|Lewiston forward Danick Paquette is ranked No. 45 among North American skaters heading into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Off the ice, though, Paquette uses those same hands to hug, help and hold the attention of youngsters who might not get the opportunity to enjoy hockey.
And in both ways, the 17-year-old forward is adding to the success of the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Paquette was ranked No. 45 among North American skaters when Central Scouting released its final rankings last month, and he’s likely to go no later than the third round when the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is held in Ottawa on June 20-21.
In his second season with the MAINEiacs, Paquette had 29 goals – third-most on the team – 42 points, and a team-leading 213 penalty minutes in 63 games.
It was an impressive outing for a player certainly on the way up.
“He’s got 30 goals, a couple hundred penalty minutes; nobody wants to go near this guy,” said Chris Bordeleau, Central Scouting’s QMJHL scout. “He’s not a great skater, but he works hard.”
“I think they like my style,” said Paquette. “Not everybody can play physical, score, fight -- be a power forward. I don’t think they have a lot of players with my style. They search for players like me.”
NHL teams also should be searching for people like Paquette.
This season, he started “Danick’s Den,” giving four tickets to every Lewiston home game to area children and their families, who might not be able to otherwise afford the tickets.
“It’s a privilege to have this life,” Paquette said. “These people, they don’t have the chance. They don’t have two parents, or everything they want. Sometimes when they come, after the game they come see me and they say this is the first time I’ve seen the MAINEiacs and this is the best thing I’ve seen in my life. It touches my heart.”
“I’m really, really proud because it comes from him and not from his parents, so I’m really, really proud,” said Lucien Paquette, Danick’s father.
Giving back, though, is a Paquette family tradition. Lucien and his wife, Mathalie, use their sporting goods store in Montreal, Sports 47 –Danick’s number with the MAINEiacs is No. 47 – to help underprivileged children and youth hockey organizations in the Montreal area.
“Everybody loves that family,” said Stephane Fiset, the former NHL goalie who will serve as Danick’s agent when he starts his pro career. “They’re doing so much for everybody.”
Growing up in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, a less-affluent section northeast of downtown Montreal, Danick Paquette never lacked for anything when it came to hockey. His parents gave what they could, and made up the difference in loyalty and love.
For the 2006 QMJHL draft, there was a 30-person traveling party that made the 12-hour drive from Montreal to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to see Danick chosen No. 11 overall by the MAINEiacs. The group bought every piece of MAINEiacs gear available within the hour.
In two years in Lewiston, Lucien and Mathalie often would make the 270-mile drive from Montreal to Maine, plus they were frequent visitors at many of the MAINEiacs’ other games around the QMJHL.
And with the 2008 NHL Entry Draft nearby in Ottawa, expect there to be a sizable Paquette cheering section.
“For the draft this summer, he asked me, how can I get 100, 150 tickets,” said Fiset.
There’s also a Paquette family link to Lewiston. As an 18-year-old in 1983, Lucien Paquette had a tryout with the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs, but didn’t make the team. In 1992, the club was sold and moved to Sherbrooke, Quebec. In 2003, the franchise was sold and moved again – to Lewiston, Maine.
While Lucien never had a pro career, it’s certain his son will.
“Every time I look at him, I say he can’t skate,” said David Gregory, a scout and videographer for Central Scouting. “But he gets there – especially in the offensive zone when he wants the puck.”
“His first year he looked like a guy running around, trying to make a name for himself,” said Bordeleau. “He turned out, he’s a pretty smart hockey player. He’s got good hands … and he’s a tough kid.”
Paquette said he patterns his game after Ottawa power forward Chris Neil, “but I score more goals than him. … He can hit somebody, he can score; he’s dangerous in front of the net. He’s a good example for someone like me.”
Bordeleau said Paquette still needs to improve his skating, which reminded him of another recent prospect.
“He’s not the greatest of skaters, but we had (Brandon) Dubinsky … in his draft year he was a horrible skater,” said Bordeleau. “The kid worked his butt off, and when you play for the New York Rangers on a line with Jaromir Jagr, you can’t be too shabby. I think Paquette is that type of guy.”
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.