BRANDON, Fla. -- It took Alex Barre-Boulet a while to find his way to the Tampa Bay Lightning development camp, but the forward from Montmagny, Quebec, believes he's in the right place at the right time.
"I see a lot of opportunity here," Barre-Boulet said. "I look at the way they have developed players with my type of skills and it's a good place for me."
At 21, Barre-Boulet was one of the older prospects at camp last month and said he feels that he has the most to prove. After going undrafted in juniors, Barre-Boulet decided he wasn't ready to give up on his NHL dream.
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"I wanted to go back to juniors at 20 and I was going to work as hard as I could to get an NHL contract," Barre-Boulet said.
Barre-Boulet returned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for a fourth season in 2017-18 and scored 53 goals and 116 points in 65 games with Blainville-Boisbriand. He was named MVP of the QMJHL and would eventually win Player of the Year honors for the Canadian Hockey League, the body that oversees the three major junior leagues in Canada.
On March 1, Barre-Boulet signed an entry-level contract with the Lightning. He will likely start his pro career with Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
"I just want to play my game and play hockey the way I did this past [season]," Barre-Boulet said. "I'm here to learn. I want to learn. I want to do well but I also want to do things the right way and be the player I know I can be."
Several teams were interested in signing Barre-Boulet (5-foot-10, 160 pounds), but he said the Lightning's history of success with undersized forwards gave them the edge. Former forward Martin St. Louis (5-foot-8) is their all-time leader in points (953) and assists (588), and current center Tyler Johnson (5-foot-8) has had at least 50 points in three of his five full seasons with Tampa Bay.
"The Lightning are really good at developing players, it doesn't matter if you are big or small," Barre-Boulet said. "If you play the right way and work hard you will get your chance. I signed right away."
Stacy Roest, the Lightning director of player development, said, "He's got a lot of skill and he's very quick. He had a terrific year in Quebec and you can see in some of the skill drills and shooting drills that he has a good package. He is a smaller player but he's smart and he just needs to get stronger in the gym."
Forward Gabriel Fortier, the Lightning's second-round pick (No. 59) in the 2018 NHL Draft, played against Barre-Boulet several times in juniors and said he has the ability to make it to the NHL.
"He scored on us many times, I've forgotten how many goals he's scored against us," Fortier said. "But he's a hard worker. He's very good with the puck and he's a competitor."