The Acadie-Bathurst Titan are looking for big things from 18-year-old sophomore forward Christophe Lalancette this season.
The Ancienne-Lorette, Que. native, picked up 16 goals and 31 assists in 63 games last season during his rookie campaign with Acadie-Bathurst, before being selected in the fourth round (109th overall) by the San Jose Sharks during last June’s National Hockey League entry draft.
“It is his second year, he got drafted, went to (rookie) camp this summer (in San Jose), and is going to go to another camp if there is no lockout, so I expect big things from him,” said Titan head coach Eric Dubois. “My expectations are that he pushes (20-year-old) Zach O’Brien to perform to a higher standard.”
O’Brien finished second in the league’s overall scoring race last season with 101 points, including 50 goals, but Dubois said with another right-winger really pushing him he feels O’Brien can do even better.
“Obviously Christophe (Lalancette) wasn’t ready to push Zach last year because he was a rookie,” said the coach. “But you could tell after Christmas that Christophe found another gear, the gear that separates a regular player from a really good player in this league. I thought Christophe found that gear after Christmas, or just before Christmas, that showed us that he could be a really good player in this league. And you know once you’ve found that gear, I’m not looking for anything else than that gear.”
Dubois said he was equally impressed with the way Lalancette grew off this ice last season as he was with his on-ice development.
“I expect him to play just as good as my three 20-year-olds,” he said. “I’m sure he can do it. He is very competitive and he hates to lose. No matter what he does he competes hard at everything. He wants to win really bad, and after Christmas you could tell he was trying to take his place in that dressing room, to try to take his place on the ice and on the bench. A few times (late last season) I heard him giving some feedback to some of the players because he wasn’t happy about their effort.
“That shows a lot of character when it comes from a rookie like him,” continued the coach. “So I’m sure he will take more space in that dressing room this year, on the ice and during practice. And I want him to. I don’t think it should always come from the top payers, but it should come from a lot of different players in the dressing room.”
Lalancette says he is up for the challenge.
“I trained really hard all summer,” he said. “I was on the ice every week with a group of friends in Quebec City. We trained all summer long.”
Lalancette said that training included working both his upper and lower body.
“I tried to improve my first two strides on the ice, my acceleration, and my strength,” he said. “(The San Jose Sharks) told me I have to work on my strength, because in the NHL they have big guys and strong guys. I always knew I had to work on my strength though.”
Lalancette got a chance to attend San Jose’s rookie training camp earlier this summer. Although he admits visiting California for the first time was an amazing experience he knew what he had to do and stayed focussed on showing the Sharks they made a good choice by selecting him in the NHL entry draft.
“It went pretty good, but it was hard because they had tests every day so it was hard physically,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Lalancette hopes to be back in San Jose soon for the Sharks regular training camp, but will have to wait to see how labour negotiations between the NHL owners and NHL players association work out before he knows if he will get that chance for sure.
For now he is just happy to be back in Bathurst and is determined to become an even better player for the Titan this season.
“I’m very excited to be at the rink,” concluded Lalancette, who arrived in Bathurst a few days early so he could spend some times with friends and his billets before training camp began. “I’m very excited to see my friends and teammates here. It was a great year for me last year, but my goal is to be better than last year and to be a key player for my team. I think we are going to be pretty good.”