The hardest working player in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League wasn’t chosen until the 234th spot in his draft year, hard to believe looking at his statistics and accolades since then. The Pittsburgh Penguins eighth round pick has developed into one of the best players in the QMJHL since being drafted. Over the past two seasons, Maxime Talbot has averaged 1.75 points per game, scoring 246 points (71 goals + 131 assists) in 140 games (including the playoffs).
Renowned for his leadership abilities, Talbot captained the Hull Olympiques (now Gatineau Olympiques) to the President’s Trophy last year and brought the team to the Memorial Cup finals, as well wearing an ‘A’ for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship earlier this year.
Hockey’s Future recently caught up with the captain of the Olympiques.
HF: How old webre you when you first started playing hockey?
MT: I don’t know, I was very young. As soon as I could walk. (laughs)
HF: You had an injured shoulder at the beginning of this year, is it healed?
MT: It was just a little bit of an injury, it was nothing big. That was right before I went to the World Juniors. I had a small shoulder injury. It came along very well though. I have no problem with it. It was kind of scary, the timing was right before the entrance camp at Kitchener, but it turned out really well.
HF: Who was the biggest influence on you as a hockey player?
MT: I have a lot. All my coaches, they have helped me to work hard, and my parents gave me a really good a work ethic. I think that’s why I’m here because I’ve always worked really hard, that’s why I was drafted by Pittsburgh. I also really liked to see Wayne Gretzky play when he played. He was just such a smart player.
HF: Are there any particular players you pattern your game after?
MT: I really like John Madden from the New Jersey Devils. He’s a good defensive player, he works hard and he scores too. I like Joe Sakic too.
HF: What is the strongest aspect of your game?
MT: My work ethic. Some days when it’s not going so well, I’ll just work so hard that finally I’ll have a good game. I’m a two-way player, I think that’s real important. I can score and make some offensive plays but I think if want to go up and play in the pros, that’s got to be with my defensive skills.
HF: You also play a gritty game. Do you throw a lot of big hits?
MT: Let me see, this year I have less hits than last year, but it’s not really my hitting game that’s really coming out. Every time I’m in the corner, I finish my checks, it’s not always a huge check, but I always finish them. I always drive to the net, and play more of a gritty game than a hard hitting game.
HF: Anything aspect of your game that you feel needs more work?
MT: A lot of things are never good enough. All through my career I’ve worked really hard on my speed. Two years ago they told me I was not fast, but I worked on that and last year I was recognized as a really fast skater. Speed is something you really want to work hard at every year to become faster and faster. It will help me have a better shot and I’m still working really hard at it.
HF: You’re often cited for your leadership, what do you think makes a good leader?
MT: I’ve always been a strong character guy and I work really hard. Every time I’m on the ice and off the ice I just work really hard at everything. As a leader it’s really important to be a good example for younger players and that’s how I made my way in the Q was as a good leader. I was there at 16 and at 17 I had an A on my shirt for Hull. At 18, as the captain we won the President’s Cup, that was very good. All the younger players take the ice and look to the leaders on the team, that’s why we’re winning games. Everyone on the team is working hard.
HF: You were drafted in the eighth round in 2002, were you surprised by that position?
MT: Yeah, before the draft I was listed at 86th, so going that late was a little disappointing, and I didn’t know how to take it, but I worked out all summer after that and I think I’ve proven to a lot of people that maybe some teams should have chosen me before. Still I’m real happy to be part of Pittsburgh’s organization and looking forward to playing with them.
HF: Speaking of the Penguins organization, what’s it like to play with and against Marc-Andre Fleury and Stephen Dixon?
MT: Marc-Andre is definitely not a goalie you want to play against. He’s a great guy, he’s one of my good friends. It was really great to play with him at the World Juniors earlier this year. I haven’t played against him yet this year, but last year I played against him a few times. It’s supposed to be a big challenge this year in the Q finals. I’m looking forward to that. Stephen Dixon is a great guy too. He’s a great player, very fast. It was really fun to play with him at the World Juniors too. He’s a dangerous player to play against.
HF: You have one more year of junior eligibility, right?
MT: Yeah, I can come back next year as an over-ager. My goal is to be in the AHL next year, but I have another year next year.
HF: Have the Penguins offered you a contract yet?
MT: I think they’re the type of team that waits ‘til May, at the end of the year, I don’t know. I hope they sign me! (laughs) I know they were excited by my game at the World Juniors and everything, so I am just waiting.
HF: The Olympiques did very well last season. Do you think this team is better than last year?
MT: I’m sure we’ve got a better team than last year, but there are still a lot of good teams this year. It’s a different situation, last year we came out of nowhere, from seventh place and this year, we’re one of the favorites for the league, so it adds some pressure. But we’ve got a lot of veterans and we’ve got four great lines. That’s how you win championships. We’ll see what’s going to happen, but I think we’re better than last year.
HF: Any final thoughts on the Penguins?
MT: They’ve got a lot of young players. Everything’s going to come out well over the next few years and I think all the fans are going to be excited about it. It’s hard now, but they have a great coach and the fans just have to be patient