Going to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft is nothing new to Benoit Groulx, but this time he’s going as a father, not as one of the league’s most successful coaches.
And Groulx could very well see his 16-year-old son Benoit-Olivier Groulx selected first overall at the league’s annual draft of midget-aged players on Saturday morning at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. The six-foot 176-pound forward is ranked first by the QMJHL’s central scouting service.
"It’s exciting for the entire family," said the senior Groulx, who coached the Gatineau Olympiques to three league championships over 13 seasons and guided Canada to gold at the 2015 world junior championship. "And you can tell Benoit-Olivier is getting a bit anxious."
The Halifax Mooseheads hold the first pick and must choose between the Gatineau Intrepides’ Groulx and a prospect from their own backyard, Cole Harbour Wolfpack defenceman Jared McIsaac.
Jerome Berube, a scout with hockeyprospects.com, told that service’s website that the choice was "a case of a 1A and a 1B.
"Both will be high-end players in the QMJHL. With Groulx, you get a top-line player who brings a complete game, and with McIsaac, you get a defenceman who can log a ton of minutes and will be a premiere defenceman in major junior."
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar, who sometimes have trouble convincing players to report, hold the second overall pick, followed by the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the Sherbrooke Phoenix and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Baie-Comeau also has the 14th and 15th overall picks while Halifax drafts again at 16th in the first round.
Groulx said he tried not to get overly involved as his son moved up the levels of minor hockey.
"We let the coaches coach," he said. "We never interfered.
"I’m not a believer in a player having two or three coaches, especially if it’s your son. I believe the place of a parent is to support them, cheer for them and make sure they stay grounded. I knew he was a good player. Next thing, he’s the top scorer in the league, he’s on Team Canada and he wears a letter."
Both Benoit-Olivier Groulx and McIsaac won a silver medal for Canada at the Youth Olympics in Norway, along with other high-ranked prospects like speedster Gabriel Fortier of the Lac St. Louis Lions and goalie Olivier Rodrigue of the Jonquiere Elites.
Benoit Groulx said it was a coincidence that he left the Olympiques just as his son was about to join the QMJHL. Now he won’t have to coach against him. Groulx was signed in May by the Tampa Bay Lightning to coach of the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
"My goal as a coach was to move on and I’m happy I have that opportunity," he said. "The timing couldn’t have been better."
Groulx’s name has already been mentioned for NHL head coaching jobs, so it is not out of the question that both father and son may end up one day in hockey’s top league.
"We’re not there yet, but you never know what will happen," the coach said.
Benoit-Oliver Groulx, said to be a strong two-way player, had 21 goals and 51 points in 41 games in Quebec midget triple-A play this season. The six-foot-one, 203-pound McIssac had 14 goals and 36 points in 31 games in Nova Scotia’s top midget league.
Others expected to go high include a pair of right-shooting defencemen, Xavier Bouchard who is the son of Rouyn-Noranda Huskies coach Gilles Bouchard, and Jeremie Bucheler of Lac St. Louis.
Host Charlottetown holds the 18th pick, but may look to move up.