(Drummondville) The average Quebecer spends December 31 in the evening celebrating with friends or family, otherwise in front of the television watching InfomanTHE Bye or the Canadian who loses against a team from the southern United States.
But as a hockey player, Alexis Gendron does not follow the pace of life of the average Quebecer. On December 31, he played with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers’ farm club, against the Charlotte Checkers in the American League.
No party after the match, as the striker was immediately sent back to the junior ranks to finish the season there. His new team, the Voltigeurs de Drummondville, only played 3, which seems far away, except in the world of hockey, where deadlines are counted in days of training.
“I knew on the 31st that I was coming. So I played my match, it was in the evening, I took my pocket and left the next morning. I had my car, I left at 7 a.m., I was in Drummond at (3) p.m.,” explains Gendron, met at the Marcel-Dionne Center on Thursday morning.
So at 20 years old, with his teammates mostly in their twenties, who were supposed to go celebrate the arrival of 2024 in the intoxicating nightclubs of Allentown, he preferred to go to bed?
“I wasn’t in the mood for the party,” he retorts. I couldn’t wait to come back. As for knowing that I was going back to junior, I didn’t want to just sit there doing nothing. I just wanted to settle in and be ready. »
Not all players sent back to junior arrive with a knife between their teeth, but Gendron certainly seemed ready to work.
Between two chairs
Gendron celebrated his 20e birthday on December 30, the day before his last AHL game. If he was able to start the season in the NHL lobby at 19, it was under a special rule for players like him, born late in the year.
Last season, Canadian prospect William Trudeau, born October 11, was entitled to this accommodation, except that he ended up spending the entire season with the Laval Rocket. “At the start of the year, we had a lot of defenders. I was playing, but there was a moment of adaptation. It was when there were injuries that I was able to take my place, develop and gain confidence,” recalled Trudeau, met Wednesday evening in Laval.
Gendron had already been left out 14 times in 31 games for the Phantoms. In a limited role, he had seven points (five goals, two assists) in 17 outings. His interesting production under the circumstances, however, did not earn him a permanent role in Lehigh Valley.
“We had no injuries, so we were down to 17 attackers. It’s a big rotation. At my age, it was not good for development.
“At the start of the year, I knew that returning to junior was an option. It was going to depend on my minutes and injuries. If I could have played in the top three lines all year, I would have stayed. But I was often in the stands, and when I played, it was 10 minutes. The coach knew I wasn’t a fourth line player, so he was trying to put me in the top 9 when I was playing. »
However, his return was to Drummondville. The Gatineau Olympics were in liquidation mode and Gendron was one of the assets traded.
He gives us exactly what we expected. I knew him from having coached against him. It is a natural marker. I like what he brings.
Sylvain Favreau, head coach of the Voltigeurs
“Yes, the stats are important and he has a very good shot. But he has taken a step forward in his defensive game and that is attributable to his time in the American League,” adds his coach.
In nine games, Gendron already has 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists). He didn’t get a point Thursday, but escaped twice. He caused a penalty on the first play and a penalty shot on the second.
This late choice (7e tower, 220e in total in 2022) now wishes to demonstrate that he would have deserved to be claimed earlier. He believes he has already proven it with the Flyers.
“It doesn’t matter to me what rank I was chosen for. I was a pick 7e tour in junior too, so I don’t think it’s related. According to what Daniel Brière told me, the team has good plans for me. I think they don’t see me as a 7 picke round. It’s up to me to prove to them that I can be better than that. »
A surprising diagnosis
Since returning from the World Junior Championship, Maveric Lamoureux has not played with his usual confidence and even had to miss the matches of January 13 and 26. We now know why. The giant defender, a prospect for the Arizona Coyotes, suffers from mononucleosis and will be out indefinitely. However, the team is hopeful that Lamoureux has passed through the worst moments of the illness and that he will return to play within a reasonable time frame. Moreover, Thursday morning, a few hours before the results of the medical examinations were known, Lamoureux put on the skates with his teammates, before granting a fifteen-minute interview to The Press, during which he compared his return from Sweden to what he experienced in the fall, when he returned from Coyotes camp. “I was on a high coming back from Arizona. There, after the world juniors, it’s another boost. I don’t come in with the mentality that it’s going to be easy. I worked even harder coming back from Coyotes camp and I have to do the same thing now. » To be continued upon his return to the game.
Good start for the new administration
The Voltigeurs are led by two new faces this season. Yanick Lemay left his position as a scout with the Winnipeg Jets to become general manager, while Sylvain Favreau was named head coach, after leaving a similar job with the Halifax Mooseheads. The results are convincing so far. The Voltigeurs occupy 2e rank of the QMJHL, and even deprived of the pillar Lamoureux on the blue line, they signed Thursday a clear victory of 4-0 over the leading team of the Cecchini circuit, the Drakkar of Baie-Comeau, in front of crowded stands, which is not won on a Thursday evening. Favreau, a 45-year-old Franco-Ontarian, led Halifax to the QMJHL final last season and is on track to lead his club to another long run this spring. He bases his approach on 12 work habits that his players must respect, details of the game that he asks them to execute every time. “An example is stopping on pucks. If there is a turnaround, it is not to take a long lap in the opposing zone before returning. It’s having the dedication to stop and start again. When a team plays like that, it’s difficult for the opponents,” he illustrates.