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Victoriaville Tigres Hoping for Big Presence at 2018 World Juniors

By Mike Beasley on November 25, 2017
 
Teammates Maxime Comtois (left) and Pascal Laberge (above) are top contenders for Team Canada at the World Juniors, especially after a solid showing for QMJHL at the CIBC Canada-Russia Series. 

Pascal Laberge and Maxime Comtois would like nothing better than to spend Christmas and New Years together.

The two Victoriaville Tigres forwards have been skating alongside each other since 2015 when Comtois joined the team after being selected in the first round (third overall) in the QMJHL Draft.

Laberge already had a season worth of CHL experience when Comtois arrived on the scene in Victoriaville, which is a little more than halfway between Montreal and Quebec City. 

The Chateauguay, Quebec native was also a high end draft pick by the Gatineau Olympiques in 2014.

At the 2015 trade deadline, the Olympiques opted to give up Laberge, who went second overall in 2014 and was a first round pick in 2016, in exchange for two players that have graduated from the QMJHL.

The duo has combined to become an offensive force for the Tigres since the two skaters suited up together in the black, gold and white of Victoriaville.

Hockey Canada scouts noticed their high end skating and puck skills and sent them an invite to participate in the recent CIBC Canada-Russia Series as members of Team QMJHL.

“Both players are skilled and have the mindset to play at an international level, I expect they will make a very good impression in both games against the Russians,” said Maxime Desruisseaux, Victoriaville assistant coach.

Desruisseaux was filling in behind the Tigres bench when head coach Louis Robitaille travelled to Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C. to serve as an assistant coach for Team Black at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

“Max and Pascal have been under the spotlight the last two seasons and executed well. Laberge was drafted 36th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2016, Max is also a second rounder by the Anaheim Ducks so you know they can play,” added Desruisseaux.

A good showing by the pair in the two contests against Team Russia may lead to invites to Canada’s Selection Camp in St. Catharines from December 12 to 15.

Neither player was in attendance at last summer’s Development Camp, but if they execute on the ice, you never know what may happen.

Overall, the QMJHL had very little representation at the camp with only D Samuel Girard and F Pierre-Luc Dubois skating in Plymouth, Michigan.

Girard (Colorado Avalanche) and Dubois (Columbus Blue Jackets) are currently playing for the respective NHL teams and may not get the green light to play for Team Canada at the upcoming 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo, New York.

Laberge acknowledges that cracking a spot on Team Canada is a possibility but the odds are against him.

“There’s so much depth in the CHL as well as the Canadian players that skate in the NCAA,” Laberge admitted.

“I plan on doing my best in the games against Russia and play the way I know I can. It’s all about speed, playing at pace and competing for pucks all the time. That has always been Canada’s identity.”

The 6’1”, 181-pound centre has rebounded nicely from a bad concussion he suffered last season. It’s been an uphill battle for Laberge, but he has persevered and is enjoying success again. 

In October 2016, Pascal was the victim of a huge headshot by a Moncton Wildcats defenceman when picking up the puck at his own blue line.

The concussion caused him to miss over a month of play before returning to the Victoriaville line-up on November 25. He played two games but was forced to miss another three when the symptoms returned.

He made his way back for good in early December and started to slowly regain the form that led to the Flyers selecting him in the second round earlier that year.

As for Comtois, it’s possible he may be a year away from being a legitimate contender to line up for Team Canada.

As 1999 birth year in an event that feature mostly 98’s, he’s facing an uphill battle – but that fact hadn’t even entered Comtois’ mind a week before the Canada-Russia series.

“There’s a reason why I was invited to participate in the two games. I plan on showing all the decision makers that I deserve an invitation to the Selection Camp,” Comtois said convincingly.

He had a strong outing in the Charlottetown contest forming one of the QMJHL’s better lines, collecting an assist and winning five of six face-offs. 

The prototypical power forward looks to be a great fit to progress to the next level within the Anaheim Ducks organization.

Comtois is a big presence on the ice and uses his 6 feet and 3 inches, and 205 pounds to his advantage.

He skates well and plays with an edge which defines the identity of several current Anaheim players.

Laberge and Comtois are the only NHL drafted players on the Victoriaville roster this season so their opponent’s game plan to defeat les Tigres is to stop those two guys.

But help is on the way for Laberge and Comtois.

During Game 6 of the Canada-Russia Series, it was announced that the Tigres acquired C Vitalii Abramov from the Gatineau Olympiques to bolster their attack.

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ third rounder in 2015 was the QMJHL’s Top Scorer and MVP last season. 

Abramov represented Russia against Team QMJHL and has a legitimate shot at making their squad at the 2018 World Juniors.

Only time will tell if Laberge, Comtois and Abramov are together in Buffalo singing Christmas carols with their Canadian teammates.    est forming one of the QMJHL’s better lines, collecting an assist and winning five of six face-offs. 

The prototypical power forward looks to be a great fit to progress to the next level within the Anaheim Ducks organization.

Comtois is a big presence on the ice and uses his 6 feet and 3 inches, and 205 pounds to his advantage.

He skates well and plays with an edge which defines the identity of several current Anaheim players.

Laberge and Comtois are the only NHL drafted players on the Victoriaville roster this season so their opponent’s game plan to defeat les Tigres is to stop those two guys.

At the Canada-Russia they were surrounded by a slew of talent which helped them in their quest to get that magical invite.
Only time will tell if they’re together in Buffalo singing Christmas carols with their Canadian teammates.    

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By Mike Beasley| November 25, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior

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