Ellis-Plante takes rookie camp experience into new season

By Eric Forest

For a goaltender, a bad game can not only destroy confidence, but give a bad impression to scouts. The 2004 Top Prospect Game will be a day to forget for the now Vancouver prospect Julien Ellis-Plante. Projected as a late second rounder before the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Shawinigan Cataractes goaltender slipped to the sixth round, 189th overall this summer. Ellis-Plante knows perfectly he didn’t play up to his talent that day. If he could have stopped Robbie Schremp, he might have been drafted in a better spot. Nonetheless, it’s not the position where you get picked that leads you to the National Hockey League, it’s how you perform on the ice.

First professional camp

Ellis-Plante trained harder than usual this summer, using his situation to motivate himself. He then joined his new club, the Vancouver Canucks, at their rookie camp where he could finally experience the energy of a professional team. He started slow but gradually got in shape, ending the mini-camp on a positive mark.

“It went well,” he told Hockey’s Future last week. “There was a day that I felt a bit tired. I was surrounded by a lot of adults there and my shape wasn’t yet at their level. But overall, it went well.”

He had to acclimate to his new surroundings, having no one to speak to in his native tongue.

“At the beginning I wasn’t (comfortable). Everything was in English so it was harder. I can speak English but not at 100 percent. At the end I was comfortable.”

The 18-year-old will need to work on his consistency if he wants to prove himself again to scouts. This means that he will have to put in the effort period after period, game after game. Vancouver coaches were pleased to see Ellis-Plante play a very aggressive style of goaltending, facing every shot in practice seriously.

“Even when we were practicing, when I was giving up a goal I was pretty angry. I wanted to block them all. That’s what they told me (they liked).”

Part an organization also possessing Alex Auld and Cory Schneider, he knows full well that making improvements is the only way to get noticed and could one day get him a chance to play for the Canucks. Auld has already played 14 games in the NHL and Schneider was drafted in last year’s first round. Ellis-Plante is aware that it will be up to him to battle his position in Vancouver’s organization. Asked with which player he was looking forward to playing with (Canucks or Moose), he acknowledged that he didn’t had the pleasure of talking a lot with his companions, but he thought Auld was a great guy.

“I don’t know much of these guys but my roommate was Alex Auld. We had the chance to talk and learn more about each other and I can’t tell you how much of a great guy he his,” said Ellis-Plante.

In camp, they weren’t in competition on the ice because Ellis-Plante was playing with Rob McVicar. However, he will concentrate on his own play, leaving any kind of comparisons with his three teammates aside. He is already looking towards next year’s camp, with a valuable year of experience in between.

“I’ll have to prove to them that I can play with consistency. I’ll be ready for next year now that I know how the camp works. I’ll have a year of experience.”

Leading the way in Shawinigan

Ellis-Plante entered his second season as Shawinigan’s top goaltender. He led the league last season in games played (59) and minutes played (3287). He won 32 games and averaged 2.85 goals per game. He took the Cataractes on his shoulders and brought them to the QMJHL quarterfinals, after a tough battle with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Unfortunately, they were swept by Sidney Crosby and his Rimouski Oceanic. Laughing, Ellis-Plante says that the young phenom is probably the toughest player he had to face. No one could refute that.

This year, Shawinigan is still considered a premier team to win the “Coupe du Président.” They rely on Ellis-Plante, but also on Benoit Mondou, Boston’s eighth round pick in the 2003 draft. Mondou scored 34 goals last year, ending the season with 95 points.

Ellis-Plante established some personal goals this year.

“I would like to get a save percentage of .910 and I would like to play in the CHL All Star Game once again,” he said.

If he plays at last year’s level, it shouldn’t be a problem. He started this season slowly, a bit tired from the Vancouver camp, but got back on track in the last few games. After ten games, he has five wins, a GAA of 2.77 and a save percentage of .915. Of course, the season is young and there’s still a long way to go before the playoffs. With some spectacular play, he could also be a candidate to participate to Team Canada camp in December.

On his ability to play the game, Ellis-Plante argues that he’s excellent on the first shot.

“I like getting the first shot. I’m also better when I play a game that I can win all by myself, where I can earn a point and show my participation,” he said.

Humble, he agrees with his Vancouver coach about his consistency and also hopes to get better when he has to leave his net. Ellis-Plante isn’t different from any Quebec kids. When he was younger, he hoped of the day where he would become Patrick Roy. However, he now patterns his game on another great goaltender from La Belle Province.

“I’m trying to play like Jean-Sébastien Giguère technically. We have the same goaltender coach, François Allaire. I had the chance to train with Giguère two or three times.”

The NHL lockout has no effect on Ellis-Plante either as a prospect nor a goaltender, just like it should be. CHLers have plenty to think about right now, especially when you play for a team considered to be a contender to win it all. He might not have been picked where everyone thought he would be, but Vancouver couldn’t have been a better opportunity for the young netminder. All he has to do right now is show more consistency. After that, the road of success will be easier than ever.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.