EDMONTON, AB - Kids on frozen ponds playing shinny with friends dream about it. Every athlete has thought about it. Alexis Loiseau lived it.
Being the captain of a championship team is something the 21-year-old centre achieved this season as he and the rest of the Rimouski Oceanic hoisted the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s President’s Cup for only the third time in franchise history.
“It was unbelievable for me,” said Loiseau. “Rimouski is a place that I’ve played my four junior seasons. It was just incredible. It’s something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Loiseau took on an expanded role in the 2014-15 season and ran with it. The captain led Rimouski in scoring with 96 points (35-61-96), which tied him for fifth in the entire league. He also finished tied for third in 2015 playoff scoring with 26 (9-17-26) in 20 games. Rimouski went on to defeat Quebec 4-3 in their series to win the championship and advance to the 2015 Memorial Cup tournament.
Not only was Loiseau taking on a bigger role in terms of playing time and on-ice responsibilities, but he was finding himself as a captain and a leader of a squad that wanted to bounce back from 2014’s quarterfinal exit at the hands of Blainville-Boisbriand. They lost 8-7 in overtime of game seven of that series. Although Loiseau tied for the team’s lead in scoring during that series with seven points (1-6-7), he asked the coaches for more responsibility heading into his final junior season.
This year, Rimouski relied on the leadership of Loiseau and others to carry them through to a championship.
“It was a big challenge for me. At a level like that, it was my first time as captain,” said Loiseau. “We had a good group of veterans and a lot of leadership in the room. Not just me as the captain but a lot of other guys. It was a very good season though.”
It was a good season for Loiseau personally as well. He feels he really grew into a better player in the year since those 2014 playoffs.
“Just my poise with the puck and the ability to make the right play at the right time. I think that’s one of the biggest parts of my game,” said Loiseau. “Just controlling the game and knowing what to do. My game all around the ice has also improved a lot. I can play in every situation.”
Giving him more experience was the Oceanic’s Memorial Cup participation. Rimouski lost in the tie-breaker game of the tournament, 5-2 to Quebec. However, the tournament gave Loiseau a chance to match up against some of junior hockey’s elite, like Oilers prospect and Kelowna Rockets centre Leon Draisaitl.
Loiseau blocks a shot at camp. Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers.
“He’s a player. He’s a fantastic player,” said Loiseau. “What he does with the puck, he just makes plays. He’s amazing to watch. I can learn so much from guys like that by just watching him do the little drills. Some of the little things he does are just really good.”
Loiseau is currently in Edmonton participating in the Oilers Orientation Camp, where he skates on the same side as Draisaitl. It’s giving him a chance to learn from other young players as he prepares for that next step.
“It’s my first pro camp so obviously I’m enjoying it as much as I can and learning from guys like (Connor) McDavid and Draisaitl,” he said.
On June 1, the Oilers American Hockey League affiliate signed Loiseau to a one-year contract. He’ll join the Bakersfield Condors for their inaugural AHL season.
“(The Oilers) had a lot of interest,” said Loiseau. “For me, that was really important. I just wanted a chance to play pro and they gave it to me. I’m excited for it. That’s what I want to do with my life. I have a one-year contract so I need to have a really good season.”
Loiseau is confident in his own abilities. Enough that he believes he can make the jump to the professional ranks right now, but he understands this is a big summer for the former Oceanic.
“I know I can play in this league,” said Loiseau. “I have to get a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger. I think my hockey sense is my big asset. I can keep my game the same in the pros but I need to get a little bit stronger.”
These last few years Loiseau has stepped up to meet a number of challenges. The 2015-16 season presents a new one.