It’s been a whirlwind couple of months for Jordan LaVallee, selected 116th in the 2005 NHL entry draft by the Atlanta Thrashers at the end of July.
After so many months of uncertainty, since being drafted he has attended Team USA evaluation camp, participated in the Traverse City rookie tournament for the Thrashers, and is now one of just four junior players in main Thrashers camp. You’ll have to excuse him if it all seems a bit of a blur.
“It’s been by far the most exciting time in my life,” he agreed after drills on the first day. “It’s one step closer towards a dream I’ve been reaching for my entire life. I’m just using this week as a great experience.”
A budding power forward, the 6’3, 203-pounder had a few confused about what to call him when he became Thrashers property.
“My full name is Jordan LaVallee Smotherman. LaVallee (pronounced ‘la valley’) is my mother’s maiden name. That was given to me as a middle name, and ever since I started playing hockey, my parents thought it was a better hockey name, so that’s just stuck.”
He has made sure to write his full name out all of his official documents, ‘Jordan LaVallee Smotherman,’ so there will be no problem with the league later on.
No matter what the appellation, Atlanta is glad to have him. Thrashers GM Don Waddell told Hockey’s Future that he thought LaVallee could be the team’s steal of the 2005 draft. Overlooked in 2004, LaVallee had a breakout year in 2004-05, with an impressive 40 goals in 64 games for the QMJHL Quebec Remparts. His 40 goals lead his team, and placed him sixth in the league.
It’s coming off this breakout year that the 19-year-old, born Oregon and raised in New York and Massachusetts, was also invited to USA’s World Junior team evaluation camp in August.
“It went very well,” he said of the Lake Placid camp. “My first day was slow, it was an adjustment day. But I got stronger and stronger as the week went on. It was the first time in the summer I had really played competitive, quick hockey, but overall I was satisfied with my performance.”
He hadn’t met new Team USA head coach Walt Kyle of Northern Michigan University before the camp, but enjoyed playing for him.
“Yeah, he’s a very intense guy, but if you do what he tells you to, then you’re OK.”
Waddell, who doubles as GM of the USA Olympic team, believes after speaking to Kyle that LaVallee has a real good chance of making the team. It would be LaVallee’s first experience representing his country.
“I was invited to play for the US National Program [Under-17],” he explained. “But I was just coming out of my freshman year in high school and I would have had to wait three years to go to college, so I decided to go the Quebec Major Junior route instead.”
It’s hard to question the choice after his success this year. After USA camp, it was off to the Traverse City tournament, where he scored two goals in four games.
“It was a similar situation to the US National tryouts where the first day was kind of a feel-out day, getting used to a faster pace of hockey,” he said. “But again as the week went on I got stronger and stronger and became more myself.”
LaVallee is one of two 2005 picks invited to main camp in Atlanta, along with first round pick Alex Bourret.
Usually a strong skater, and no stranger to ‘climbing the mountain,’ he was laboring in his skating on the first day, but as it turns out he was nursing an injury.
“I have a pinched nerve in my back that was tough on me during the treadmill test and the pull-ups,” he admitted under questioning. “It held me down a little bit, but they told me that if I didn’t do the bike, I wouldn’t be able to skate this week, so I sucked it up. Some physical therapy and some anti-inflamatory pills should take care of it in a couple days.”
If his self-evaluation of his previous camp performances and injury diagnosis are on target, we should see his peak later this week.
“It was a tough practice,” he said of day 1. “Again it is another step up. I think again it will take a couple days to get used to it. Once I get into the flow I should be alright.”
He already has an idea of what to work on this year when he rejoins the Remparts as well.
“I’d say a big difference that I noticed just from today was positioning. The guys you’re playing with here are always in the right spot. In juniors you have guys applying themselves in the wrong spot. These guys, they all know the system and they know exactly where they need to be. I think that’s something that I need to pay a lot more attention to this year.”
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