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FUTURE WATCH: Lavoie learning to adapt and dominate

The forward has reaffirmed his ability to collect goals with another stellar QMJHL season while growing his game defensively

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Few players in hockey possess what Raphael Lavoie deploys.

Endless reserves of confidence, forward versatility as a centre or winger, and a 6-foot-4 frame that's a chore for any defender to separate from the puck.

Did we mention goals? There's a few of them - just 132 in total across 259 QMJHL career playoff, Memorial Cup and regular-season games for the Halifax Mooseheads and Chicoutimi Saguenéens.

Putting pen to paper on a three-year entry-level deal with the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday is a testament to the 19-year-old's ability to deposit pucks beyond the goal line - whether it be from a powered one-timer at the top of the circle on the power play, protecting the puck around a defenceman and cutting in on net, or a simple well-placed wrist shot to the far corner.

But a first professional contract for any players is no end product; it's a building block towards sustained success in the years to come.

Video: THE DRILL | E13: Raphael & Ilya

"It's very fun. It's truly amazing and a big step forward towards my pro career," Lavoie said Sunday of signing his entry-level contract. "It's awesome to have it done and it feels great.

"For sure it's a big step, but there's still a lot more to do with the training this summer and camp in September. There are a lot of things that are left to be done."

Lavoie has operated under the Oilers umbrella all season after the club felt fortunate to scoop the Chambly, Quebec product up with their 38th overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

His completed stat line for the '18-19 season, after netting 20 goals in 23 playoff games with a Halifax outfit that fell in the finals of the Memorial Cup, read 54 goals and 54 assists in 89 games. His offensive exploits and high draft stock led him to earning a Mike Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL's Best Professional Prospect.

If the first contract helps provide the framework for a lengthy NHL career for aspiring professional athletes, last season for Lavoie was the platform to register another 82 points (38G, 44A) in 55 combined regular-season games with Chicoutimi and Halifax in a season that included a gold medal with Team Canada at World Juniors in the Czech Republic.

"You get older and you get more confident," Lavoie said. "You get more experience in the league and you become a better hockey player. If you work at it, you'll just get better and better. It helps you be more dominant, and that's one of the reasons why I've had a better season than last year."

Tweet from @QMJHL: The @EdmontonOilers prospect scored 18 times for the @HFXMooseheads at the start of the season before adding 20 goals in 25 games with the @SagueneensLHJMQ! 🚨 #QMJHL pic.twitter.com/0ZaO1faHqH

Competing in a predominantly checking role for Canada wasn't a deterrent for Lavoie, who had two assists in seven games at the tournament.

Instead, it allowed the regular sharpshooter to experience growth in a peripheral part of his game that would pay off both in the long term of his NHL career and when he'd land back in the QMJHL to join his new teammates in Chicoutimi (Lavoie was traded from Halifax to Chicoutimi at the league's trade deadline for four draft picks). 

"It started at the World Juniors," he said as a forward focus on defending. "I was put into a more defensive role, so I needed to adjust my game. I feel like that stayed when I went back to Chicoutimi afterwards."

Luckily, for a deep Team Canada and their Head Coach Andre Tourigny, he already had that offensive flair and swagger to lay back on.

"He's a guy that wants to be there in key moments, and I think his stats in the playoffs last year in the Q - he had 20 goals - show that he's a big moment player," Tourigny said back in January. "He's not afraid of the pressure. He wants it.

"I always thought that if he was on a team with the best NHL players and there was one shot to take to win the game, he would vote for himself to take it. He believes in himself that much and believes that he can be a difference-maker, and he usually is." 

Align that confidence up in a future potential Oilers combination with established superstars in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl - the NHL's leading scorer and physical comparable whom Lavoie is taking notes from on how to utilize his size, skill and speed - and there could be more goals on his horizon.

"You look at these guys play and they're so dominant and so good that it's exciting to be a part of this organization," he said. "I look forward to learning from these guys. There's just so much that they do that is really good."

Lavoie has already been able to touch base with Bakersfield Condors bench boss Jay Woodcroft at his first Development and Training Camps with the Oilers for his eventual jump to pro hockey.

But like it is with signing his entry-level contract, there's still work to hopefully be done with the 45-12-5-1 Saguenéens in the QMJHL playoffs.

"I'm really excited, but I live for hope," Lavoie said. "I still hope the season's not over yet and we can compete in the playoffs to see how far we go. We have a very dominant team, but I'm very excited to see what happens with Bakersfield next year."

Photo courtesy Andre Emond, Chicoutimi Saguenéens

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