Late bloomer

Friday, 28.10.2011 / 9:00 AM / Features
By Travis Britton
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Late bloomer

Alexandre Grenier watched the 2011 NHL Entry Draft with his parents at home in St-Constant, Quebec, not expecting much considering he went unrated by Central Scouting.

The Vancouver Canucks called Grenier’s name at the end of the third round just as a friend walked in the door.

“I jumped in my buddy’s arms,” Grenier told Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun.“I was so happy. I wasn’t expecting anything at the beginning of the season. I did talk to some teams and was just hoping my name would come up. But I was very surprised I got drafted.”

Grenier wasn’t alone, a lot of other hockey minds felt the same way.

To say Grenier has followed a traditional path to being drafted by an NHL team would be the farthest thing from the truth as he has had more than his fair share of ups and downs.

Not that Grenier is short on excuses as three years ago he was in a serious car accident. He suffered an arm injury and concussion, although he refuses to blame those injuries for his late development in junior hockey.

“I’m happy for where I am now,” he said to MacIntyre. “I think that never quitting, always believing, helped me. If I had stopped thinking about it (making it to the NHL) or abandoned my goal, I wouldn’t be here now. That was my first goal since I was young and I never stopped believing it.”

Grenier started last season on a tryout with a second-tier junior team in Saint-Jerome, Quebec, northwest of Montreal. He had been passed up in the previous two National Hockey League entry drafts.

He was called up from Junior AAA last year by Patrick Roy in December and never looked back, scoring 24 points in 31 games, forcing Roy to rely on him heavily in offensive situations for the remainder of the year. Grenier followed that up with 16 points in 15 games during the Ramparts’ run to the QMJHL Semi-Finals.

Grenier was acquired from the Quebec Ramparts by the GM of the Halifax Mooseheads, Cam Russell in exchange for his 11th overall Euro Pick and PEI’s 4th round pick in the off-season.

Grenier just faced off against his former team that traded him away, and didn’t disappoint. Well maybe the fans of the Ramparts.

In a game that featured two of the world’s top hockey products, it was Grenier that stole the spotlight.

The 20-year-old Halifax Mooseheads imposing forward, scored twice, including the overtime winner with 56.1 seconds left, to help the herd beat his former team 4-3 and improve his teams’ overall record to 9-5.

Grenier ripped a perfectly-placed bullet into the corner behind goaltender Louis Domingue on a power play.

The building erupted with cheers and Grenier was center stage as his teammates bombarded him to celebrate a victory that marked a little retribution for the Canucks 2011 draft pick. Especially considering Grenier was deemed the odd man out in the Ramparts’ over-age picture last summer and came to Halifax in a deal for draft picks

"It's not explainable - I'm a man without words right now, I'm so happy," said Grenier to Ben Kuzma of the Province.

A lot of research and time goes into draft day selections like Grenier, but no matter what, these are very young players and without the aid of a crystal ball, it is nearly impossible to predict where these players might be five years down the road. It gets even harder when you get past the first round of selections.

“If you can get bigger guys and late-bloomers, like Chris Tanev…..we were looking for those guys,” Canucks assistant general manager Lorne Henning said to MacIntyre. “There were a lot of similarities on these guys. You hope that two years down the road you’re seeing some results.”

For any team at any draft, two to three players that eventually become NHL regulars is deemed a good draft year. The Canucks left Minnesota with eight new players. If they can develop any three of them into the NHL caliber players, they’ll be over the moon.

The Canucks 2011 selection, Grenier has an imposing frame (6-foot-5, 200-pounds), but he'll need a couple of years working on his skills.

A late bloomer, Grenier pairs size, skating ability and offensive skill into an attractive package. Not breaking into the QMJHL until he was 19-years-old, Grenier is surprisingly mobile for his size and is only scratching the surface of his potential. He has great on-ice vision but needs to grow into his large frame and start using his body more. But once he fills out, he has the offensive ability to either set up goals or be the guy that nets them himself.

So if Grenier continues to improve at the steady pace, that’s seen him rise from the unheard-of draftee to a potential draft-day gem, it will be the Canucks leaping into each other’s arms and shouting for anyone that will listen; “I told you so.”