It may be a part of hockey, but there is never a good time for an injury.
For Acadie-Bathurst Titan forward Christophe Boivin, the timing of the first significant injury of his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career couldn’t have been any worse.
“It was supposed to be a minor injury,” said the Quebec City native. “But I tried to come back (Feb. 4) and I am not able to.”
The former first round draft pick, who had only missed a total of nine games through his first two seasons with the Titan, was having a career year before going down with an upper body injury during a game against the Halifax Mooseheads on Jan. 12.
Four weeks later, the 19-year-old is still waiting to get back in the lineup.
Before being hurt Boivin was red hot, picking up points in nine of his last 10 games, and had already registered career bests in goals (25) and assists (27) through the team’s first 43 games of the season.
After a slow start, where he scored just two goals in his first 12 games of the season, Boivin had become the offensive force the team was hoping he’d be when they drafted him 14th overall back in 2013.
“His role with us is huge,” said Titan head coach Mario Pouliot. “He is producing on the powerplay and five-on-five. Day in, day out he is always working at something to improve himself and his game.
“Honestly, since the start of the season he impressed me by his work ethic. We had a chat early in the season, I can’t remember exactly the date, but he had only two goals at that time – and one was in an empty net.”
Pouliot said he started by asking the winger if he was happy with his work ethic and the way he was playing.
“He said yes, but he said to me he wasn’t producing, said the coach.”
At that time, Boivin had taken 51 shots on goal and had only scored twice.
“I just said to him…I am really proud of your work ethic, the way you compete, and the scoring chances you create. You have a good accurate shot, but you have to work more inside the dots (the area between the faceoff dots in the offensive zone). Go to the net and good things will happen.”
Boivin scored his third goal of the season the following game, and added two more the next night. By the end of that month (October) he had seven goals in as many games.
“When I look at his stats, he is always scoring the big goal,” said Pouliot. “He is one of the reasons our power play is really good. It is easy to see how important he is for us.”
Despite missing the team’s last eight games, Boivin still leads the Titan with 52 points, and his seven powerplay goals leave him tied with Jordan Maher for top spot on the club.
Obviously anxious to get back in the lineup, Boivin said he is happy with the way his season was going prior to the injury.
“I improved my game on both sides of the puck,” he said. “It started with training. This year I became strong on my skates and I’m better in the corner to win one-on-one battles. I think I play with more confidence too. It helps a lot when you are confident with the puck. You can make mistakes but you know you can make good plays after. I try to be better every day.”
At 5 foot 7 inches tall, Boivin is tied with his younger brother Felix (a rookie defenceman on the club) as the shortest player on the team.
He said proving he can succeed, despite his stature, is what drives him to keep working hard every day.
“I want to show people that I can play at the highest level,” he said. “I think the most important thing is to be strong on my feet, and show them that I’m strong and I can play against the tallest guys and the bigger guys.”
Boivin is one of several Titan players who have missed time with injuries since Christmas, with 12 regulars out of the lineup at one time or another since the holidays.
“It is part of the game (but) we have to find a way,” said Pouliot. “The time you spend complaining about it, is time you lose finding solutions. For me it is (all about) focusing on what we have to do to be successful, but at some point we need those guys returning to the lineup. I am so proud of other players filling spots right now, but I am eager to see those guys back in the lineup for sure.”
That is especially true for Boivin.
“It is tough for us…because he has a big role,” said Pouliot. “He is an offensive player, and he’s there to help us to win games.
“We are really happy with the way he is playing this year. He’s playing like a first rounder and he’s producing on a regular basis. He will be a huge part of our success down the road this year, and next year he will be a big offensive guy for us.”
As a veteran, he is also an important leader on the team.
“He is leading by example,” said Pouliot. “He is always working on something to help his game. On the ice he is always working hard. Off the ice, he is working hard to make sure he will be well prepared to perform.
“He is working on his shot, he is working on different things around the net to improve his offensive game and he is so responsible. I’m really happy about the way he is producing, but I’m not scared to send him on the ice with the lead by one, and stuff like that, because he is really competitive out there and he is really reliable defensively. I know he will do his best out there. For me it is really important when I send players for a special task at the end of the game (that) those players will do whatever it takes to make the difference. He is the type of player who is willing to do that.”
Pouliot has also entrusted Boivin with helping to develop two of the team’s future stars – putting him on a line with rookies Antoine Morand and Vladimir Kuznetsov.
“I love that line,” said Boivin. “Me and Morand and Kuznetsov, we have good chemistry together. It is fun to play with them.”
Despite playing in just 33 games, Morand, who was taken second overall in last spring’s entry draft, has 37 points this season. Kuznetsov, who was taken first overall in last year’s Canadian Hockey League European entry draft, is amongst the league’s rookie scoring leaders with 48 points in 51 games.
“They are two great players, two young players too,” said Boivin. “They will be pretty good in the future too.”
After missing the post-season last year, the Titan find themselves in the midst of a playoff race with less than a quarter of the season left this year.
Although it has been tough to watch from the sidelines for the past month, Boivin said he likes what he has seen from the team.
“We have four great lines up front, and a good d-core,” he said. “We are playing good together. We are confident. We are big and strong and we have a good system. When we play in that (system) we are good.”
Boivin hopes to be back on the ice with his teammates when the Titan play host to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens on Feb. 12 at the K. C. Irving Regional Centre in Bathurst.