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NHL Draft

Groulx showing more confidence in second season with Halifax

Left wing impressing with hockey smarts, strong play in all three zones

by Guillaume Lepage @GLepageLNH / Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Halifax left wing Benoit-Olivier Groulx has already experienced the excitement of a Calder Cup championship series despite the fact he has yet to be chosen in the NHL Draft.

That's because Benoit Groulx, his father, coaches the Syracuse Crunch, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

While recovering from an ankle injury a few weeks after his team was eliminated in the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs last season, the younger Groulx packed his bags and joined his father for a front row seat in the AHL playoffs.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx followed the Crunch all the way through their six-game loss in the Calder Cup final against Grand Rapids, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. He also got the chance to spend some quality time with his dad, a rare opportunity due to schedule constraints imposed by their shared passion.

"I spent about seven weeks following them, traveling and training with them," Groulx said. "I learned a lot from guys like (Cory) Conacher and (Yanni) Gourde. It was really a great experience to be with my dad for his playoffs, and to learn from professionals about how to train on and off the ice."

After gaining the experience of a professional playoff series, Groulx began his second QMJHL season with added confidence after getting 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 62 games as a rookie after being selected No. 1 in the league's 2016 draft.

"This year I'm playing with much more confidence, with more maturity, and it's helped me a lot," Groulx said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, and just stick to my style of play. I know that I'll have a good season if I play my game. My biggest challenge will be consistency."

Groulx (6-foot-1, 192 pounds) got off to a good start playing on the top line with veterans Maxime Fortier and Connor Moynihan.

"Groulx is one of those players who comes to play every night and does all the little things well," said Troy Dumville of NHL Central Scouting. "He's more of a Jonathan Toews-type player. He's great in his own zone, very responsible. He doesn't have that flash and skill that you kind of want to see, but he makes plays, puts up points, and he's a guy you win with."

Groulx has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 19 games, and earned an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary list of skaters eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.

"Connor and I have a lot of experience in the QMJHL, but Benoît-Olivier is a very smart player," said Fortier, who serves as captain for Halifax. "He is very strong in all three zones, he reads the game well and he is a really strong skater. There is not much that he cannot do on the ice."

Despite a coaching change that has seen Jim Midgley take over in Halifax, Groulx has retained the same responsibilities he had under coach Andre Tourigny last season. He played on a line with Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, late in the season and with Fortier during the playoffs.

Midgley, who was an assistant last season, was well aware of what Groulx could provide on the top line.

"He plays a smart 200-foot game," Midgley said. "He has very good hockey sense and he wants to be challenged to face the other team's top line. And what I really appreciate about him is that he is responsible.

"There are a lot of things to love about this player. We just want him to continue in the same vein."

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