Saturday, August 22, 2020

Xavier Ouellet Autographed Card

Generally, when a former second-round pick in his mid-20s signs as a free agent in his hometown, he's given every chance to succeed, but Xavier Ouellet went through a totally different experience when he signed with the Montréal Canadiens, getting sent to the AHL's Laval Rocket with the consolidation prize of the team's captaincy, all but ensuring he was there to mentor the young prospects instead of being a regular call-up.

However, he did his job well enough for the better part of two seasons that not only did he earn the occasional cal-up (19 games in 2018-19, 12 regular-season games in 2019-20), even head coach Claude Julien thought he was good enough to play on the bottom pair with penalty-killing time in the post-season, suiting up for 10 games for the team that ousted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in round and took the Philadelphia Flyers to six games when the actual playoffs got rolling.

Furthermore, his role increased under Kirk Muller when Julien was hospitalized, playing 15 minutes in the elimination game last night. Furthermore - and that's where the Habs brass will be most happy - he was an even +/- 0 in the regular season and a +2 when play resumed after Covid-19 hit; in Ouellet's case, it actually hit home: he tested positive for the virus.

Defensemen take longer to develop, but I now see a possible career trajectory like that of Ron Hainsey, Nathan Beaulieu or Eric Brewer, high draft picks who took their time to get comfortable in the NHL but ended up staying in the Big Show for a long time.

Before he captained the Rocket and started his career with the Detroit Red Wings, Ouellet displayed his leadership skills by wearing the "C" for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the LHJMQ, who were coached by Joël Bouchard, Laval's current bench boss, as seen on card #63 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects set:
That 1990s Los Angeles Kings-inspired white (home) uniform is beautiful! He signed it in (fading) blue sharpie back when he was in the Wings organization (2013-18).

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