Whitby - November 29, 2011 - One minute you are attending the Guns N’ Roses concert at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario with some of your Hamilton Bulldogs’ teammates, the next you are receiving word that you have been recalled to play with the Montreal Canadiens in two days.
Such is the life and current state of affairs for one, Louis Leblanc. On a November Rain Monday evening, the first round and 18th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is about to fulfill his lifelong dream of skating with Les Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.
The call up was necessitated by the fact that the Canadiens’ own Max Pacioretty was hit with a three-game suspension by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan earlier on Monday evening for a blind-side hit on Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang last Saturday night.
Former General Manager, Bob Gainey once described Leblanc as one with ‘character’. He is also a skilled forward, has a calm disposition and plays an excellent two-way game. Leblanc is tenacious along the boards and in the corners and is not afraid to ‘drop the mits’ when needed.
Leblanc has been the most consistent Bulldog over the past two weeks. His strong play in the offensive zone, combined with smooth hands, physicality and top-notch skating speed earned him the opportunity to replace Pacioretty even if it is for a few games.
In 14 games and first season as a professional hockey player, Leblanc is tied for second place on the Bulldogs’ (AHL) team scoring with 4 goals and 6 assists. Wednesday night versus the Anaheim Ducks will be Leblanc’s fourth team he has played for in four consecutive years.
The Kirkland, Quebec native has had a history of success in playing first games with new teams. Last month with the Bulldogs, Leblanc played his first AHL game and registered two assists, along with potting the overtime game winning goal to give his Bulldogs a 3-2 victory over the Rochester Americans.
Two years prior, Leblanc, who was then a Harvard University Crimson freshman, made his collegiate debut, scored a goal and an assist to lead his Crimson to a 5-3 victory over the Dartmouth Big Green.
Seeing that Louis Leblanc seems to have the luck of the Irish when it comes to playing first games with new teams, it is predicted this character kid will register his first NHL assist in a Canadiens win against a frustrated Anaheim Ducks team.
While Leblanc is a natural centre, he has been known to play the wing on occasion. He is a right-handed shot, will bring some much-needed size (6’1?, 186 pounds) to the forward corps and also possesses some grit to his game. It will be interesting to see how Coach Jacques Martin utilizes this young inexperienced speedy forward.
Expect to see Leblanc lineup on left-wing in place of Pacioretty. The Canadiens already have an over-abundance of centremen. If he falters in any way, further expect Coach Martin to slide him back to the third or fourth line.
The Hockey News’ own Danielle Emanuele highlighted Louis Leblanc in an earlier interview and how he has handled the rookie spotlight thus far with the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs:
The Hockey News: Special Features: VIDEO: Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc comfortable being a rookie.
The media spotlight on Leblanc will be utterly intense, but Leblanc has been under the spotlight before and has always shone above the rest.
What say you?
Until next time, play every game as if it is your last one…