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Rodrigue's faith rewarded with top ranking for 2018 NHL Draft

Drummondville goaltender earned No. 1 spot on Central Scouting North American list

by Guillaume Lepage @GLepageLNH / LNH.com Staff Writer

That Olivier Rodrigue was attracted to goaltending as a youngster hardly was a surprise.

Rodrigue, a goalie for Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is the son of Sylvain Rodrigue, a former professional goalie who has been the assistant goaltending coach for the Edmonton Oilers for two seasons.

Olivier started playing hockey as a 6-year-old, but even then he knew playing as a forward or defenseman was temporary since scoring goals never was a priority.

"I saw my father playing goalie all my childhood," Rodrigue, 17, said. "Every year he had his hockey school. I went there and I couldn't wait to start. The first time I put on the goalie gear was at his school.

 

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"After that first day my mind was made up. And I haven't changed it since."

That's proven to be a wise decision. Rodrigue (6-foot-1, 159 pounds) is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goaltenders eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft, at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 22-23.

Rodrigue went 31-16-3 with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage in 53 games.

He started and finished the season strong, playing for Hockey Canada. He had a 1.00 GAA and .942 save percentage to help Canada win the gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August, and then had a 1.33 GAA and .949 save percentage in three games for Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

"International experience can bring a lot of good things," said Dominique Ducharme, who coached Rodrigue the previous two seasons with Drummondville prior to being hired as an assistant coach by the Montreal Canadiens on April 27. "He entered the (Hlinka) tournament in the second game and never gave up the net. Playing in pressure situations, reacting well, behaving well and performing well brings forth that confidence."

Rodrigue grew his confidence after a rough start in the QMJHL. He was selected by Drummondville with the No. 3 pick of the 2016 QMJHL draft and played 41 of his team's 68 games in 2016-17. He had a 3.60 GAA and .878 save percentage.

"It was a great transition," Rodrigue said. "We had a good group of guys and we had fun playing together. We had good veterans. That year I wanted to force the coach to put me on the ice. It all depended on my play, but the goal was to start as many games as possible and to prove to everyone that I deserved my spot."

Rodrigue said working with Drummondville goaltending coach Olivier Michaud helped him round out his game and became a top draft prospect.

"He continues to work with (Michaud) and they have a good relationship," Ducharme said. "Olivier went through the same thing, he joined the league at a young age, he had to pass through the same stages, so that facilitated their relationship and communication.

"Beyond that, we see that (Rodrigue) is even faster, that he has gained experience both technically and mentally. We can see that he has improved compared to last year and that's the most important thing."

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