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Daoust finding his stride after being drafted by Ottawa

by Matt Tidcombe @matttidcombe

It's been a wild few months for Philippe Daoust.

From being drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, to being named an alternate with the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats as well as earning QMJHL Team of the Week honours, the final quarter of a crazy 2020 has served Daoust well thus far.

Add in the story of how he got to where he is today, Daoust should be feeling on top of the world.

"It's hard to explain," he said of being drafted by the Sens. "It's really a feeling that you can't describe. I couldn't be more excited to get drafted by such a great organization and an organization close to home. I'm really happy and I can't wait for the future with these guys."

It happens, but not regularly. An Ontarian playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. But that's where the Barrie native wound up.

He caught the eye of the Wildcats during his 2018-19 campaign while playing in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League with the French River Rapids. He had previously had unsuccessful tryouts with both Oshawa and Sudbury of the OHL but as he put up a 20-goal, 59-point campaign, attention started coming from out East.

"Oshawa and Sudbury reinvited me to their main camp but I had a good feeling about Moncton," Daoust said. "I had a lot of convos with them throughout my junior A year so I think my family and I made the decision to come to Moncton.

"I had to do what was best for my hockey career."

Last season, he had seven goals and 29 points in 58 games as an 18-year-old rookie. He started slowly this season with no points in his first two games.

Then the draft came.

Selected with the 158th overall pick, Daoust became just the second ever player drafted by Ottawa from Moncton (goaltender Simon Lajeunesse was the other). After going without a point in his next game, Daoust exploded, tallying seven points over his next four games and was named to the QMJHL's Team of the Week for Oct. 26-Nov. 1.

"I mean it's definitely a weight off the shoulders a little bit," Daoust said of being drafted. "You don't try to think about it too much before the draft but it's always in the back of your mind and after I got drafted by Ottawa, it was a great feeling. But there's still a lot of work to be done so there's that kind of pressure. There's for sure that pressure of if you're going to be drafted or not but that pressure is not there anymore and that's very exciting."

It's also not lost on Daoust that his Wildcat team is able to play right now. Of all the professional leagues in North America as well as all of Major Junior, the QMJHL is the only league currently playing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daoust says Moncton is filling approximately 30 per cent of its rink for home games but admits dealing with Covid-19 has been mentally tough not knowing that any given day, the season could be paused, as happened with all of the league's Quebec based teams in October.

"It's obviously a little bit different but we're extremely lucky to be one of the leagues to be playing," he said. "Playing during a pandemic, there's a lot of rules and things you have to do: wear a mask, take your temperature every day. So, it's a little bit harder and a change but whatever we have to do to play hockey, us and the whole league and players are going to do it.

"It's been a little bit different but nothing to the point where we can't do it."

As a 19-year-old, Daoust had vowed to have a significant leadership role this season. The Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified that with the strict rules enforced to allow the Wildcats to play games weekly.

And Daoust has fully embraced that role.

"I knew coming in we would have a young team and not the same team as last year and I learned a lot from all the boys last year and the leadership group," he said. "I wanted to come in, whether I had a letter or not, and be a leader for the young guys and obviously I was very fortunate to have get an 'A' on my jersey and I couldn't thank the coaching staff anymore."

And being a leader also allows him to get some team-bonding set-up whether that means playing NHL 21 or Call of Duty, going to the movies or even watching the Bachelor. Yes, the Bachelor!

"We kind of do stuff like that, trying to get the group a little bit tighter especially with a young team and a new group of guys.

"We try to bond however we can."

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