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Learning as he goes

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Way back in 2007, a 10-year-old Simon Bourque took part in the inaugural edition of the Canadiens Hockey School, paying close attention to his instructors and visiting NHLers. Eight years later, the roles have been reversed, and Bourque is the one addressing youngsters looking to follow in his footsteps down the road.

Simon Bourque as a camper at the Canadiens Hockey School back in the summer of 2007.

“It’s funny. I met Francis Bouillon the other day, and he was one of the guys who came to talk to us when I was a camper back in 2007,” recalled the Canadiens’ sixth-round selection in 2015, who is training hard at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and spending time speaking with campers on site. “I told them that you just can’t give up, regardless of the obstacles that you might come across along the way. There will always be people telling you that you can’t reach your goal, but the only person who has to believe in your abilities is you.”

For the 18-year-old defenseman, time spent working out on the South Shore is somewhat of a return to normalcy after four busy months during which he claimed the President’s Cup with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic, played four games in six days at the Memorial Cup, was selected 177th overall by the Canadiens in Florida, and hit the ice for the first time in a Habs uniform.

“It was a very special year. We had a great team in Rimouski. I was lucky to have spent two good years developing my game with good veterans and we won a league title. The Memorial Cup was a good experience for me, personally, and then the NHL Draft was the icing on the cake,” explained Bourque. “I was more and more nervous as it got closer. I was worried that I wasn’t going to get picked. Finally, when I heard my name being called, especially by the Canadiens, it was a magical moment.”

Less than two weeks later, Bourque was taking part in the Canadiens’ annual Development Camp, which gave him a chance to meet other members of the organization for the first time, and also put together a training program for the remainder of the offseason with the help of player development staff.

“It was a great introduction to a new level of hockey. It was a pleasure to see the guys who’d played in Hamilton. They’d already been through what I’m going through right now,” shared Bourque, who spent some time with both Martin Lapointe and Rob Ramage as camp drew to a close. “We took a look at some of the things I could work on over the summer both on and off the ice. They let me know how they see my development progressing. I’m still young. I have a lot of things to learn.”

And, what better way is there to learn the tricks of the trade than to watch pros on a daily basis? Bourque has been doing just that, spending the last two week taking advantage of top-notch facilities and equipment, and paying close attention to how veteran pivot Tomas Plekanec goes about his business, too.

“Working out with him in the morning is all about learning. I try to follow him, which isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do because he’s an outstanding athlete,” explained Bourque, who has also met Andrei Markov, Lars Eller and Zack Kassian, among others, while spending time fine-tuning his fitness level. “Sometimes, Tomas will even help me out while I’m training. He’ll offer up some advice. He’s a really good guy. ”

Come August, though, Bourque will be the one dishing out words of wisdom upon his return to Rimouski. Entering his third QMJHL campaign, the promising young gun expects to assume a more prominent role in the Oceanic dressing room after the squad lost several veterans to the professional ranks in recent months. That’s something Bourque is very much looking forward to doing.

“I’m happy to assert myself. I already did it somewhat last year, but we could also count on some good veterans who had a lot more experience than I did,” concluded Bourque, referencing the likes of defenseman Samuel Morin, a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013, and Jan Kostalek, a fourth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets that year as well. “They helped me out a lot. I learned a lot from them. Even at the Junior level, I thought they both carried themselves like pros. This year, I think it will be my turn to do the same thing they did for me.”

Vincent Régis is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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