The Montreal Juniors have played 17 games this season and at this point it is safe to say the Louis Leblanc (seen in photo) trade has been a success.
On June 5th of this year the Montreal Juniors traded their 1st round pick in 2011 and Guillaume Asselin to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in exchange for Chicoutimi's 3rd round pick in 2011 and the rights to Louis Leblanc. Note the word rights. This trade was no guarantee for Montreal because although the franchise had acquired Leblanc's rights, they still needed to do their part in convincing him to give major junior a shot and leave the hockey program at Harvard University.
When speaking with Leblanc the Juniors leaned heavily on the "pros" associated with playing in Montreal and in the QMJHL. Among those; a chance to play with a contender in the "Q" and an opportunity to get a taste of the pros and play a NHL-like 68 game schedule. Playing in Montreal also meant Leblanc would be playing in the backyard of the team that drafted him, the Montreal Canadiens.
Another bonus for the star centerman was being able to move closer to home. Leblanc was born and raised on the west end of the island of Montreal and his family still resides in the area.
Accepting the opportunity to play with Montreal also gave Leblanc a chance to reunite himself with a few old hockey buddies; Eliezer Sherbatov, Charles-Olivier Roussel and Philippe Lefebvre. Sherbatov played with Leblanc in their younger days. Roussel has participated in summer camps with Leblanc throughout the years. Lefebvre is a familiar face from the Montreal Canadiens development camps since he was signed by the Habs during the summer of 2009. Lefebvre and Leblanc have developed superb chemistry since day one. The two were united during Leblanc's first exhibition game vs. Shawinigan and they've played on the same line ever since.
Leblanc's number have been nothing short of expectations. Through 13 games played Leblanc has scored 9 goals, 11 assists and 20 points. Over a 68 game season this translates into 47 goals, 58 assists and 105 points. To put that into perspective, last year the QMJHL scoring leader was Sean Couturier at 96 points.
Leblanc has played consistent hockey for the Juniors. Of his 13 games played he has scored at least 1 point in 11 games. Only Moncton and PEI have been able to keep Leblanc off the score sheet.
Leblanc has also played very well in clutch situations. He participated in 3 shootouts and scored the winning goal in 2 of the 3 attempts.
His defensive play has been impressive. Leblanc is a +8 on the season and has only been a minus in 1 game this year when he was -1 in the season opener against Shawinigan, a 5-4 loss at home.
One area of Leblanc's game that needs improvement is his face off abilities. In 13 games Leblanc has won 140 / 285 face offs. That translates into a 49.12% winning percentage. While this isn't terrible by any means, it should still be a concern for Leblanc should he want to improve his chances of making the Montreal Canadiens within the next couple of seasons. At the NHL level much of the focus in the game today surrounds puck possession and this often begins in the face off circle. Leblanc's aim should be to bring his winning percentage up between 55% and 60% before the end of the season.
Next Friday night (November 5th) should be a good test for Leblanc and the rest of the Montreal Juniors as the Quebec Remparts will be visiting the Verdun Auditorium. The Remparts have a record of 14 wins, 1 regulation loss and 1 overtime loss. By contrast, the Juniors have 11 wins, 3 regulation losses and 3 overtime losses. By your ticket and enjoy the game!
Photo credit: Ron Lemish