If Sidney Crosby weren’t so dominant in QMJHL, there would be much more talk about another 16-year-old rookie playing in the Quebec’s league. His name is Guillaume Latendresse.
This 6’2’’ and 215-pound left winger, born on May 24th 1987 in Ville LaSalle, Quebec, has the size, the strength and the talent to become a power forward in the NHL.
Latendresse is already the leader of QMJHL Drummondville Voltigeurs. Playing on the first line of his team, with three games remaining in the regular season, he leads his team with 11 powerplay goals. He is also ahead of his teammates with a +14 plus/minus, which is very good, considering that only five of his teammates have a positive record in this domain.
The younger brother of QMJHL Val d’Or Foreur Olivier Latendresse, Guillaume missed few games due to injuries. He managed to average close to a point per game, recording 23 goals and 25 assists in 51 games. That ranks him fourth among the scoring leaders of his team and sixth among the league rookies. Indeed, only Crosby has more points than Latendresse among 16-year-olds.
Latendresse is also very much appreciated for his propensity for distributing hits to opponents. He gave 129 body checks so far this season, which places him second in his team. Among QMJHL rookies, the only one who gave more body checks than Latendresse is Acadie-Bathurst Titans 18-year-old James Rhynold.
In the shadow of Crosby
Prior to the first visit of the season to Drummondville of Crosby and his teammates on February 20th, Hockey’s Future spoke to Latendresse in the Marcel-Dionne Coliseum in Drummondville. He was very disappointed because at the last minute he was pulled out of the roster due to a minor groin injury.
“I will miss that meeting before our fans, but I’ll be there for sure when Rimouski will be here again later in March,” stated Latendresse. So he did on March 6th, superbly.
That night, lead by Latendresse, Drummondville Voltigeurs outscored their much stronger opponents 8-3. With one goal and two assists, Latendresse not only outshined the famous Rimouski rookie but he also earned the First Star of the Game.
Making comparisons is part of the sport. Drummondville Voltigeurs coach Dominic Ricard is very proud to have Latendresse in his roster. “There are a lot of talk about Crosby and he deserves it but the impact of Guillaume in our team is as much important as Crosby’s one with Rimouski,” said Ricard prior to the first visit of Rimouski in Drummondville last February.
“He is a franchise player for us,” commented Drummondville general manager Michel Georges that night. “You know, Guillaume can’t count on the support of great players like [Rimouski Oceanics] Dany Roussin and Marc-Antoine Pouliot,“ added Georges.
In some ways, Latendresse’s destiny seems to be linked with Crosby’s. The Drummondville left winger played against Crosby at the 2001-02 Air Canada Cup. At the 2003 QMJHL Midget Draft Selection, Latendresse was selected just next to the Cole Harbour native.
“I know him personally, we have the same agent, Pat Brisson. Next summer in LA, it will be my third Brisson’s camp and we will again spend two weeks together with players coming from all over the world,” commented Latendresse.
A great man on and off the ice
Undoubtedly, Guillaume Latendresse has natural talent. He is one of those very rare players who never played at the bantam level, having played for midget AAA College Charles-Lemoyne Riverains right from pee-wee AA.
According to Dominic Ricard, Latendresse brings a lot of robustness and energy to his team. “He loves to play hockey, is easy to coach and he already receives a lot of respect from his teammates,” stated Ricard. “He is a complete package: he scores goals, passes the puck very well, likes to play in the traffic and plays as well in the visitors ice rinks than at home, added Ricard.
“He is remarkable, he plays with confidence and creates a lot of confidence around him,” stated Michel Georges. “At first, we thought we could keep him four years with us [until 19], but the way he played lately I now doubt about it,” added Georges.
“Latendresse has a great personality,” also said Georges. “He is completing his secondary school and has success doing it, even if it is really not easy to do so while playing at junior level,” he outlined. “Truly, if you have a young girl aged 16 or 17, you simply hope to have a son-in-law like Guillaume,” concluded Georges talking about Latendresse character off the ice.
“I don’t have a specific role model, but I try to play as [Vancouver Canucks] Todd Bertuzzi,” noted Latendresse on February 20th. Questioned about what he considers he must improve, Latendresse pointed out his skating.
Latendresse was the best player of the Quebec Team at the 2004 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in St.John’s, NL. He ranked as the seventh scoring leader of the tournament with 4 goals and 6 assists.
He now hopes to be selected on U-18 Team Canada next summer. The next season will be crucial for him. A great one could place him again just next to Crosby at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.