On November 12th,
a season high of 3,586 fans stood in the Marcel-Dionne Coliseum in
Drummondville for the sole visit of Sidney Crosby this year. The
Rimouski Oceanic and Drummondville Voltigeurs match-up was also a rare occasion
for the QMJHL fans to see in action both Crosby and high touted 2005 NHL
prospect Guillaume Latendresse.
However, neither Crosby nor Latendresse were the best player that night.
Edmonton Oilers prospect Marc-Antoine Pouliot just stole the show en
route for a 5-1 Rimouski victory.
The Rimouski captain played with a fierce intensity. He played
physically, won 63 percent of his faceoffs, had 10 shots on goal and finished
with one goal and one assist. He’s been playing that kind of hockey for a few
The 2003 Edmonton first round selection, 22nd overall, passed
through a rough period after being drafted. A few months after the draft,
Pouliot suffered a hip injury at the Canadian World Junior evaluation camp in
August 2003 in Calgary. This injury prevented from playing at his best level at
the Oilers rookie training camp few weeks later.
Then, he missed the Quebec/Russia Challenge in November 2003 due to an
abdominal injury. This injury also kept him definitively off the 2004 U-20
Canadian team roster.
Pouliot eventually came back on ice during the 2003-04 season but was
never quite healthy. Overall, the 6’2 and 190-pound center managed to play only
42 games. He had a surgery in Montreal in June to repair the abdominal tissues.
The student at Rimouski College could not train during the summer, but
he still attended the U-20 Canadian Summer Camp last August. Unable to play, he
came back to Rimouski after only three days.
Finally, he attended the 2004 Oilers rookie camp but again could not
offer a decent performance, as reported by HF writer Guy Flaming, due to the
surgery he had in June.
Back in game shape
After an entire year of difficulties, Pouliot began the 2004-05 QMJHL
slowly. The center known for his offensive upside had 8 points in the first 10
games of the season.
He was kept off the score sheet for 6 of those 10 games, including one
game while Rimouski scored 10 goals and another one where his team scored 8
goals. Quite unusual for an offensive player.
Suddenly, the things changed and Pouliot improved his game. Over the
last 10 games, he has accumulated 16 points.
After 25 games played, Pouliot has 31 points, ranking 10th in
the scoring championship. He ranks first in the QMJHL for shots on goal (138).
Pouliot is also among the best QMJHL players for the faceoff wins with an
average of 56.9 percent.
A key season
"I have fully recovered from the injury," said Pouliot after
the game in Drummondville. I feel pretty good and I’m very satisfied now with
both my game shape and the way I’m playing on ice."
Pouliot, asked what he thinks about the upcoming Quebec/Russia
Challenge, said "I’m excited and eager to play against the Russians. We
will have fun. I do not feel any particular pressure, I just want to show what
I can do."
The 2003 U-18 World championship gold medal winner does not know if he
will be invited to the final U-20 Canadian camp selection in December.
"I hope that I will receive an invitation, but I’m well aware that
there are many veterans available this year and that my chances to make the
team are very slight,” he told Hockey’s Future.
Pouliot knows that this
season is very important for him.
"I have to be very
consistent and play very well every game, that is the key for me, consistency.
This is the last season for my contract with the Oilers, I have to play well.
This is also an important season for Rimouski Oceanic, we have a great team and
we must perform accordingly,” concluded the likeable Pouliot.
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