Zachary L’Heureux is approaching life and hockey one day at a time.
The highly touted forward has dealt with pressure and high expectations his entire career. Now, he is entering what most players call the most stressful year of their lives.
But the pride of Montreal, Quebec wants to embrace every aspect of his NHL Draft year experience instead of worrying about it.
“I’m extremely excited for the chance to be drafted by an NHL team”, said L’Heureux. “Honestly, I’m trying not to focus on it too much. I don’t want to build up any extra nerves or pressure that I don’t need.”
“I will just keep playing my game and, whatever pressure and attention comes at me, I’ll use as fuel to get better and to keep working hard”, he added.
L’Heureux is coming off an amazing rookie campaign in which he registered 53 points in 55 games with the high-flying Moncton Wildcats. In order to find instant success in his first QMJHL campaign, L’Heureux had to learn a lot from his time in Moncton, both as a player and as a person.
“I learned to adapt my game to a pro level”, said the 17-year-old. “I worked on little details like my wall work and stick battles, but also on becoming a leader outside of the rink and being a good teammate”, added the projected first round NHL Draft Pick.
The Wildcats had one of the best leadership groups across the entire CHL a season ago, one in which they loaded up for a run at the President and Memorial Cups. As a rookie in the Q, that meant that L’Heureux never really had to reach out very far for veterans to take him under their wing.
“We had a lot of great leaders that I could look up to and model my game after”, says the forward. “Guys like Mika Cyr, Jakob Pelletier and B.O. Groulx are definitely leaders I looked up to, who I asked questions to and felt comfortable around.”
The writing was on the wall for the Wildcats after they went out acquired Jared McIsaac and Groulx from Halifax ; many people in the junior hockey world knew that there was a strong possibility that L’Heureux would be going the other way in the off-season.
Being traded can be extremely challenging, even for the most seasoned of veterans. So what toll did the trade take on L’Heureux’s psyche? Did he reach out to Groulx or McIsaac to ask them what to expect of the city and Halifax organization?
“After B.O. arrived in Moncton, I remember asking him about Halifax and he only had good things to say. So when I learned that I was traded there, I was extremely excited for the opportunity”, explained L’Heureux.
An “A” rated prospect by the NHL Central Scouting Services, L’Heureux is now looking to join a long list of former Mooseheads players to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. The elite level power forward will be heavily relied on this season to provide both offense and leadership to the young and talented Mooseheads.
“It means a lot to me”, L’Heureux said of taking on a leadership role with his new club. “I think I’m naturally a leader and a guy that always wants to win. Coming from the group we had last year, I learned a lot about what it takes to be successful.”
L’Heureux has waited his entire life for the opportunity to have NHL scouts looking his way. Nevertheless, the mature 17-year-old understands this season isn’t a sprint, but rather a marathon, and that he needs to put in the work to get better every day.
“L’Heureux has strong offensive attributes, good puck protection and uses his thick body to shield pucks”, said one NHL scout. “His puck handling is good, not high-end creative, but he makes strong power moves.”
“He takes pucks to the net and he can play a heavy game”, the NHL scout added. “He has a strong stride, but still needs to work on getting quicker.”
“Zach is a highly competitive player with good hockey sense,” said another NHL scout. “He has both a pro shot and release, and he isn’t scared to play in the hard areas. He seems to always show up at key moments”, he added.
While he’s already been getting rave reviews from the flock of scouts who have witnessed his play, L’Heureux refuses to remove his foot from the gas pedal when it comes to improvement.
“I just want to go one day and one game at a time to show all the teams my true potential. The draft may seem pretty close, but I think I still have a lot of work to do before I can play at that high of a level”, said a reflective L’Heureux. “I’m going to try to focus on my game and the team’s success. I just want to continue to get better, so I can hopefully be in the NHL one day.”
Still surrounded by star teammates, learning from the best coaches and playing at the highest level of hockey he can, L’Heureux remains quick to credit none other than his parents for the unwavering support they’ve given him throughout his entire journey in the game.
“Ever since I’ve been young, they have been my biggest supporters no matter what. No matter how happy or upset I was, they were there for me. And I’m forever thankful for all the sacrifices that they have made for me.”
While the the sky is the limit for Zachary L’Heureux, for now he’s taking it all one day at a time.