Nathan Legare of Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League got an up-close look at how NHL players train last summer.
After the 18-year-old forward had 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 62 games in 2017-18, he spent the offseason observing the workouts of Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel and Colorado Avalanche forward Derick Brassard.
"Just the way that they prepare themselves before training," Legare said. "They arrive maybe 30 minutes before the training, they get warmed up and I think it's a thing that I just look at them and I learn from them. On the ice they make every small detail."
This season, Legare tied for second in the QMJHL with 45 goals in 68 games, and his 87 points tied for eighth.
As a result, he's No. 54 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The first round is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
One of Legare's best traits is his shot and release, something he says has come naturally to him.
"Since I'm young, I have a good shot and good technique," Legare said. "I keep doing it this way and it's been pretty good for me. … Also, after practice I like working on my shot because I know it's one of my strengths."
Another strength was his play on Baie-Comeau's power play, where his 14 goals tied for second in the league. Legare played the point on a five-forward first unit and credited one season as a defenseman for giving the coaching staff the confidence to play him there.
"When I was 13, my coach asked me to go to defense because we were not good enough on defense," Legare said. "He said it's going to be very beneficial for you in the future to play both sides of the rink. Instead of only playing offense, you're going to see the play in a different way, and I think it was very beneficial for me."
Baie-Comeau had the best power play in the QMJHL during the regular season (30.7 percent) and allowed eight shorthanded goals, tied for the eighth-fewest in the league.
Legare's shot also helped him with Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, where he tied for third on the team with four goals in seven games despite playing in a bottom-six role.
Canada coach Brett Gibson was confident Legare would excel in the unfamiliar role.
"When you get to the national under-18 team, it's not a club team, it's the best of the best at that age group," Gibson said. "I felt that's where I needed him to perform. He needed to be a guy that's going to play heavy minutes and block shots. He accepted that.
"It probably showed scouts another side of Nathan and down the road, he might appreciate the fact that he's known as a scorer but showing a different side of his game as well."
Legare bought in fully.
"I showed the scouts I can bring every role to a team and every role the coach wants me to play," he said. "(It's) going to be very beneficial for me."
What also will be beneficial for Legare moving forward is improving his skating.
"The acceleration, the first three steps, is a big thing," Legare said. "After I get my speed, it's pretty good. This year, I showed that I can out-speed the defenseman or beat them 1-on-1. But for sure, it's the first three steps when I receive a breakout. It's a thing I need to improve."
Scouts are confident Legare eventually will get his skating to NHL caliber.
"He was very good in league play and at the quicker competition at different events, he was maybe just a step behind," Central Scouting's Troy Dumville said. "He's a guy that's going to sort it out. He played well in Sweden at the U-18s. He's a guy that you love because of his high compete, strength on pucks. He's a very good, smart player. He's a guy that I think teams may step up for knowing that the skating will come. He's one of those guys that he's not a poor skater, he just lacks that quickness he needs at the National Hockey League level at this point. But that's not saying that won't come."
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