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Roussel hopes to build on QMJHL playoff success

by John McGourty
Considering his excellent performance in the 2009 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs, Charles-Olivier Roussel's slip from NHL Central Scouting's No. 30-rated North American skater at midseason to No. 36 has to be a testament to others' improvement rather than a negative reflection on Roussel.

The 6-foot-1, 196-pound right-handed shooter was the No. 2-scoring defenseman behind Dmitry Kulikov in the QMJHL playoffs as he helped lead his Shawinigan Cataractes to the league final, a seven-game loss to Kulikov's Drummondville Voltigeurs. Roussel topped all defensemen in the playoffs with 5 power-play goals.

Roussel is one of the youngest players in the 2009 Entry Draft -- he'd be ineligible if he'd been born three days later -- but he played with enough skill and maturity to be named to the QMJHL Second All-Star Team after scoring 11 goals and 33 assists in 68 games. That was a big jump from his rookie season, when he had 3 goals and 13 assists.

"It came with the great team that we had," Roussel said. "I was trying to do first passes as good as I can. On that team, I'd give the puck to (Cedric Lalonde-) McNicoll and he'd give it to (Matthew) Pistilli and it's in (the net). They helped me a lot for my draft season."

Roussel's strengths include his skating both forwards and backwards, and puck-moving skills. He's a very good passer but may be an even better puck-carrier. He also has a heavy shot that he uses well from the point on the power play.

"A good scoring chance comes from a good breakout, and the first pass is the main thing on the breakout," Roussel said.

He may also be the hardest-hitting defenseman in the QMJHL -- as Landon Ferraro found out in the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game, when Roussel leveled him with a shoulder check.

The position of defense has changed in the past five years, and the new rules have made it more difficult to move opponents away from the front of the net. Roussel's answer is more weight-lifting to get stronger so he can more effective with the pushing that is allowed.

"I'm always working hard off the ice, in workouts and training," Roussel said. "Even in practice you have to be sharp. Even if it's a teammate in practice, he has to move out of the crease."

Roussel also is a clutch player who is not overwhelmed in big situations. The Cataractes went down 3-1 in the series to Drummondville in the QMJHL final and trailed 1-0 in Game 5 when Roussel scored the tying goal en route to a 4-1 victory. They were losing 1-0 in Game 6 when Roussel assisted on Lalonde-McNicoll's tying goal with 5:09 remaining in regulation.

"I enjoyed the playoffs and I gained a lot of experience," Roussel said during the NHL Scouting Combine. "I really learned what character is because we were down 3-1 in the series and we just kept believing in ourselves and I matured a lot. We never stopped believing.

"It hurts a lot, watching that other team touch that trophy. It was very sad. I'm going to go and get it back. I'm going to take a few days off here and then get right back in the gym to get ready for next season's training camp."

But Roussel has a date before that. He is one of 45 players invited to Canada's National Junior Team development camp in Saskatoon, Sask., from August 5-10. His performance there could go a long way toward him making Canada's entry at the 2010 World Junior Championship.

Roussel credits Shawinigan coach Eric Veilleux for his development this season.

"He's a very intense coach and he's asking for perfection," Roussel said. "I thank him because I know everything that he did was for my good. I really like that coach.

"My goal was to make sure the coach had confidence in me and it worked out. I wanted to prove to him that I could play in any situation and I think I did well.

"As long as we stayed sharp defensively, he never stopped us from joining the rush," Roussel said. "Working at Dominic Roussel's summer camp helped me develop my shot. Plus, I stay after practice to work on my shot."

"I'm the guy who comes to the rink with a big smile on my face and encouraging teammates.  I was born with that and my dad, all through my life, taught me to be happy and respectful to everyone." -- Charles-Olivier Roussel 
Roussel is no relation to the former NHL goaltender, but he has known him for several years.

"I worked for his summer hockey camp," Charles-Olivier Roussel said. "I know him and I've talked to him a few times. He's a very nice guy. He told me to always work hard, and I'm going to listen because he had a good career in the NHL."

Roussel already had a good hockey foundation before meeting Dominic Roussel. His father was a good hockey player who had to forego professional hopes to help his family. His dad is his hero and a source of strength for the young defenseman.

"My father went to Shawinigan's training camp, but a sad thing happened and he had to come back home," Roussel said. "So I came to finish what he started.

"He's always been positive in any situation. He never stopped encouraging me even when I had hard times. He told me to stay positive, stay focused, keep working and having fun. He's never been negative and I want to be just like him in the future. Staying positive is the main path to success."

Roussel has a self-image that he wants others to see.

"I'm the guy who comes to the rink with a big smile on my face and encouraging teammates," he said. "I was born with that and my dad, all through my life, taught me to be happy and respectful to everyone."

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