Jean-Philippe Lamoureux is puzzled, and it's not difficult to understand why.
Despite a stellar four-year collegiate career at the University of North Dakota, he was never drafted by an NHL club and never received any contract offers after putting up big numbers in his senior season, numbers that were so good he was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
Lamoureux, 24, though, has taken everything in stride. After signing a deal with the Alaska Aces in early September, he has won seven of his first 10 games as a professional while posting a 2.26 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. His efforts are a major reason why Alaska currently sits atop the West Division standings at 7-2-1.
"I didn't get as many NHL deals as I would have liked," Lamoureux told NHL.com. "But I've got to start somewhere, and I was just happy to get an opportunity to come here to Alaska. When I started researching and finding out what it was about, it's probably one of the more consistent teams in the league. It prides itself in being first-class. I always want to be part of an organization that prides itself on winning."
Lamoureux won a ton during his college days, when he had the wonderful experience of playing for his hometown team. In 42 games with the Fighting Sioux last season, Lamoureux went 27-11-4 with a remarkable 1.75 GAA, as UND reached the NCAA Frozen Four.
"You want to play in the NHL, but for me, that was the one team I always wanted to play for," Lamoureux said. "Growing up in Grand Forks, I was always kind of a Sioux fan first. To be able to be a part of the organization and add to the tradition there, that was a dream come true. I'll probably play for a lot of teams, but to play at UND, I was very fortunate that I was able to do that."
During his time at UND, Lamoureux got to play with some future NHL stars, including Chicago Blackhawks
captain Jonathan Toews
. His ability to perform well against the likes of Toews in practice is one of the many reasons why Lamoureux is confident he will one day play in the NHL himself.
"Playing at UND, we're exposed to the best of the best as far as up-and-coming NHL prospects," Lamoureux said. "I'm very fortunate to have played at a program like that. UND prides itself on moving guys to the next level. I think nearly 20 former UND guys are major contributors on NHL rosters right now. Hopefully, I'll be able to add to that."
By today's standards, one has to believe it was Lamoureux's 5-foot-10, 155-pound frame that had teams shy away from asking for his services. But Alaska coach Keith McCambridge
knows he has a special player in Anchorage.
"I think that definitely jumps out on his resume -- his size," McCambridge said. "Quite frankly, when he's back there, you don't notice it. But I think that would be a contributing factor as to why he was passed over. For a first-year pro, he has the poise of a guy with 10 years experience back there. He comes to the rink every day with a great work ethic."
Lamoureux brought that work ethic to the St. Louis Blues
' development camp, where McCambridge said he turned some heads. While he's not under contract with the Blues or any other NHL club, McCambridge says it's simply just a matter of time before Lamoureux climbs up the professional ladder.
"I know he was on a few teams' radars," McCambridge said. "I know St. Louis and Peoria were two of those teams. He went into St. Louis' development camp and really impressed them in there. He really impressed (Blues coach) Andy Murray. It's one of those things with goaltenders just getting the pro game under their feet. Once that opportunity comes at the next level, you've just got to make the most of it."
Lamoureux is determined to do just that. And when he does, it won't be the first time that he proved the doubters wrong.
"I knew I was it a numbers game and that I was going to start my pro career here," Lamoureux said. "When you're an undrafted, unsigned goaltender, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. I think in my career thus far, that's always kind of been the case. I've got to prove people wrong at each level, and I don't think this year has been any different."
"I believe in myself. I think I can play in the NHL in 2-3 years, if given the opportunity. I've been competing against the best NHL prospects for the last four years in practice at UND. I know what's out there." -- Jean-Philippe Lamoureux
McCambridge recalled his first conversation with Lamoureux when he was trying to convince the netminder to join the Aces. He was blown away by Lamoureux's confidence.
"When I first contacted him to bring him to Alaska, his comments were that if he has to come and dominate this league to get his chance, then that's what he's going to do," McCambridge said. "That's what you want. You want your No. 1 guy to be sure of himself and be able to show up every day and put up the numbers that he's putting up."
Of course, if he keeps this up, one has to believe that Lamoureux won't be in the ECHL much longer. While NHL teams are going to give their own prospects a long, hard look, Lamoureux's numbers may be too difficult to ignore. And when that day comes, McCambridge won't be sad to see his No. 1 goalie leave. After all, that's what the ECHL is about.
"If we can give him the minutes, give him the exposure and the ice time, and have the team in front of him that's going to help him get the numbers he needs, then that's great for him and our organization," McCambridge said. I want him to get that opportunity."
An opportunity that Lamoureux is certain will bring the kind of results that will have them playing on the grandest stage someday.
"I'm very confident in my ability," Lamoureux said. "I see myself as being an elite goalie in (the AHL). I believe in myself. I think I can play in the NHL in 2-3 years, if given the opportunity. I've been competing against the best NHL prospects for the last four years in practice at UND. I know what's out there. It's just a matter of an organization giving an unsigned guy a shot. I'll make it to the NHL, one way or the other."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.