is played up here,” he said. “Last year there were a lot of pro guys here who played in the AHL, who I’m a little bit more familiar with now. So it’s a better experience.
“I remember when I was 18, 19 years old coming into camp and what it was like. It’s not much of a leadership role, but you want to make people feel comfortable in the dressing rooms because that will help their games.”
He’s hoping to keep that upward momentum going.
“Last year, I just had more confidence and more opportunity. I was getting pucks to the net and making things happen,” he said. “I want to keep building on that. I think I developed some good things last year and I want to continue improving that in my pro game.”
The difference from the QMJHL to the pros is all about speed, Fournier said — but not just the speed on the ice.
“You have to be quicker mentally. Quicker in your decisions and you have to be quicker in how you play. I’d say that’s the biggest adjustment,” he said. “Everyone’s quicker and everything happens a little bit faster. It’s just about maybe taking a little less risk and knowing better when you should be going up the ice or hanging back. It’s about thinking the game a little bit more.”
Fournier said he was hoping to take the rookie camp experience and use that to hit the ground running in main camp.
“It’s just a nice experience. You can get a few games under your belt before you head to the main camp. You’re not starting main camp rusty from the off-season,” he said. “I’m just looking to impress the staff in Chicago, get some confidence, and adjust my game to help people around me play better and for me to play better.”
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