High touted 2005 NHL prospect Guillaume Latendresse is back on the ice with QMJHL Drummondville Voltigeurs.
A 16-year-old rookie, Latendresse, who was selected just next to Sidney Crosby at the 2003 QMJHL Midget Draft Selection, recorded 24 goals and a total of 49 points in only 53 games last season with Drummondville.
Guillaume Latendresse is the brother of QMJHL Val d’Or Foreurs Olivier Latendresse, who signed with the Phoenix Coyotes last summer after an appearance on a tryout basis in a rookie tournament in Anaheim.
A severe injury
The younger Latendresse suffered a severe shoulder injury on March 12th, 2004 against Val d’Or Foreurs in Drummondville. En route to hit an opponent, he stepped on a stick and hit the boards hard, breaking his shoulder.
In order to reinforce his wounded shoulder and help its ligaments to tight it firmly, Latendresse was operated in mid-summer by the Montreal Canadiens orthopaedic surgeon Eric Lenczner.
“The surgery was a success, he was operated in the morning and was back at home in the afternoon,” Drummondville general manager Michel Georges told Hockey’s Future at the Jacques-Plante Arena in Shawinigan on October 8th. “His career was never in jeopardy,” added Georges while Latendresse was playing hard on the ice against Shawinigan Cataracts.
Because of the injury, Latendresse missed the Drummondville postseason series against Shawinigan. He then missed the opportunity to be part of the Canada’s National Under-18 Summer Team who played at the World Junior Cup in Europe.
“I was really sad to miss that chance to play for Canada last August, especially all the more so since the team won the Gold Medal in Czech Republic,” said Latendresse after the game in Shawinigan.
“Last summer, my goal was to fully recover from the injury, I cycled a little bit and had physiotherapy every day,” commented Latendresse. “I have fully recovered from the injury, I even fought in the second game I played and felt no pain at all,” added the young player.
This kind of injury could have been hard mentally for a player described as a power forward, who hits the opponents as much as the puck. But Michel Georges observed that Latendresse is fine mentally, especially because “he has a great discipline and has good company around him.”
Time needed to get on shape
Latendresse missed the first five games of the 2004-05 season, getting back on the ice on October 1st against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Since then, he has recorded two goals and four passes in six games.
In the game against Shawinigan on October 8th, Latendresse worked as hard as we were used to seeing him play last season. However, it was obvious that the young man’s coordination was not at 100 percent neither were his accuracy and speed.
“I’m satisfied right now, my rhythm is starting to come back,” said Latendresse on October 8th. “I still need to improve my strength in order to shoot harder and improve my speed, but I’m confident that the hard work between the games on the ice and in the gym will contribute to get everything fine soon,” he added.
Drummondville Voltigeurs coach Dominic Ricard stated that his young 6’2, 220-pound winger is already helping the team right now. “Guillaume offers a good performance though it will take some time before we see the real Guillaume Latendresse on ice,” Ricard told Hockey’s Future.
“Recall that Guillaume had not played hockey since March 12th,” added Ricard who also said that the main point to improve for his young player is his speed.
A probable top ten pick at the next NHL Entry Draft
This is an important year for the best player of the Quebec Team at the 2004 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he ranked as the seventh scoring leader of the tournament with 4 goals and 6 assists.
He missed the World Junior Cup but he still has plenty of time to convince the NHL scouts that he deserves to be selected very early in the next Entry Draft, if ever it does happen.
For now, the International Scouting Services ranks Latendresse sixth overall in its preliminary Top 10 for 2005.
Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.