Goulet thrives after trade to Moncton

By Matt MacInnis

When the Edmonton Oilers selected Stephane Goulet in the seventh round of the 2004 Entry Draft, at least a few draft watchers scrambled to find information on this kid unrated by many scouting services. Goulet had played the 2003-04 season with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL and finished the season with just six goals and eight assists for 14 points. The 6’3, 200 lbs native of Levis, Quebec had played sparingly all season, often only seeing the ice in power play situations. Regardless, the point production was a bit of a disappointment for Goulet, who had been a prolific scorer at the minor league level.

At the QMJHL Entry Draft in early June, Goulet was traded with American defenseman Adam Blanchette to the Moncton Wildcats in exchange for over-age forward Karl Gagne and a draft pick. Less than a month later, the Oilers selected Goulet in the NHL Entry Draft, a move which Goulet admits surprised him.

“Yeah, I was surprised; I did not think it would happen. But it was a good surprise I guess, I will take it and I will work harder.”

In the offseason Goulet attended the Oilers summer rookie camp, an experience which he fondly remembers and acknowledges helped him understand where he was at as a player.

“It was an unbelievable camp. To see the level there, the guys are unbelievable. They’re huge, they’re fast, they’re strong. To get there, I will have to get stronger too, and working on my weaknesses. I will do everything I can to make that step.”

One of the Oilers eastern scouts expected the trade to Moncton to change Goulet’s fortunes and after this season he certainly appears to have been correct.

“I knew the trade to Moncton would do good things for him. He’s keeping it simple and getting some points. With the strength he’s added he’s playing with more confidence. All he needed was an opportunity and Moncton has given it to him as well as responsibility, which is good.”

Goulet agrees that the trade has been one of the main contributing factors to his success this season, particularly because he’s getting far more time on the ice and is in a more comfortable environment.

“Well, I get more ice time and I have a coach who is confident in my stuff and has given me reasons for them, things I do good and bad. I feel not stressed to jump on the ice and I just play the game I love.”

Goulet began the season on a line with two top prospects in Steve Bernier (SJ) and Adam Pineault (CLB). The line, centered by Pineault, was moderately successful early on, although Pineault and Bernier seemed to be generating most of the offense. About a month into the season Pineault was moved to the wing and the line was broken up. Over the next three months, head coach Christian LaRue (who was fired on January 23) juggled the lines and Goulet played with many different players on the first, second, and third lines of the team, while also seeing power play action.

The Wildcats also began to be hit by the injury bug. At one point in February, the Wildcats were without three of the team’s top five forwards with Martins Karsums (BOS), Bruce Graham (NYR), and Pineault all missing time due to injuries. The injuries hurt the Wildcats, who fell from first in the QMJHL to sixth in the league, but gave Goulet an opportunity to step into a larger role.

Goulet has shown tremendous development during the course of the season. Early in the year he seemed to benefit from playing on a line with top players and did not contribute much himself. He rarely created his own chances and was frequently being outmuscled in battles for loose pucks along the boards. As the regular season winds down, Goulet has become a legitimate offensive threat and is second in team point-scoring on the high-powered Moncton offense, although that is largely due to the injuries sustained by other players. Having missed just one game this season, Goulet finishes the season with 22 goals, 25 assists for 47 points, three times his production last season with the Remparts.

Goulet, who already has an NHL frame, has begun to use his size to his advantage, finishing off his checks while forechecking, helping to turn the puck over in the offensive zone. His first step needs a little work, but he has shown improvement in his open-ice speed. Despite the improvements, Goulet continues to work hard in practice to make himself a more rounded player and improve on weak areas of his game.

“Working my shots, I want to get stronger and better off the start — explosion. I’m working on these aspects because I know I have a lot to do to get better. So I work on everything to be a complete player.”

Goulet has been particularly effective this season out in front of the net, and has scored a lot of his goals by tipping the puck. This has prompted a few Wildcat fans to jokingly call him “The Deflector” because of his rather unique talent. It’s a skill that comes naturally to Goulet from his earlier days as a baseball player.

“I played baseball before so I can do that (tip-ins). I played at the Canadian fastball championship. And I was a good batter so that helps in hockey too.”

Goulet’s Wildcats head into the QMJHL playoffs as a middle seed, but with most of their key players back from injury, the Wildcats are considered strong candidates to go deep into the playoffs, although going to the Memorial Cup this season will be very difficult with the Rimouski Oceanic playing as well as they are. Goulet’s strong play throughout the second half of the season should cement his spot on the top two lines for the team’s playoff run.

The Wildcats are expected to host the Memorial Cup next season, and Goulet will be a part of the host team. If his development continues at this rapid pace, Goulet could be in for a big season next year, but he doesn’t set statistical goals for himself.

“I don’t really have numbers of goals to get. I just want to get better as a player and help my team to win, and see how good I can be.”

Goulet has been about as good as could be expected from a seventh round pick. Only a few players picked after him in the 2004 Draft are having equally good seasons, and even fewer have showed such strides in development. As his defensive game continues to evolve with his offensive production, Goulet has become a legitimate NHL prospect.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.