of the Shawinigan Cataractes is no ordinary 18-year-old and certainly is no stranger to big games. Not after his team advanced to Game 7 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finals.
Shawinigan lost to the Drummondville Voltigeurs, 3-2, in the final game of the championship series, and while the loss stung, it was the ultimate big-game learning experience for Paradis. He conceded the defeat could benefit him in the long run.
"It was a shame that we lost," Paradis said, "but we still had a good run getting to the last game of the playoffs and it helped that I got a lot of experience. Maybe the next time we can win the series and now I will know how to play in big games like that one."
Paradis played in a few other big games, as Shawinigan had to dig out of a 3-1 series hole against Drummondville just to force Game 7.
Paradis thought his team's downfall was its play on home ice in the title series.
"We lost the first two games at home after splitting the first two games of the series on the road and that was disappointing," Paradis said. "If we would've played better at home we would've won the series. We lost Game 4 at home 9-2, but if we would've played better defense it would've been 2-2 (in games). In Game 7 their goalie had the answer to us, which is why they won the series."
Last season, Shawinigan coach Eric Veilleux
gave Paradis a big role for a 16-year-old rookie, and he responded with 11 goals and 23 points in 45 games.
"Last year he had a key role with us," Veilleux said. "At 16 we knew it was going to be a lot of responsibility for him, but it has paid off this season and he feels good about playing even more this season. Last year he was counting on his offensive skills, but he wasn't using his size or his speed. He understood that he needed to bring something else to the table and he has this season."
This season, the 6-foot-1, 196-pound center brought a lot to the table, totaling 19 goals and 50 points in 66 games, and he also played the point on the power play. He earned a spot at the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game, where he won the hardest shot competition and played on a line with consensus top choice John Tavares
. He assisted on Tavares' second-period goal and finished with a plus-2 rating. All of that earned him the No. 26 ranking among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2009 Entry Draft.
"He shoots from the point with that heavy shot," said Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire. "He comes to the net hard and with a purpose."
Paradis said the early experience he received last season helped him immensely this season.
"Last year when I played as a 16-year-old, I got important experience," he said. "This year I got even more experience playing as a 17-year-old and I felt more like I was 19 because I had that experience from the year before."
Veilleux said what helped Paradis was arriving at training camp this fall bigger and stronger than he was the previous season.
"Last year when I played as a 16-year-old I got important experience. This year I got even more experience playing as a 17-year-old and I felt more like I was 19 because I had that experience from the year before."
-- Philippe Paradis
"He worked hard this summer strength-wise," Veilleux said. "He came to training camp and he started running people over like there's no tomorrow. I honestly think that he's one of the best hitters in this league right now. There wasn't one particular hit that I remember, but he has four or five hits in every game that are big hits."
Veilleux said what makes Paradis stand out is the way he's merged his natural skills with a strong work ethic and physical play.
"He's been taught to put it together day-in and day-out," Veilleux said. "When you have skills sometimes you concentrate on just your skills, but now he is concentrating more on his hitting. Last year he concentrated more on his skills, but it is a matter of combining the two to make him a complete player. He's much better this season because he is maturing and he's obviously going to be a very good player."
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