Between winning the coveted Memorial Cup with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and then getting drafted in the sixth round (178th overall) by the New York Islanders, 2019 was a year that will be flagged as one of the best for Felix Bibeau.
Now, with a new decade underway and having embarked on the final stretch of his last season in the QMJHL, the 20-year-old is hoping that 2019's triumphs will establish a foundation for future success as he contends for his second Memorial Cup with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
"It was amazing," Bibeau recalled of 2019. "I'll never forget this year. There was so much to be happy about and to celebrate and so much to be thankful for. You want to carry that success and confidence over and build off of that."
Ahead of the NHL Draft, Bibeau was acquired by the Quebec Remparts from Rouyn-Noranda. Quebec's President and GM Patrick Roy viewed Bibeau as an experienced vet in the Q to help lead an overwhelmingly young Remparts team and named Bibeau the captain upon his arrival.
While Quebec had incentives like being within driving distance for Bibeau's family in Mercier, Quebec, the chances of repeating a Memorial Cup were thin. During 31 games with Quebec, Bibeau registered 35 points (17G, 18A), but the Remparts struggled, hovering below .500. On Dec. 11, Quebec dealt Bibeau to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens for picks, offering Bibeau a shot at another Memorial Cup with a legit contender, as Chicoutimi punched their ticket to the QMJHL postseason on Feb. 14.
"I'm really fortunate to have the opportunity to get a second chance," Bibeau said of the trade. "Not everyone has a chance to do it twice. I'm hoping to bring my experience from last year to this group here. We have four guys that have already won the Memorial Cup and know what it takes. I played with our captain Rafael [Harvey-Pinard] last season so it's good to be reunited."
Bibeau feels settled and confident after his midseason transition. He is living with Harvey-Pinard in the short-term and has adjusted to his new teammates, systems and from playing on one of the smallest sheets of ice in the Q to an Olympic-sized rink.
"There was definitely an adjustment period," Bibeau said. "My first 10 games or so were not my best. The size of the ice tested my cardio, but I think after that [period] my skating improved. As a center, there's more ice to cover, but I think that's helped my game. I'm more comfortable now. I've learned the systems and know what's expected [of me]."
With his new club, Bibeau has compiled 31 points through 28 games (11G, 20A) and a season total of 66 points (28G, 38A) through 59 games. The left shot is on pace to match or surpass his career-high of 69 points (28G, 41A) through 63 games.
From his experience at the Islanders' Development Camp over the summer and at training camp in September, Bibeau took away valuable insight. The eye-opening experience motivated Bibeau in how he plans to further establish his game as a 200-foot centerman.
"I want to be faster not only in how I skate, but I want to think faster," Bibeau explained. "I want to do everything faster and more high speed. That was the biggest difference for me. It was my first camp this year and that was the biggest difference for me was just how fast everything was. The guys were making their plays and they were thinking. I want to be faster too."
Off the ice, Bibeau is taking two courses in CEGEP, a post-high school and pre-collegiate program unique to the Quebec education system. The self-proclaimed stats guy noted his enjoyment for studying numbers and applying them to circumstances on the ice and in everyday life. Even outside of his statistics course, Bibeau is dialed in to the use of advanced statistics and how they can be applied to helping his game.
"In every aspect of my life, I like stats. I like numbers," Bibeau said. "In hockey, I'm looking at stats, not only in points, but faceoff percentage. Or in the NHL right now, there's a lot of statistics I'm looking that. It's minutes that we played every night here, I'm looking at that. I'm looking at shots, I'm looking at the dangerous shots. I'm looking at everything. In one game, say you have seven shots and four dangerous shots, it can help you to know if you played a good game or not. I don't think it helps every night, but I think it can help in a full year to know the most dangerous shots that you have and the most chance that you have the better you're playing."
After a year he'll surely never forget, Bibeau looks forward to his future as a hockey player. For his time remaining at the junior level, he's relishing the experience and hoping to make an impact with the opportunity and second chance at hand.
"Last year when I won the [Memorial] Cup, we were a hard-working team and that was the key of our team, pretty much a lot like the Islanders," Bibeau said. "We weren't the most talented team, but we were working hard every night. [With Chicoutimi] it's a lot the same, a lot like the Islanders. We have a defensive mentality like them and believe that defense is the way to win. We have enough talent to score goals but you need to defend well. It's team first. Nobody has 100 points or is dominating. I think that mindset will help [down the stretch]. I'm excited to see what we can do."