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Lavoie using speed, skating ability to succeed in QMJHL

Halifax center who has played behind Hischier, Zadina looking to make name for himself

by Guillaume Lapage @GLepageLNH / Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Raphael Lavoie is ready to take center stage for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after sharing the spotlight with Nico Hischier and Filip Zadina the past two seasons.

He's looking to continue the recent trend of Halifax players going relatively high in the first round of the NHL Draft; Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils is their top-line center, and Zadina, chosen No. 6 in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, will begin the season in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.

"I hope so," Lavoie said. "I'll do everything I can to keep that tradition going. But to say that it's a given? I know nothing is guaranteed. I have to work to get what I want. I want to reach the NHL, so I can certainly draw inspiration from their experience."

The 18-year-old has begun his second full season in the QMJHL, but already has significant experience having played 32 games for Halifax in 2016-17. He had 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists), 222 shots on goal, and a plus-10 rating in 68 games last season. 

Lavoie, a right-shot center, has four goals and two assists in six games for Halifax this season. If he continues to progress he likely will be selected early in the 2019 NHL Draft which will take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22. His size (6-foot-3, 191 pounds) and speed are assets that NHL scouts look for.

Lavoie received an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's Players to Watch list in October, and is projected to be a first-round selection.

"He's an appealing NHL prospect who possesses all the priority skills and assets of a top pick," Troy Dumville of NHL Central Scouting said. "He has very good size and skating to go along with natural hockey sense. He wants the puck on his stick and can finish in tight and under pressure. He has taken his game to the next level with his versatility and compete game allowing him to impact with both his skill and physical elements."

That's probably how Lavoie sold Halifax coach Eric Veilleux during training camp on the idea of using him on the top line with veterans Antoine Morand (Anaheim Ducks) and Arnaud Durandeau (New York Islanders) to begin the season.

"With me, it's not complicated, the more you give, the more you'll get in return," Veilleux said. "Raphael is a guy who works well, he wants to improve and he works to make it happen. He always has the pedal to the floor. 

"He creates things and he likes to go to the net in addition to being responsible defensively. He has an NHL-caliber shot, there's no doubt about that, but I also love the fact that he's willing to pay the price to take the puck to the net."

In August, Lavoie was an injury replacement for Canada at the World Junior Summer Showcase for consideration to represent his country at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Now he's set his sights on select camp in December.

"I'm just trying to play the best I can to get an invitation to the U-20 camp," he said. "My goal is really to be able to go there."

That may sound optimistic since Lavoie has yet to be drafted and Hockey Canada does not typically rely on young players, but it's worth noting that he would have been eligible for the 2018 draft had he been born 10 days earlier.

"I'm happy to be on the first line of the Mooseheads, but it's not something I take for granted," Lavoie said. "There are many players on this team who could play on a first line elsewhere in the league. I'll have to work to stay there."

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