Oceanic star trying to break a QMJHL trend

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Alexis Loiseau led the Oceanic in scoring with 96 points. (Ghyslain Bergeron/CP )

Alexis Loiseau’s Rimouski Océanic are losing badly, something that hasn’t happened much to the QMJHL’s top team this season. As he drives to the net, it’s like he’s on an island—the only player wearing the Océanic sweater. He tries to deke through a defender’s legs but loses control of the puck. A second defender catches up and Loiseau is sandwiched between two 200-lb. pieces of bread. Engulfed in a swarm of arms and sticks, he refuses to give up, keeping his eyes on the puck sliding towards the net. He takes another swipe at the puck, missing the net, but getting a second chance thanks to his doggedness. Instead of getting frustrated after missing two chances, he turns around, puts his head down and backchecks. And that’s the kind of player Loiseau, 20, is. He does it all for the Océanic—plays in every situation and plays hard.

When Rimouski’s 2013-14 campaign ended in disappointing fashion, blowing a 3-2 series advantage and a 4-0 game-seven lead, Loiseau met with the coaching staff. “He wanted a bigger role the next year, he wanted to contribute more offensively. We thought he did really good last year, but he wanted the pressure,” says Rimouski coach Eric Dubois.

Loiseau was given the team captaincy and asked to lead the most talented Océanic squad he’s been part of. And he has. He’s the league’s No. 1 scorer in this, his final QMJHL season, but for a guy who still dreams of playing pro hockey, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Seriously.

Overage players have led the league in scoring four times the past decade. Francois Bouchard (2006-07) was a second-round pick by Washington but never played an NHL game and now plays in Sweden’s first division. Yannick Riendeau (’08-09) was never drafted and last played pro in the ECHL two years ago. Philip-Michael Devos (’10-11) now plays in Italy. Ben Duffy (’12-13) signed a two-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens but now plays in the CIS for St. Mary’s after bouncing between the AHL and ECHL.

Loiseau is from Havre-aux-Maisons, one of the eight islands (pop. 13,000) that make up Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, an archipelago located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Growing up, he played in the small league on the islands. “We stayed on the island, played against each other,” he says. When he was 11, his family moved to Mont-Joli, a town near Rimouski, to find him some better competition and in 2010 he was drafted by Rimouski with the 82nd pick.

The 6-foot-1, 179-lb. Loiseau has seen his point totals go up each season, from 12 to 26 to 69 points in 68 games. This year his points per game sits around the 1.75 mark. Dubois has coached Loiseau for the past three seasons and has seen the playmaker’s confidence grow each year. He’s willing to do more with the puck than in the past, not afraid to take a chance and make a mistake. “He’s a feeder. In order to be a feeder you need to carry the puck, you need poise with the puck,” the coach says. “What allows you to have that poise is confidence. You’re not afraid to make a play.”

Early in the season, extra pressure was put on Loiseau when Frédérick Gauthier (21st to Toronto in 2013) went down with an injury missing all of September and all but two games in October. The absence of the 6-foot-4, 215-lb. centre left a hole in the middle and provided more opportunities for Loiseau. In September, he put up 16 points and was named the QMJHL’s third star of the month. In October, he posted another 18 points. With Gauthier back and healthy, Loiseau continues to put up points, another 17 in November. “I think this year we’re a more mature team,” he says. “We have depth at forward and at ‘D.’ As long as the team keeps winning, it’s good for me and everybody.”

Loiseau was passed over in the NHL draft, has yet to receive a training camp invite and doesn’t know where he’ll play next season. But Dubois believes there’s a chance for Loiseau to carve out a career after junior. “I don’t think he’ll fall in that trap of ‘I have to produce if I have a chance to play pro,’” he says. “I think he understands he has to play good hockey in order to have a shot at the pros.”

The uncertainty of his future hasn’t distracted Loiseau from the job at hand. He doesn’t care if it’s North America or Europe next season, he just wants play pro somewhere. “I want to play hockey all my life.”

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