Following another successful season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, forwards Mathieu Perreault
and Francois Bouchard are now hoping to open some eyes with the Washington Capitals
In addition to their combined seven years of experience in "The Q," each was drafted by the Capitals in 2006, each signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the big club this year and each was present at the team's developmental camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., this summer.
Bouchard, who has spent the past four seasons with Baie-Comeau, was a second-round pick (No. 35) and Perreault, who recently completed his third season with Acadie-Bathhurst, was selected in the sixth round, No. 177 overall.
Perreault won the Jean Beliveau
Trophy as the league's top point-producer with 114 points (34 goals) last season, finishing 22 points ahead of Bouchard, who claimed the eighth spot with 92 points (36 goals).
While the knock on the 5-foot-8, 151-pound Perreault is his small frame, Washington General Manager George McPhee
has looked beyond that in making his evaluation.
"He's not a big kid, but he's a very bright player and we've always said that if you're good enough, you're big enough," McPhee told NHL.com.
Perreault received a lot of his inspiration as a youngster in his hometown of Drummondville, Quebec, watching current Philadelphia Flyers Daniel Briere
. a 5-10, 179-pound center who played three seasons in Drummondville, posting 170 goals and 416 points in 198 games. Ironically, Perreault had the highest single-game scoring total in the league last season when he scored six points (five assists) in a 9-2 dusting of Drummondville.
"(Briere) is a smaller player like me, but he's not scared of anything and very smart on the ice," Perreault told NHL.com. "He's the type of player I want to become. Ever since I started playing hockey, my size has really been a motivating factor and the fact (McPhee) would say something like that means a lot. Really, though, my size is never something I think about on the ice. I just go out there and play my game as if I were a bigger hockey player. I won't change a thing and if (McPhee) thinks I'm doing well. I'll keep doing what I'm doing."
For Perreault, that means doing an awful lot. The 20-year-old center has scored 93 goals and 285 points in 194 career games in the QMJHL. He also sports a plus-81 ranking. His sense, vision and ability to play all three zones are just a few of his positive attributes.
"I feel I've already proven that I'm better than a sixth-round player and now that I've signed a contract, it's just a matter of proving that my value is that of a first or second-round player," Perreault said. "In the beginning, that was hard to do, but I feel a lot more comfortable now."
Bouchard, a pure goal-scorer and exceptional distributor of the puck, does remember the 2007-08 scoring race in the QMJHL going down to the wire.
"It was fun," Bouchard said. "When (Perreault and Bouchard) played against each other, we would talk on the ice and say some funny things, but there are no big memories other than the fact it was always a good battle when we played. It was a close scoring race."
Bouchard scored five points (two goals), the fifth-highest single game total in the league last season, in a 7-5 triumph against Gatineau on Dec. 1, 2007.
|"When you're going through a camp, you have one thought in mind and that's to make the big team" –Francois Bouchard
The 20-year-old right wing was extremely disheartened when cut after training camp last fall and is determined to make amends.
"When you're going through a camp, you have one thought in mind and that's to make the big team," Bouchard said. "I trained last summer really hard to make the team when I was 19, and it was a disappointing to be cut. But it's another step and (McPhee) has spoken to me, so I know things will be OK. It was disappointing, but it just means I'm going to have to work harder this summer. It's another big challenge and I'll try to do my best at training camp in September and make sure I'm not disappointed this time around."
McPhee admitted being impressed with Bouchard's reaction to being cut.
"He had a really terrific training camp last year but, as with most of our players, we thought it best for his development to remain at the junior level in the AHL," McPhee said. "But there's no doubt he came to Washington with every intention to make the hockey club right out of junior, and I liked that attitude. But we like to overcook them a little bit rather than promote them too early."
Bouchard, who has scored 125 goals and 343 points in 259 career QMJHL contests, was forced to make a few adjustments to his game after being promoted to Washington's American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, for five games late last season.
"The players were bigger, older and stronger, and I found that you have less time with the puck to make plays," Bouchard said. "You must be a lot quicker in your decision-making, and that's something I'll work on if I'm sent to Hershey this year. I don't think there's any more pressure (as a second-round pick) on me than on any other player. I just have to go out and do my thing."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.