Antoine Laganiere struggled during his first two seasons with Yale. But, after a strong campaign last season, he has jumped onto the NHL’s radar as a potential college free agent signing when the 2012-13 season for Laganiere and the Bulldogs comes to an end.
During his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, the Quebec native scored only 23 points through his first 50 games. But, after attending the Vancouver Canucks' development camp during the summer of 2011, Laganiere saw a big jump in his stats. He had 19 goals and 14 assists in 35 games with the Bulldogs last season.
“Antoine has gotten stronger over the years here, and he improved in all facets of the game because he works hard,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “Antoine had some good results [last season], and with those results has come a boost in confidence.”
Last season was a big season offensively for Laganiere, but the jump was on track with the progression he had been making since day one with the Bulldogs.
“He has made a jump every year that he has been here,” Allain said, of Laganiere. “Antoine was better his sophomore year than he was his freshman year. He was better last season than in his sophomore season, and we think he is going to be even better this season than last.”
So far this season, Laganiere is off a quick start for Yale with five goals and an assist through his first six games of play.
“He is an extremely dedicated player, and he has done everything within his power to become a tremendous hockey player,” Allain said. “What you are seeing now is simply a result of his hard work.”
The 6'4” Laganiere has some advantages that a lot of other players don’t, and that is being able to use his size to his own advantage. Being taller than most college hockey players allows him to protect the puck, and it also gives him a longer reach than most players.
“It is very important that I use my size by protecting the puck and keeping it far away from the defenses’ sticks,” Laganiere said. “Some advantages my size gives me is my reach, protecting the puck, and going around guys on the rush.”
After attending the Canucks' development camp in summer of 2011, Laganiere attended two prospect camps this past summer. He went to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ camp with teammate Ken Agostino, and also attended the Edmonton Oilers’ camp.
Although a Yale education by itself makes it worth staying at that school for four seasons, Laganiere has been able to slowly develop his hockey skills under the tutelage of Allain while developing his mind in the classrooms of Yale.
“Yale is a great place to learn about the game because of our great coaches,” Laganiere said. “It has been a huge benefit because as a freshman you think you know a lot, but you realize you don’t and have a lot to learn.”
The prospect camps have allowed Laganiere to face-off with some of the premiere prospects around the world, and many he wouldn’t have a chance to play against in college hockey. Another benefit he has been able to take from the camps is some of the values they preach there, along with teaching players how to better use their talents.
“They teach you a lot of stuff that has helped me like nutrition and getting the right amount of sleep,” Laganiere said. “They also try to show you how to use your attributes, and to specialize yourself in different ways.”
Participating in three development camps the past two summers has definitely helped add to Laganiere’s value to NHL teams. He could very well be a player that is sought after by 20+ teams. An important part of being a player like that is not letting the NHL become a distraction.
“I think the NHL could potentially become a distraction, but if you knew Antoine and knew his focus [you would know it would not be a distraction],” Allain said. “Although he wants desperately to play at the next level, he understands his best chance will happen if he is productive here.”
As long as Laganiere continues to progress this season with Yale, he could become one of the top college free agents this coming spring.
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