Alex Barre-Boulet has a name that's difficult to pronounce, especially if French is not the reader's primary language.
It's also a name worth remembering and perfecting the pronunciation. After a sensational rookie professional season with the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate in Syracuse, Barre-Boulet (read: Bar Boo-LAY) is one of a handful of prospects on the cusp of earning the few open forward spots on the Bolts' roster.
At the start of the 2018-19 season, the thought of Barre-Boulet in the NHL a year later would have seemed far-fetched. He was relatively unknown. Sure, he recorded an incredible 53 goals and 116 points in 65 regular season games for Blainville-Boisbriand of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to earn CHL Player of the Year honors. At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, however, Barre-Boulet was overlooked in previous years by NHL teams at the draft, mainly because of concerns about his size.
The Lightning have found considerable success over the years nabbing overlooked playmakers and turning them into superstars. Toward the end of Barre-Boulet's junior career, the Bolts took a flyer on him, inking him to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Video: Postgame | Barre-Boulet
Barre-Boulet rewarded the Lightning's prescience immediately. He tied teammate Carter Verhaeghe as the AHL's end of season goal leader after netting 34 goals in his first season with the Crunch. His 68 points were the most by any rookie skater in the AHL and sixth most among all skaters. He was awarded the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the league's most outstanding rookie.
Barre-Boulet is anonymous no more.
"I had a couple ups and a couple downs last year, but overall I think I was satisfied with my season," Barre-Boulet said. "I had great teammates that when it was not going in, they were there for me."
Last season's rookie camp was a down for Barre-Boulet. The adjustment from juniors took time, and it affected his confidence.
"I was doing plays that I was doing in juniors still at camp, so I didn't go really well at my rookie camp," he said. "And as soon as I stopped doing that, my game went better. I just try and keep it simple."
Barre-Boulet became a consistent offensive threat for the Crunch throughout 2018-19. He added 34 assists to go with his prolific goal scoring. 17 of his 34 goals came on the power play, tied for the AHL lead for man-advantage markers.
After showing he can rack up goals and points at both the junior and AHL level, Barre-Boulet's challenge now becomes proving he continue to produce in the NHL. If he does, he might just be rewarded with a Lightning roster spot out of camp.
"I want to make a name for myself. I want to prove to them that I can play here," he said. "I don't have too much expectations to be honest. If I go back to Syracuse, I'll be happy to go there. I had a lot of fun last year, and I'm just going to have work harder to work my way back here."
Barre-Boulet is one of the more intriguing players for the Lightning entering this weekend's 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase, hosted by the Nashville Predators at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tenn. Tampa Bay fell 4-1 to the Predators in their opening game Saturday, but Barre-Boulet was zipping over the ice, displaying his speed and craftiness when he received the puck in open space.
The Bolts were down 3-0 before netting their lone goal with 49 seconds remaining in the second period, Maxim Cajkovic stealing a puck in the offensive zone and feeding Mikhail Shalagin in front for the Russian to take his time and pick his spot. Tampa Bay was outshot 41-28 by Nashville.
The Lightning continue the three-game round-robin showcase Sunday at 5 p.m. (Eastern) against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"First game all together, it's tough to get chemistry right away," Barre-Boulet said of his team's effort against Nashville. "I think we're going to build off that game and get better tomorrow and the next game after that."
As for Barre-Boulet, how he plays at the showcase as well as how he continues to perform as the Lightning open training camp next week will determine where he ends up playing this season. He admits looking at Tampa Bay's roster during the summer and noticing spots are up for grabs.
But that's not his focus right now.
"I try not to think too much about it because if I start thinking about it, I'm not going to play well. I'm going to go right to Syracuse," he said. "I try to just focus on my game, go one day at a time and have fun."