Adam Pineault proves himself in QMJHL

By Matt MacInnis

Going into the 2003-04 season, the hockey world was excited to see what Adam Pineault could do in the NCAA. Having taken an accelerated program to get through high school, Pineault arrived at Boston College with many draft insiders pegging him as a top 20 pick. Unfortunately the season did not go as expected for Pineault, who saw little ice time throughout the season and was unable to get into the veteran-studded line-up at all for the playoffs. BC refused to release Pineault to play for the United States in the 2004 U-18 World Championships, so he was forced to watch the playoffs from the stands.

A year has truly made an enormous difference for Pineault.

It’s early April, 2005, and Pineault is competing for the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats in a very close first round series against the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Pineault spoke with Hockey’s Future after the second game of the series and is clearly excited for the opportunity to compete in the post-season.

“It’s what it comes down to. I want to make the NHL some day, but right now my main focus is on this year. As team I think we’re getting better and better.”

Pineault says the decision to make the move to the QMJHL came to him after his season with BC.

“I thought when about it when the draft came around and I sat down with my family and my advisors. And most importantly we thought it was best for my career and my future to come up here.”

Pineault acknowledges that the Columbus Blue Jackets, who selected him in the second round, 46th overall, played a major role in his decision. He says he believed that jumping to major junior was the best for his development and the Blue Jackets agreed. There is always a great deal of debate among fans whether the CHL or NCAA is best for professional player development. For Pineault, having now spent a season in both leagues, the answer is clear.

“I think if you want to make the NHL, major junior is the best way to go. It’s more a more NHL-like schedule and type of play. College is, I mean, it’s a great experience, but I’d say its 40 percent hockey, the rest school and my main focus is hockey.”

Pineault says he thinks that the longer schedule helps to prepare players for the next level, simply because the more games you play the more experience you get, and your body is more adjusted to the professional schedule.

Before making the decision Pineault also had the benefit of asking a good friend about his experience playing in the QMJHL. Jim Sharrow was drafted in the QMJHL Entry Draft out of U-17 program the same year as Pineault. The difference between the two was the Sharrow reported to the Halifax Mooseheads while Pineault went to BC. With two years of experience in the “Q” under his belt, Sharrow advised Pineault.

“Yeah, he’s one of my best friends. He actually came up tonight to watch. We grew up together and he had a big influence on me coming up here.”

Pineault’s first collegiate season may have been disappointing, but he put up strong numbers in his rookie CHL season. In 61 games played, Pineault 26 goals, 20 assists, for 46 points. His 26 goals placed second on the team in goals, and he was third overall in points.

The 6’3, 202 lbs 18-year-old has the body of a power forward but didn’t always play that type of game during the course of the season. Despite his large stature, Pineault wasn’t always a physical presence on the ice and did not finish his checks with the force one expects from a player of his size. However, Pineault was at his best when physically involved in the contest.

Pineault has all the offensive tools necessary to be a successful scoring line player in the NHL. Although he is not a fast skater, Pineault possesses a powerful stride and accelerates quickly. He is a strong stick-handler and is confident carrying the puck in traffic. His most impressive attribute is his shooting ability. Pineault possesses both a powerful wrist shot and a howitzer of a slap shot.

He began the season centering a line with Steve Bernier (SJ) and Stephane Goulet (EDM), but was moved to the wing position after about a month where he has played ever since on a number of different line combinations. Regardless of who he was playing with, Pineault had the green light to unleash his shot, finishing third in the league in shots behind only Marc-Antoine Pouliot (EDM) and 17-year-old phenom Sidney Crosby.

Pineault missed nine games because of his participation in the World Junior Championships and an injury sustained at the competition. Although Team USA was unable to defend as champions while hosting the tournament, Pineault says he enjoyed the opportunity to once again represent his country and that he is eager to get back to the tournament next year and help reassert the American squad as contenders.

“It’s great to represent your country. Things didn’t go as we wanted them to, but overall it was a great experience, and hopefully next year we’ll be able to bounce back.”

Pineault had a very good start to the season and some were surprised with how little ice time he received in the tournament. Pineault says his experience the previous season at BC helped him to cope with the situation, and also that the minor knee injury he sustained at the event did not factor into the coach’s decision.

“Oh no. I mean that’s something the coach made, and the coach has the final say. Sucked to not be on the ice as much, but overall I mean that’s the coach’s decision and I’ve been through that in the past so it’s not like I took it on the chin.”

Pineault struggled at times during the second half of the season and seemed, at times, somewhat disinterested, not pursuing pucks in the corner or throwing his body around, although his knee injury likely played a role in his change in play. Overall Pineault had a strong campaign. Although some were disappointed with Pineault, the reality of the matter is he was among the team leaders in both goals and points. He will be relied on even more heavily next season to score goals as Bernier will likely graduate to the AHL. Pineault continues to work at all aspects of his game, trying to improve himself as a player.

“I think [I can improve] everything. Speed and I want to work on my shot. I think you can always improve yourself for the next level.”

Although struggling with consistency, Pineault remains a solid junior player with tremendous professional potential. Next season the Wildcats host the Memorial Cup, and Pineault only stands to benefit from that experience. It has been recently announced that Pineault will be joined in Moncton by another player who has left the NCAA for major junior, Chris Bourque (WAS).

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