NHL scouts probably heard little of dynamic winger Robert Pelletier at the beginning of the season, but chances are they have him on their radar now.
The 17-year-old spent half the season in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, where he potted six goals and 20 points in 20 games with the Campbellton Tigers, before getting called up to rejoin the Olympiques. Again, it didn’t take long for Pelletier to make his presence felt, as he racked up 15 points, on seven goals and eight assists in 26 games with Gatineau.
The talented forward also led the club in scoring with two goals and four points in their brief four game series against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, and finished with a plus-2 rating, one of only two players on the Olympiques to be on the positive side in the playoffs.
The product of Dalhousie, NB spent the previous two seasons playing prep school hockey with the Rothesay Netherwood Riverhawks, and last year found the back of the net 13 times while adding 11 assists, for 24 points in 20 games.
Although not overly big at five-foot-eight, 170-pounds, Pelletier is not afraid of getting physically engaged and going to the dirty areas of the ice in order to create opportunities for himself and his teammates. He has excellent wheels, good puck skills, a nice shot, decent vision and hockey IQ, and plays a determined, two-way game that wears on the competition. He reminds many of the Boston Bruins Brad Marchand with his overall game, and has some tremendous potential to be an impact player in the QMJHL and beyond in the coming years. The kid simply knows his role, and plays with a sense of urgency and passion that very few players his age display.
I had the chance to catch up with the very gifted, and well-spoken Robert Pelletier, for a quick Q and A.
Who has been your biggest help and influence in developing your game?
Robert: The people who have been the biggest influence on me throughout my career thus far has to be my parents, hockey-wise my father coached me on many teams as a kid, and has always given me tips on what and what not to do on the ice. Mentally and spiritually, my mom has by far been a big part of the reason I am where I am today with hockey. She has always told me to keep going, to keep pushing, and not to give up, she has helped me a lot when facing adversity and has always brought my confidence up. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done for me.
You are a speedy, very dynamic forward, that has some tremendous offensive upside, what do you see being your best attributes as a player?
Robert: My best attributes as a player has to be my speed and my aggressiveness. I know that I am a small player, but I always finish my checks, and love the challenge of going against bigger players and showing people that I am strong and can play against anybody. I also have a good shot and hands, and like to be a player that is gritty, and a shut down guy that teams absolutely hate playing against.
Is there an NHLer you model your game after?
Robert: I see myself as a Mike Richards-type, he works, and battles hard, has a good shot and gets a lot of garbage goals. He brings energy to his team, and that’s what my game is all about.
You spent a couple years playing prep hockey with the Rothesay Netherwood Riverhawks, as well as 20 games with the MJHL’s Campbellton Tigers, how did those two experiences better prepare you for life in the Q?
Robert: Well playing prep for two years has matured me a lot on and off the ice, being away from home and what not, but having a good camp with Gatineau at first and then being sent down to Jr. A was definitely a wake up call for me. I had it in my mind I was going down to get my confidence back, and I did. I was fortunate enough to get a second chance with the Olympiques, and I made the most of my opportunity, it was a positive for me. I have to thank the Tigers for what they did for me, I put up a point per game while playing against bigger guys, and that is what helped me the most. I was also very happy to be playing in front of my home crowd, which I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in awhile after leaving to go play prep.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the QMJHL?
Robert: I think my ‘welcome moment’ was in the opening game, we were playing Val D’Or in our home opener, our team went back to the old colours, and I just remember how intense the game was. The best moment for me was the warm up, I always remember going to Q games when I was younger and watching the warm ups, and to finally be apart of it was breathtaking for me.
You’ve scored quite a few goals already through your young career in minor hockey and in junior; do you have one that stands out as your biggest?
Robert: I used to play defense when I was younger, and I remember I was playing Atom AA with the Dalhousie Rangers, we were in the finals of our home tournament and there was a big crowd. I did an end-to-end rush, went behind the net, and banged the puck off the goalie and in. I don’t remember if I tied the game or not, but that goal always sticks out for me.
Gatineau is loaded with some very young talent, and after being lit up in the first two games of your playoff series against Blainville-Boisbriand you guys bounced back and pushed them in the final two games, which included a game 4 OT. How was your first major junior post-season experience, and how do you like the make up of this club looking forward to next year?
Robert: My first playoff in the QMJHL was definitely one to remember, and it was great to get that experience going into next season. We didn’t play like we were capable of in the first two games, and it really didn’t fee like it was playoff hockey, but heading into games 3 and 4 at home we were excited about turning the series around with the crowd behind us. Unfortunately it didn’t end up like we wanted, but you have to take the positives out of it and move on. Like you said, we were a really young team this year, and I am excited for next season as we all gained a year of experience, and are looking forward to having a very good 2012-13.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Robert: The highlight of my career thus far has to be getting drafted into the QMJHL. I will always remember the moment where I saw my name pop up on the list. I was at the gym working out with my buddy and had my phone with me, I was constantly refreshing it to see if I had been selected, and the next thing you know the 9th round came along and there I was. It was one of the best feelings I ever had, just being so proud after all the efforts I had put in over the years, it was great!
You may be a latecomer on the NHL draft radar, but by your performance in 30 games with the Olympiques you are more than worthy of being picked. If you could choose a club that selects you, who would it be?
Robert: I would honestly be happy going anywhere as it is a huge honor to play for any club in the NHL, and it would be a dream come true, but if I had to pick it would be the Pittsburgh Penguins just because of all the young guns they have there. Just being in the presence of my idol Sidney Crosby would be incredible, but like I said, any team would be unbelievable.
In your opinion, who is the toughest defenseman to beat 1-on-1 in the entire QMJHL?
Robert: The toughest defenseman to beat 1-on-1 has to be Brandon Gormley of the Shawinigan Cataracts, he is just so big, has such long reach, plays the gap perfectly, and is just tough to beat, which is why hockey is a team game and you have teammates to give you options.
Who is the best player you’ve ever played with and against?
Robert: The best player I’ve played with has to be Jean-Gabriel Pageau who plays with Chicoutimi, and the best player I’ve played against is Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads.
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime from the game?
Robert: I am a very outgoing person, so I enjoy doing anything really, but in my downtime from the game I am usually doing homework or just watching TV.
Any hidden talents?
Robert: I am a very good soccer player.