The Incredible (Prospect) Hulk
This has not been the case for Canucks prospect Pierre-Cédric Labrie. In just over a year, Labrie has gone from playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) to signing a contract with the Canucks this summer.
Labrie, who is just the ripe age of 20, is the largest of the prospects at July’s development camp. Listed at 6’2”, 212 pounds, in person Labrie looks much larger, and is closer in vein to that of Mattias Ohlund or Todd Bertuzzi. With his size, you would think that Labrie would be tailor-made to play defense. However, after his play last season, it is obvious that he was born to play as a forward.
Born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Labrie played the 2005-06 regular season with the Restigouche Tigers in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League (MJAHL). In 54 games, Labrie recorded an astounding 43 goals and 86 points. His breakout season garnered him the attention of his hometown team, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL, and he was traded to the Drakkar at the start of the 2005-06 playoffs.
“It was exciting to play for my home team,” Labrie said. “My friends and family would come to all of my games. I know a lot of people in Baie-Comeau, so it was nice.”
For the 2006-07 regular season with the Drakkar, Labrie had another extraordinary year recording 35 goals and 28 assists in 68 games. He continued his scoring touch on the team’s playoff run, and scored 8 goals and 14 points in 11 playoff games.
His impressive play resulted in him being named the CHL’s Player of the Week in April 2007. The award came after a first round playoff game, where Labrie scored an unheard of four goals and two assists in a 9-2 thumping against the Victoriaville Tigres. Labrie finished the week with five goals and four assists in four playoff games.
“That game was a real dream,” Labrie says of his six-point playoff night. “All my shots seemed to go in the net. I don’t know why.” While talking, Labrie would often pause to consider his words carefully, even though his English was much better than he gave himself credit for. “I think I was in a groove that night. It was one of the best games of my life.”
His success last season may have put him on the map, but it wasn’t a complete surprise to the colossal winger. “I was happier in general with the season than surprised,” Labrie noted. “I love to play hockey and I wanted to play well for my home team.”
With how quickly things have been happening for Labrie, you might think he hasn’t had to work as hard as other potential professional hockey players, and may want to discount his big break as just luck. But to say Labrie is undeserving of the sudden attention would be a disservice to the hulking, incredibly gifted left-winger. And he is far from unappreciative with the opportunities that have come his way.
“Sometimes it feels as though everything is happening too fast. There is a lot of attention,” Labrie recollected. “When I sit by myself I sometimes say ‘Wow, it is happening so fast. It is happening in one year.’ But I am okay with that. I just take it step by step and I want to continue to get better and work on how I play.”
When asked about where he was when he found out he had signed his first professional hockey contract, the smile that stretched across his face evokes the image of a gentle giant.
“I was at my house, and I could not believe it. I said, ‘I just signed my first contract and it is with the Canucks!’ I was surprised, and now that the surprise has worn off, I want to show what I can do. I want them to know that they made a good decision with me.”
While his size has certainly made him standout to the Canucks scouting and training staff, even more shocking is Labrie’s speed and agility. He proved this when the group at Development Camp headed to Grouse Mountain to complete the dreaded Grouse Grind. For the unfamiliar, at 2.9 km long, and an elevation gain of 2,800 feet, the Grind is not for the faint of heart.
For anyone who has ever completed the grueling, and often vertical, mountain trek – which has affectionately been called mother nature’s stair master – finishing in under an hour can be difficult, and going at anything more than a brisk pace can seem impossible. According to Grouse Mountain’s official website, the average completion time is 1.5 hours.
But perhaps no one told Labrie this, as he completed the Grind, while carrying pucks on his back, in an unthinkable 38 minutes. To put Labrie’s time in perspective, the fastest completion time recorded was 26:26, set at the 2005 Grouse Grind Mountain Run by Michael Simpson. And it would be pretty safe to say that Simpson was not carrying around a personal frame of + 200 pounds, and he probably also had some experience with the mountain. The winner of the prospects Grouse Grind competition was Rick Rypien, who completed the climb four minutes faster than Labrie, and about 45 pounds lighter as well.
With such impressive feats, and a breakout season in the bag, Labrie still wants to improve physically. “I’m going to train for the next two months,” Labrie said when asked about his summer plans. “I just want to continue to train hard and be ready for what may happen.”
As his first visit to Vancouver and initiation to the Canucks finished, Labrie is grateful for everything that has happened.
“This is my first time in Vancouver. I think it is more beautiful than I imagined. [The camp] has been hard, but I like that. All the guys are together, and I have made a lot of friends. I hope to play with them soon.”
And with everything Labrie has going for him, we should be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
Le-Drakkar De Baie-Comeau
Prospects Kung-Fu Fighting
14 - Points in 11 playoff games with le Drakkar in 2006-07
4 - Goals in a six-point night last year
22 - Jersey number with le Drakkar
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