(Ottawa, Ontario) – When Claude Giroux
set foot in Scotiabank Place last Friday night to take in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with some friends, it brought back some recent, exhilarating memories for the 20-year-old Flyers prospect.
After all, it was almost four months to the day that Giroux made his NHL debut in the orange and black while on emergency recall from his junior club in Gatineau down the road. Wearing uniform number 56, Giroux was scoreless in two games but his poise and maturity impressed his teammates and coaches at the time.
“It’s pretty special just to think that I played here,” he said, in a suite with the Flyers’ coaching staff and various front office personnel. “It’s fun to come back.”
|Claude Giroux skates against the Ottawa Senators in his NHL debut on February 19 at Scotiabank Place. (Getty Images) |
It also allowed him to see some of his close friends get chosen in the first round, as he recalled when he stepped onto the podium two years ago.
“I played with some of these guys on Team Canada like Luke Schenn, [Steven] Stamkos and Drew Doughty. It’s nice to see them get drafted. I think they know a little bit as to what to expect, but I talked to them before the draft and they were all pretty nervous.
“It’s good to see them go through this because I remember two years ago when I got drafted and it was an unbelievable feeling.”
Now, Giroux may be ready to make the jump to the NHL full time beginning next season. He capped off his junior career with an MVP performance in the QMJHL playoffs that earned his team a birth in the Memorial Cup tournament. In just 19 playoff games, Giroux had an astonishing 51 points (17g, 34a), after finishing second in the league in scoring with 106 points (38g, 68a) in the regular season.
“Just in those three days [with the Flyers] I think I learned a lot. I think I was able to take that experience and take it back to my team in the playoffs and we did well, which was pretty nice.”
That performance, as well as his two games with the Flyers, is just part of Giroux’s past year on the ice. He helped lead Canada to another World Junior title in the Czech Republic, as well as took part in the eight-game Canada/Russia Super Series.
He was asked if all of that hockey has made him ready for the NHL in October.
“I think so,” he said. “I learned a lot and had some great coaches, so I think I can maybe play in the NHL this year.”
With the retirement of Sami Kapanen and R.J. Umberger’s departure via trade, it appears that the Hearst, Ontario native will be given every opportunity to make the Flyers’ opening night roster. It’s an undoubtedly an exciting time for the 5-11, 175-pound winger.
In my head I have to go [to training camp] like I’m going to make the team. I have to be ready to accept that I have a chance to play for the Flyers. - Claude Giroux
“In my head I have to go [to training camp] like I’m going to make the team,” he said. “I have to be ready to accept that I have a chance to play for the Flyers. It’s a big motivation for me to be able to play in the NHL, so I’m just going to go there and try to have fun and have a good camp.”
He also kept a close eye on the club as it made its impressive run deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs before bowing out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“I know it’s a good team, and to think I could be a part of that team, I’m just so excited to go to camp.”
The Flyers front office is just as excited to see what Giroux has to offer at the pro level.
“He’s a very special player,” explained Flyers Director of Hockey Operations, Chris Pryor.
“I’m not sure I can say much about Claude that hasn’t already been said. He’s accomplished just about all he could at the major junior level, from an individual standpoint. He’s been an elite player in the [QMJHL] for two seasons, and has put up some big numbers. But he’s also matured into an excellent all-around player.”