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Cormier finally ready to WJC opportunity

by Dan Rosen /

"That was a pretty big blow for me because I was pretty sure I was going to make that team," Cormier told "I was confident going in, but life goes on. I dwelled on it for one day, but the next day I moved on."
-- Patrice Cormier

A burst appendix cost Patrice Cormier the opportunity to make Canada's Under-18 National team in 2007.

Most Canadian kids, who understand playing for the Under-18 team probably increases their odds of making it onto a World Junior Championship squad, would have been devastated. Cormier, though, took a different approach.

"That was a pretty big blow for me because I was pretty sure I was going to make that team," Cormier told "I was confident going in, but life goes on. I dwelled on it for one day, but the next day I moved on."

He had bigger things to worry about.

Cormier, who made Hockey Canada's radar as a 16-year-old, knew if he played well enough for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, his dream of World Juniors glory would stay alive.

He was right.

Cormier is one of the 12 forwards Canadian Junior Team coach Pat Quinn will take into the 2009 World Junior Championship in Ottawa, which runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5. The hard-nosed center is one of only three QMJHL players to make the squad, joining fellow forwards Angelo Esposito and Chris DiDomenico.

"He has really good skills for a big kid, and he’s very physical," Hockey Canada chief scout Al Murray told this summer. "He brings a combination package that you can really find a number of roles he can fit in."

Cormier's challenge of impressing the Hockey Canada staff grew tougher even after his appendix burst prior to the 2007-08 season.

As soon as Cormier got back on the ice, he was elbowed in the face -- "a cheap shot," he said -- and suffered a concussion. He also had a minor shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the 2008 CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game, another evaluation tool for Hockey Canada.

"It was horrible," Cormier said of the concussion. "I couldn't stay at practices because my head was spinning. Sleep was the best thing for me. I couldn't go to school for a week and a half, so I sat on the couch and just lied down with no TV for a couple of hours each afternoon. My head just needed to rest. I couldn't even read. It would hurt."

Cormier said he had no post-concussion syndrome even after getting rocked a couple of times after returning. He even fought in his first game back, and won the bout.

"My dad was like, 'What a bad decision,' but I had to fight," Cormier said. "The guy was chirping me and he dropped the gloves first, so I had to go. He told me it was a bad decision, but I had to take care of myself."

It wasn't until late last season that he felt completely healthy. Some would say it was just in time.

Cormier's 19 points in the last 20 regular-season games and another 9 points in nine playoff games was enough to prove to NHL scouts that he could be a difference-making centerman.

The New Jersey Devils were convinced enough to take Cormier, who had only 62 points in 104 QMJHL games, in the second round (No. 54) of June's Entry Draft in Ottawa.

"I knew I could go in the first round. I can play with the first-round guys, but I had no expectations," Cormier said. "The fourth round would have been fine. I was just happy that I was healthy and feeling confident."

Cormier returned to Ottawa in July for Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Evaluation Camp. Devils coach Brent Sutter was in attendance at the University of Ottawa rink watching his son, Brandon, but left impressed by Cormier.

At the time Sutter, who coached Canada twice in the World Juniors, felt Cormier had a chance of making the 2009 squad. He was prophetic.

"He's a big, strong kid that skates well and he can play the game in all three zones," Sutter told "It's just him continuing to understand the game a little better. He was at our prospects camp in New Jersey and played extremely well there."

He's continued that play back in Rimouski, which is why Quinn tabbed him as one of the 12 best under-20 forwards in the nation.

He left Rimouski with 12 goals and 12 assists in 27 games, and had assumed the Oceanic's captaincy while Olivier Fortier was on the shelf.

"I think the second half of (last season) and the playoffs showed really what kind of player I was," Cormier said. "I was doing things that I was doing in bantam. I was comfortable on the ice. That was the real me."

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