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Chicoutimi Saguenees forward Nicolas Roy looks to break out of early slump

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Nicolas Roy grew up in the quiet, rural town of Amos, Que., population 12,800. A small community along the banks of the Harricana River, just north of Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d'Or, it's a place where a kid can experience a normal and relatively anonymous Canadian upbringing, far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

The town's characteristics very much embody the personality of the 17-year-old Chicoutimi Sagueneens forward: reserved, quiet and modest.

"He's a shy guy," Sagueneens head coach Patrice Bosch said of his squad's prized player. "He's not loud in the locker-room. He's quiet. He doesn't want to be in the spotlight."

But attention has been hard for the six-foot-four, 202-pound centre to avoid since he was taken first overall in the 2013 QMJHL Draft by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, a team to which he would not report for academic reasons before being traded to the Sagueneens last September.

And the glare of the spotlight has only shined brighter since International Scouting Services pegged Roy an early bet to go in the first round of next year's 2015 NHL Entry Draft in rankings released earlier this month. He was the top Quebec League player on the list ? at No. 16 in a class of 30 prospects from around the world.

"I just try to do my best," said Roy, who had an impressive showing with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, recording five points in five games. "So when you hear stuff like that, it's pretty awesome."

But big regular-season offensive numbers have so far eluded the uber-talented Roy, who's been unable to put up the kind of stats one expects from a blue-chip prospect. Following a solid 2013-14 rookie campaign that saw him register 16 goals and 25 assists in 63 games, Roy has mustered only five points through his first 14 contests this season, though the Sags' brass insist it's simply a matter of bad luck.

Sagueneens GM Marc Fortier is quick to point out that Roy leads the team in Chicoutimi's own in-house version of plus-minus, which weighs a player's part in scoring chances created against his role in scoring chances allowed.

With a rating of plus-35 in that category entering play on Sunday, Fortier said it's only a matter of time until Roy's efforts are reflected on the scoresheet.

"He's in a difficult situation," Fortier said of the budding star, who logged tough minutes the past few weeks against top lines in the absence of injured centre Laurent Dauphin. "Don't judge him right now because I know that as the season goes, he's going to turn it on."

If Roy is in a scoring rut early on, it's not for a lack of preparation.

He added 10 pounds of muscle after spending his off-season training in Los Angeles and Toronto. Roy said the extra weight gives him an edge along the boards and in the corners.

"I think I'm stronger and faster this year," said Roy, who was named to the QMJHL team for the 2014 Subway Super Series next month.

His coach and manager say the added weight helps fill out his lanky frame.

Physically, they say, his size and skill allow him to handle and protect the puck with ease. Mentally, according to Bosch, he's got on-ice vision and patience beyond his years. And in terms of maturity, the coach says you won't find a more committed hockey player.

It's now a matter of bridging those qualities in order to cross the canyon that rests between a standout junior player and a future NHL star.

"I'm not worried about Nicolas," Bosch said. "I know he's not happy because he doesn't have 20 points right now...but we'll talk in a month and a half and it'll be a different story. He's a special player."

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