"Gabriel is a guy, he's driven by his emotions. He goes too high or too low. If things are going well, he's very happy, he's confident, he plays well. When the negative arrives, when he has a bad shift or bad game or bad period, that affects him so much, it's tough for him to respond."
-- Andre Tourigny
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies coaches had watched Gabriel Levesque for two full seasons, and when the third started in September, they saw the same things happening again.
No one was questioning his skill level. It was his attitude that needed a major adjustment.
"Gabriel is a guy, he's driven by his emotions," Huskies coach Andre Tourigny told NHL.com. "He goes too high or too low. If things are going well, he's very happy, he's confident, he plays well. When the negative arrives, when he has a bad shift or bad game or bad period, that affects him so much, it's tough for him to respond."
Tourigny, along with assistant coach Garry Peake, have approached Levesque differently this season, and the early results certainly have been impressive -- through 23 games, Levesque leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 24 assists and he's tied for the league lead with 32 points.
"One-on-one, he's probably the best player in our league," said Tourigny. "He sees the ice very well, he moves the puck very well, he can score goals. He's a really good playmaker. It's very tough to stop him one-on-one, even if he plays against big players. He can move the puck, he's very shifty, he can skate."
But he wasn't doing it every game, and a mistake on his first shift was affecting him the rest of the game.
"After the first game (this season), it was bad," Levesque told NHL.com. "I was thinking about quitting. They came at me and they said what do you think about meeting each week and setting objectives and make you more positive about things. I know I have a problem at this stage and I accepted those meetings."
At the meetings, Peake would give Levesque a list of objectives for that week's games. It's never about scoring a number of goals or points. Instead, it's other aspects of his game that he can control more.
"I have to have at least six scoring chances, it can be I have to back check hard or I have to have a positive attitude all game long," said Levesque.
"We give him simple objectives and we'll be proud of his performance," said Tourigny. "He wants to be perfect in everything. At the end of the day sometimes he'll look back and maybe be negative. … we give him simple objectives and when he achieves that he'll stay with the positive attitude.
"We try to bring objectives that will help Gabriel to have ice time. If he plays well on both sides of the ice he will have more ice time. If he creates offense he'll have ice time. The second thing, we'll be proud of him. If he gets his goals he will be positive. Everything is about that for him. If he's positive he will be one of the best players in the league."
Levesque certainly can't argue with the results. After going unselected in the 2009 Entry Draft, he's making an impact on the scouts for the 2010 selection process.
"He's a fun kid to watch," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com.
And Levesque is having fun on the ice.
"Each day you come to the rink you have to be happy because you're doing the best thing in the world," he said. "You have to realize that."
"It's fun to see him arrive at the rink happy to play, happy to be with the guys," said Tourigny. "That's the most important thing. When you see your player arrive at the rink with a smile and happy to be there, that's a big achievement."
Another big achievement would be getting drafted.
"It's not that I stopped dreaming, but I just go with the realistic points," said Levesque. "How many players of my size (5-foot-8, 155 pounds) were drafted? This year I know what I have to do to get drafted. We have to have a good team, go far (in the playoffs) and I have to dominate the league to get drafted. Last year I knew we didn't have a really good team. I knew from the start that I would not get drafted. That's how I was able to put that away and not focus on that. I know it's not in my hands so I don't control it. This year for sure I think about it a little bit. Not focusing on it, but I have it a little bit in my mind. I want to be one of the smaller-sized players to get drafted."
His coach thinks Levesque can turn a fast start into an outstanding season, and the player will reach his dream of being drafted.
"I think he'll keep that pace," said Tourigny. "Everything is based on his positive attitude. If he stays positive I have no doubt he'll have that kind of success."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com