Kirkland’s Leblanc ready for draft week
By Mark Lidbetter
Kirkland native Louis Leblanc is in the middle of a hectic week that will culminate Saturday at the Bell Centre when the 18 year-old Lakeshore Hockey Federation product will sit nervously and wait to hear his name called as a selection in the 2009 National Hockey League entry draft.
“It will be busy but I’m looking forward to it,” Leblanc said. “There are some more interviews and testing and Friday will be a media lunch then draft day on Saturday.”
For the former Lac St. Louis Lion, it will be the culmination of years of hard work and the first step towards an NHL career. The final rankings put out by the Central Scouting Bureau has Leblanc pegged at number 13 among North American skaters following his season with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.
“Playing in the USHL was a huge jump from Midget AAA,” he said. “The players are older and the league was a good challenge.”
What Leblanc took away from his season with the Lancers was, “I learned to be a role player and to be stronger in my defensive zone,” he said. “That was a big difference from Midget AAA where you try to do everything.”
Playing for the Lancers saw the six-foot, 178 pound center tally 28 goals and 31 assists for 59 points in 60 games. Unfortunately the Lancers bowed in the first round to the Fargo Force.
“We didn’t finish off the way we wanted to,” he said. “I would have loved to have played deeper into the playoffs.”
At the post-season awards, Leblanc was selected as the USHL’s rookie of the year but will not be returning to the Lancers next year as Leblanc will head to Harvard and suit up with the Crimson. A strong student, Leblanc was among the inaugural recipients of the Montreal Canadiens’ bursaries awarded in 2007.
“My goal is to make the NHL but to get a Harvard education is a great opportunity to have,” he said.
Leblanc attended the recent player evaluation combine in Toronto where the top 100 prospects were put through a battery of tests and interviews for an army of scouts.
“It was a little nerve wracking,” he said. “You’re on the bike being watched by 350 scouts but I gave it my best (effort).”
Later this summer Leblanc will be headed to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to take part in the Junior Team Canada evaluation camp for the squad that will compete in the World Junior Championships.
“I was disappointed I didn’t get invited last year but I am pleased to get the chance this time,” he said.
With Leblanc slotted 13th and the Montreal Canadiens holding pick number 18, the hard working, smart player that Leblanc is would be a great grab for the Habs — that is if Leblanc is still on the table at that point.
“Whichever team it is, it is my ticket to the NHL,” he said. “I have to work hard and prove myself to get there.”