#Our18 : Three questions facing Gatineau Olympiques

Who can replace Abramov?

Vitaly Abramov had consecutive seasons of 93 and 104 points respectively while wearing the Olympiques colors. From rookie of the year to the league’s top scorer in his second season, it is hard to imagine a successor that will be able to accomplish as much.

« He was one of the best players in the league. Let’s be honest, you can’t replace a guy like that. We’re looking for internal solutions. We have some good young players, excellent veterans, but no one to assume the role Vitaly had”, says head coach Eric Landry who has a lot of faith in players like Shawn Boudrias and Mitchell Balmas to fill up the opponent’s net.

A breakout season from Mikhail Shestopalov is also not improbable, and it’s something that would surely ease things for the sympathetic bench boss.

Can Mathieu Bellemare’s story help unify the team?

The past few months have been a real emotional roller-coaster for Shawinigan-native Mathieu Bellemare. Aside from suffering a shoulder injury, the netminder also found out recently that his father is battling cancer. But after requesting a trade that would have sent him closer to home, Bellemare finally agreed to come back to Gatineau.

“We wanted to accommodate him and allow him to go through these tough times with his family, but we didn’t want to trade him because of his importance to us. Mathieu is a competitor. He showed up in Gatineau with a great attitude and we found a way to satisfy all involved. He will be allowed to take a few days off if a situation comes up where he needs to be by his father’s side in the Mauricie region.”

However, Bellemare’s injury should hold him out from the beginning of the regular season. But his return will be highly anticipated from his teammates who will try to support him in their own way, by lightening his load game after game.

Who will become the team’s next captain?

The mystery is still very much alive amongst the team and its entourage as a decision looms within the next few days.

“We want to see the player’s work ethic and their interactions before moving on with the process”, explained Eric Landry.

At age 20, Alex Breton, Alexandre Landreville and Will Thompson are certainly early favorites, but it would not be a surprise should Mitchell Balmas or Jeffrey Durocher earn the captaincy.

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