Maxime Comtois is just one of two QMJHL representatives on this year’s Canadian National Junior Team. Comparatively speaking, last year’s roster featured seven QMHJL players, including high-profiled names such as Thomas Chabot, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Julien Gauthier.
In what Comtois describes as a “tough year for the Q”, it is hard for the native of Longueuil, Quebec, to hide his excitement about joining this talented roster.
“It’s just an honour being here with Drake [Batherson]”, he said. “Hockey Canada has a lot of tough choices to make, and we are both just honoured to be representing our league.”
With an abundance of talented offensive players, Team Canada has many players in roles unfamiliar to them. So where does Comtois fit in with this year’s team?
“All of the guys here can play an offensive role on their junior teams, but you can’t play 23 guys on the power play”, Comtois mentioned. “I’m only 18 [years old], so they asked me to play a bottom six role.”
But the Victoriaville Tigres forward is more than ready to accept the challenge put forward by head coach Dominique Ducharme, as his priorities going into this tournament are: “Creating energy, killing penalties and helping the team win games”, he explained.
However, in Canada’s pre-tournament game against the Czech Republic, it was Comtois who got the offensive party started, scoring a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal to get the Canadians up on the board first.
The abundance of talent and the unselfish attitude Hockey Canada instills from its Olympic team, all the way down to its U-17 team, is what makes Canada a perennial powerhouse heading into every international tournament. This being his fourth time donning the red and white, Comtois is no stranger to international competition and Team Canada’s lofty expectations.
“Every year Canada is the favourite to win the gold medal, and we approach the tournament with more pressure than any other team”, stated the Anaheim Ducks prospect.
So how does Comtois plan on facing this pressure?
“We are looking to create chemistry early on, and just looking to play hockey”, he says.
But this simple approach might be easier said than done, especially in such a short tournament with heavy media attention. Comtois does not seem worried, considering the strength of the Canadian roster and his familiarity with his teammates.
“I have played with a lot of these guys at the U-17’s and U-18’s, so I know them pretty well”, he said. “We have a good team and it’s going to be fun playing with that pressure.”
Like many Canadians, Comtois has one day circled on his calendar: December 29th.
The date is set for a special occasion for players and fans alike, as the first ever World Juniors outdoor game will feature a matchup between Canada and its long-time rivals from the United States, and will be held at New Era Field.
“I’m looking forward to playing those big games”, explained Comtois. “It’s going to be awesome, especially with the outdoor setup in Buffalo!”
While the expectations for this team are undoubtedly high, you can bet that Comtois and his Canadian teammates wouldn’t have it any other way.