Nick Fugere was drafted in 2004 in the fourth round, 107th overall by the Nashville Predators after his Gatineau Olympiques won the Memorial Cup. The big rugged winger has seven goals and 16 points thus far in the QMJHL season with the Olympiques, and had tallied 111 PIM prior to January 6.
He would add to that total on January 6 against the Moncton Wildcats. It was a hard fought game against the league-leading Wildcats. Although the Olympiques lost the game 6-2, conceding four straight goals in the second half of the game after battling back to tie the score at two early in the second period, Fugere made an impact on the ice, including being penalized six times, mostly during the many scrums of the contest.
Fugere played his role of a physical antagonist well and was involved in nearly every scrum during the game, including a small tussle he instigated with Martin Karsums (BOS) after Karsums had scored a highlight reel goal. Karsums received a game misconduct and a match penalty for allegedly head-butting Fugere.
Fugere spoke to Hockey’s Future behind the visiting locker room in Moncton. Despite his concern about his abilities to speak English, Fugere made his best effort.
HF: Crazy game tonight, what happened?
NF: I don’t know, everybody was ready to play that game. I got a lot of penalties, but that’s part of the game. For both teams that was a huge game. Moncton was first and we tried to show up but they came off very strong and they beat us.
HF: What do you think is the strongest aspect of your game?
NF: I think our game is…we lost a lot of veterans last year so it’s time for new veterans to be more involved. That means me first. All teams need to be physical, but that’s one of our strengths. And discipline, all those things can make us win. So that’s our game.
HF: What do you think the best part of your game, personally, is?
NF: My role is very simple. It is to be a physical and big player. I need to be physical and put traffic in front of the net. When I have the chance to go on the power play I need to be in front of the net, screen the goalie, and this is my job. I try to make space for the skilled guys.
HF: What do you think you need to work on?
NF: I know I’m a big guy so I’m not very fast. I need to work on this. My legs must get stronger. I worked on this a lot this summer, the past two summers I worked on this. I’m better at that than I was before.
HF: Do you think your performance at the Memorial Cup influenced where you were drafted?
NF: Yeah for sure. I had a very good tournament with good players. When you play with Maxime Talbot (PIT) and Guillame Fournier, it’s time to show up and make some place for them to go. They’re so fast and have a lot of skill and I had a chance to play with those guys and I was around the net and they pass me the puck and I just shoot the puck and try to score. So I had a very good tournament, I was physical and things went very well for me and it helped me a lot.
HF: What are your thoughts about being picked by Nashville in the fourth round.
NF: I was very proud. I went down there for a training camp, rookie camp. The guys there are so big and this is nothing. When you come back to junior you see that, wow, it’s unbelievable. The guys are so big, so fast, and more agile. It was a good experience for me and I see that I have a lot of work in front of me. And if I want to go one day in the pros, I have to work hard.
HF: Is there one player in Nashville you look forward to playing with on the team?
NF: For sure. You people (the media) are talking about Jordin Tootoo. This is my kind of….I must play like this guy. He’s very involved in the game, very physical and I need to be like that. For sure if I go to the training camp next year I need to look at him at how he works and do my best to play like him.
HF: So you see yourself as a checking type of player professionally?
NF: Yeah checking. Be on the fourth line, fourth line hockey (grinning). And be physical and try to get the momentum on our side with a good hit.
HF: Have you given any thoughts to where you may be playing hockey next season?
NF: If everything’s (still) going on with hockey, I’m going to play in junior. I was just drafted this summer so I have two years. I think I’m going to be again in junior. Then that will be my five years in junior. I hope that I’ll play another year in Gatineau.
HF: What current NHL player do you think you play similar to?
NF: Uh….I don’t know. I know my favorite player is Todd Bertuzzi. I know I’m not like him, I don’t have the skills. I love the way he plays cause he’s physical, and a big guy. This is my favorite player. I cannot say a guy who I play like, just Todd Bertuzzi is my favorite.
HF: Do you have any superstitions or pre-game rituals?
NF: No, I don’t have any rituals. You change year after year. My ritual, I play with small bag…hackey?
HF: Hackey sack?
NF: Yeah! I play with Guillame Fournier and we do this all series and the playoffs. We kept doing this at the Memorial Cup.
HF: Did you watch the World Juniors?
NF: Yeah, yeah. I was watching. Never seen a good team like that, it is unbelievable.
HF: Do you have any comment on your future potential teammates, Ryan Suter (NSH) and Shea Weber (NSH)?
NF: I had a chance to talk to Weber at Nashville (rookie camp). He’s a big guy who is working a lot, it’s unbelievable. He’s a good hockey player. When I saw him at Nashville and at the World Junior, he has improved a lot. He’s going to go, I think one day he will be in the NHL. He’s a huge defenseman with a good shot that I’m sure is going to be in the NHL someday.
HF: Who has been the toughest goalie in the QMJHL for your to play against this year?
NF: The one of Lewiston, (Jaroslav) Halak (MTL)? He’s very good. He’s at the World Junior this guy, right? He’s a very good goaltender.
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