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Roy looks to carry on Quebec goalie tradition

by Adam Schwartz
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is known for producing some of the best goalies in the world, but that reputation has been in decline in recent years. Olivier Roy of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles may just restore the Q's reputation as the birthplace of elite goaltenders.

It would certainly be fitting if Roy is the first goalie selected at the 2009 NHL Draft because it is being held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, which is located in Roy's hometown province of Quebec.

Roy, who hails from Amqui, Que., is aware of the QMJHL's tradition of developing top-end goalies. He also knows that the pipeline has dried up a little in recent years. He knows some see him as the goalie to reclaim the league's place as the cradle of goaltending, but he refuses to think that way.

"The league has a great reputation developing guys like Patrick Roy," Roy said, talking of the Hall of Fame goalie that won Stanley Cups with both Montreal and Colorado. "But in the past few years there haven't been as many goalies from the Q. I don't think that there's pressure from anything like that though. I don't think about that right now."

While most of the goalies to come out of the QMJHL play the butterfly style, Roy sees himself more as a hybrid goalie, which has been used to describe legendary goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.

"I try to be a hybrid goalie," Roy said. "I use butterfly a lot, but I don't like to butterfly on every shot. I am somewhere between a butterfly and a stand-up goalie.

"Most every goalie is a butterfly, but I like to be a little bit different. A lot of guys go around the defense and I like to move my feet and be quicker and deflect the rebounds to the corners."

Al Jensen  scouts goalies for NHL Central Scouting. A co-winner of the Jennings Trophy -- along with fellow Washington Capitals goalie Pat Riggin -- in 1984, Jensen knows a little something about good goaltenders. He agrees that Roy is not the prototypical goalie to come out of the province of Quebec.

"I could see where he thinks that he's a hybrid goalie, but I think he's still more of a butterfly guy personally from what I saw," Jensen said. "But he does have those instincts to realize that he doesn't have to go down on every shot. He knows when he has to go down on a shot and when he doesn't because of his terrific sense of being able to read the play. He's not a big goalie, which is why he doesn't always go down on the first shot."

Jensen notes that unlike some junior-aged goalies Roy has tremendous leg strength and, as a result, is quicker than most goalies his age. Jensen believes Roy's considerable leg strength and quick lateral movement will serve the goalie well in the future.

"Sometimes a goalie's leg strength isn't that strong that you need in the NHL," Jensen said. "To be a goalie in the NHL, you need a strong leg drive to get across the crease quick enough. With low passes and one-timers you need to get over there, but he has that strength -- unlike most other goalies that are his age. On one play I saw a guy pass it across the crease low and he was right there. He's very determined and he plays in the paint a bit, but near the top of the crease. He's not one to go way out."

"To be a goalie in the NHL, you need a strong leg drive to get across the crease quick enough. With low passes and one-timers you need to get over there, but he has that strength -- unlike most other goalies that are his age."
-- NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen

Last season Roy was awarded a chance that few rookie goalies in the QMJHL get. He was given the opportunity to become the Screaming Eagles starting goalie at 16 because Marek Benda, the No. 1, was sidelined by an injured shoulder.

"At the start of the year last season I got to be the starter because the other goalie had bad luck and broke his shoulder," Roy said. "I did well last year and it helped build my confidence. We have some veterans who have helped me."

The Screaming Eagles lost to the Halifax Mooseheads in the second round of the QMJHL playoffs last season, but with Roy another year older and more mature, Cape Breton is already off to a fast start, which has hopes high in the Screaming Eagle camp.

A President Cup as the QMJHL champion or possibly even a Memorial Cup as Canadian Hockey League champion is not out of the question.

"We did pretty well last year and we are doing pretty well so far this year," Roy said. "I like playing in Cape Breton because the fans are great and the coaching staff is great. We have a good team this year and our expectation is high. We have a bunch of guys who can play. We need to take it game by game and do our best."

Cape Breton, which has never been in the QMJHL Final, is a breeding ground for NHL goalies. Prior to Roy, the Screaming Eagles developed Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who backstopped the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

"The scout would come for me and they would say they (Cape Breton) would draft good goalies," Roy said. "There were great goalies playing here before me and they offered me a chance to play."

Jensen says he sees a little bit of Fleury in Roy.

"Cape Breton's scouting staff must be pretty good after finding Marc-Andre Fleury and now Roy," Jensen said. "And Fleury had exceptional quickness too, so they must obviously be looking for that when they are scouting goalies."

And, now those scouts have helped put Roy in a position to continue the lineage of great QMJHL goalies in the NHL that already includes Fleury, among others.

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