Bob Clarke and the Philadelphia Flyers scouting staff must have been having flashbacks to 1998 when they used their 22nd overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft to select Claude Giroux. That year the Flyers took another under-sized, point-producing winger from the ranks of the QMJHL also 22nd overall, a young kid named Simon Gagne. It’s safe to say that the Flyers would be ecstatic if Giroux parallels Gagne’s play in the NHL as much as his draft heritage.
However, despite their draft-day similarities, Giroux and the 1998 version of Gagne have many distinctions. Although roughly the same weight at around 170 lbs apiece, Gagne was several inches taller, while Giroux has more of a solid build for his height. Gagne has always been regarded as a speed demon compared to Giroux who, while he has very good speed, identifies his skating as a part of his game he needs to improve. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that Gagne is a great goal scorer, while Giroux is more of a playmaker.
The Hearst, Ontario native scored 39 goals and 64 assists (103 points) in 69 regular season games during his QMJHL rookie season. Despite his size, Giroux is not afraid of contact and will take a hit to make a play. The diminutive playmaker is likely several seasons from full-time NHL action, but will certainly benefit from the crackdown on clutching and grabbing that occurred last season. He has the potential to be a first or second liner.
Giroux spoke with Hockey’s Future at GM Place following his selection.
HF: Were you surprised to hear Bobby Clarke call your name in the first round?
CG: Flyers, yes. In the first round, yes. Just, I’m a surprised guy right now!
HF: Did you have any indication throughout the evaluation process that the Flyers were interested in you?
CG: At the Combines I did an interview and it went pretty well.
HF: You were one of the top scorers in the entire QMJHL in last season, 11th overall, an astounding statistic for a 17-year-old. Do you think that your strong play last season puts added pressure on you to be the best scorer in the league this season?
CG: Well, I’m just going to try and help my team (Gatineau Olympiques). If I’m one of the best, I’m one of the best. I just want to make my team win and I’ll do whatever I can.
HF: How would you describe your style of play?
CG: I am a playmaker; I like to have the puck. I have a lot of heart, and I don’t like to lose.
HF: So you consider yourself a very competitive person and player?
HF: What do you need to improve upon in order to make the step to the next level?
CG: I think my speed. Because of the new game, and I’m a small player. If I work on my speed, I think I’ll be a better player.
HF: Historically the Philadelphia Flyers have been a physically large team that favored bigger players. Did their history make it particularly surprising to hear them select you?
CG: I was really surprised, like I said. They were always like big guys. But guys like Simon Gagne are small players and I think it’s working.
HF: Who are you favorite current Philadelphia Flyers?
CG: (Peter) Forsberg and Gagne I gotta say.
HF: Do you think you will be able to play a similar style as Simon Gagne when you reach the NHL?
CG: That’ll be hard, but I’ll do whatever I can.
HF: How do you expect your 2006-07 season to play out?
CG: I think I have to work on all things. I’ll be a more complete player offensively and defensively and I’ll do my best for sure.
HF: What are you doing during the offseason to prepare for next year?
CG: I’m training with my assistant coach and I’ve been working hard all summer and I think I’ve gotten better.
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