As a member of the London Knights, Dallas Stars’ draft pick Remi Elie had a guaranteed shot at the Memorial Cup this season. But the opportunity to play a much bigger role on a team much farther removed from championship contention has found the Green Valley, ON native suiting up in the black, gold, and red of the Belleville Bulls.
Elie, who was a valued — but limited — contributor to the Knights as a member of the squad’s fourth line was traded on Oct. 9th to the Bulls in exchange for overage defender Brady Austin. In Belleville, the forward will be a part of the squad’s top line and special teams’ units.
“[The chance to play more minutes] is what I wanted so that’s why I came to Belleville,” Elie explained, adding that he didn’t ask for the trade. “No, the opportunity came up and London asked me if I want to go there. I had the choice to stay in London or go to Belleville.
“I talked to my family and my agent and we agreed that the best decision for me was to go to Belleville.”
Elie has shown flashes of his skill in limited time with the London Knights. As a rookie last season, he scored seven goals and added 10 assists in 65 games. But he showed enough for the Dallas Stars to invest a second-round selection (40th overall) in the winger at the 2013 NHL Draft. Part of that, no doubt, is due to his playoff performance wherein he accounted for eight points in 21 games, but played some key moments en route to the Memorial Cup. It’s a memory that’s also stuck in the mind of Belleville head coach and general manager George Burnett.
“I think he’s shown signs. I look last year at his performance in the Memorial Cup where he played key minutes with skilled players,” Burnett explained. “He’s here as a guy that I think, from an opportunity standpoint, was stuck in a bit of a numbers circumstance with the great depth that [the London Knights] have at forward with the return of [Max] Domi, [Bo] Horvat, and the like. I think it’s an opportunity for him to take a step forward and play big minutes.
“I spoke with him this morning and asked him if he’d ever played those kind of minutes like he did last night and he had a big grin on his face. It’s going to take some time for him to get used to big minutes.”
In his first game with the Bulls, Elie made an immediate impression, assisting on Brendan Gaunce’s opening goal only 25 seconds into the game, a 4-2 loss to Windsor. His second game found him returning to London to face his former teammates, where he had one goal and two assists in the season’s first six games.
“Everything happened so fast,” Elie said. “It’s my second game with Belleville and playing against my old team already. It’s going to be weird a little bit.”
Burnett said he’s looking to Elie to bring some much-needed size and veteran perspective to an extremely young Bulls’ roster that has eight 17-year-old's and three 16-year-old players on the roster.
“I think he’s a guy who’s going to help our scoring. He’s a big-bodied guy and a power guy and we were missing a little of that on our wings,” Burnett said. “I think his experience on a championship team and playing in the Memorial Cup are things that we’ll look to him from an experience standpoint.
“We’re not asking him to put our team on his shoulders. He’s coming in and going to be playing in a top-line situation, and he’ll be a guy we’re going to count on not only this year, but next.”
It’s a role that Elie said he’s excited to embrace.
“I want to take some responsibility for leadership and play a bigger role,” he said. “I want to take care of those guys.
“I just want to help the team here in Belleville and score more points than last year. Hopefully I’ll get signed by Dallas.”
Elie spent part of the pre-season with the Stars’ at training camp and said he’s well aware of what he needs to do to make the jump to the next level.
“It was a good experience. I learned that it’s a much faster level and you have to keep working hard, get faster, and learn to focus mentally more,” he said. “I talked to the coaching staff and they told me what I have to improve upon and that’s what I want to work on this year. Just keep working my speed, my skating, and my skill.”
Burnett expects Elie to get plenty of opportunities to do just that.
“He’s a guy, once he gets accustomed to playing 20-plus minutes a night, he’ll be successful at it,” he said. “I think he’ll add at both ends and I think he’ll fit in well once he gets things organized.”
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