#3 - The Gatineau Olympiques:
With Mr. Benoit Groulx at the helm the Olympiques may be the best coached team in the league. Since his return to Gatineau the Olympiques have flourished. They've enjoyed their success this season despite their captain Hubert Labrie (who also may be their MVP) suffering a long term injury which sidelined him for the entire season thus far. For those of you who don't remember Labrie, he's the one who scored the flukey playoff ending goal last year against the Juniors in double OT of game #7. So heart breaking!
Defense is a major strength for Gatineau. In goal they have a top 5 goalie in the league with Maxime Clermont. The New Jersey Devils draft pick has a 2.61 goals against average and a .897 save percentage through 40 games this year. He has been known to step up in big games when needed most and does well when facing a lot of shots.
On the back end, Hubert Labrie is a fierce competitor and a superb shut down defenseman. He hits well and plays an ultra tough game. He can step up offensively as well. Last year in the playoffs Labrie scored 7 points in 11 games through two rounds. The Dallas Stars draft pick is expected to be back in time for the playoffs. If he is, that'll be a huge boost.
After that Gatineau has Nicolas Deslauriers who may be the top performing defenseman in the league this season. He's missed about 20 games but has scored an impressive 33 points in 34 games this year. With Deslaurier and Labrie the Olympiques are equipped to match up against anyone.
Gatineau's 3rd best defenseman is Adam Janosik, an 18 year old Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd round 2010 draft pick. Janosik plays a strong all around game and has a quick/strong release from the point. He's often seen paired with Deslauriers on the powerplay and remains a scoring threat at all times. Janosik has 26 points in 45 games this year.
Mathieu Gagnon rounds out the team's top four defensemen. He's enjoying a strong season for an 18 year old with 27 points earned through 52 games played.
Up front Gatineau have a well rounded group of forward with a nice mix of size, skill, speed and intensity.
At the trade deadline Gatineau acquired the league's leading scorer in Philip-Michael Devos. He leads the league with 87 points through 53 games played. He's a fantastic play maker and strangely he seems religious about playing the Tomas Holmstrom position (in front of the net) on the power play. If Gatineau are to be successful in the post-season Devos will need to be in top shape because when he's good, he's very good and can dictate the pace of a hockey game.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is another scoring threat. The draft eligible center man has been putting up big numbers all year. He sits 2nd on the team's list of point getters with 62 points in 53 games played. Despite his small frame, Pageau does well shifting through traffic and fools opponents with his slick stick handeling moves and a quick right handed release.
Winger Tye McGinn ranks 3rd in team scoring with 56 points in 39 games played. But the 6'4" winger brings more to the table than his scoring ability. He ranks 1st on the team with a +27 plus/minus rating (no other player can even boast a +20 rating) and plays a very well rounded game. He hits and fights too, bringing a mixed bag of tricks to the Olympiques attack.
The Olympiques will need to play a strong, team oriented, defense first game in order to stop their opponents while capitalizing on their offensive opportunities if they want to go far. Their focus, discipline and intensity levels are made for the post season. Consider Gatineau a final four team, hands down!