The CHL Player of the Year award is the most prestigious individual award in Canadian junior hockey and many of the winners have gone on to incredible careers in the NHL.
Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Mario Lemieux are just some of the impressive names on that trophy.
But this year’s winner is relatively unknown compared to those who came before him. Alex Barré-Boulet, 21, was never drafted into the NHL and has never represented Canada on the international stage, yet, he joined the ranks of the CHL’s best ever on Saturday.
Barré-Boulet will turn pro next season and we’re willing to bet it won’t be long before we see him in the NHL.
With that being said, allow us to introduce you to him.
He’s a pure scorer
The first thing you need to know about Barré-Boulet is that he’s an offensive dynamo.
A centre, he posted 53 goals and 116 points in 65 games this season playing for the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and added another 13 goals and 27 points in 19 playoff games.
His 116 regular season points were 12 more than Victoriaville’s Vitalii Abramov for the league lead. He was also the only QMJHL player to crack 50 goals this season.
But while these numbers are impressive, they weren’t a fluke. He finished his four-year QMJHL career with 140 goals, 197 assists and 337 points in 263 games, having picked up at least 81 points in his final three seasons.
He was passed over in the NHL draft three times
Scouts say Barré-Boulet’s offence comes from his quick hands and smart vision, which allows him to get scoring chances despite being only five-foot-10.
He also has a drive that allows him to never give up on a play. Just look at how he fights through the defence to setup this goal against the Charlottetown Islanders.
His shot isn’t bad either. He has a quick, accurate release that he uses to surprise goalies and beat them even when they appear to be in position.
While the numbers are impressive, his draft stock fell because teams were worried about his skating and his size.
That’s why Barré-Boulet entered the 2015 draft as the 141st ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and ultimately wasn’t selected that year or the two years following.
Barré-Boulet attended tryouts with the L.A. Kings and Vegas Golden Knights but those didn’t lead to contracts. So he entered this season as an overage player without a clear future in hockey, despite his massive offensive talent.
But that changed in March when the Tampa Bay Lightning signed him to an entry-level contract, which will likely lead to him skating with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch next season.
He continues a trend for the Lightning
As Sportsnet’s CHL analyst Sam Cosentino points out in the video above, Barré-Boulet isn’t the first small forward the Lightning have taken a chance on.
Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde are both under six-foot but have put together solid seasons in Tampa, while Golden Knights star Jonathan Marchessault also spent time in the Lightning system earlier in his career.
And before all of those guys, Martin St. Louis put together a legendary career in Tampa despite generously being listed at five-foot-eight.
Those players all put up high offensive numbers in junior but needed a few years in the minors before making the jump to the NHL. Barré-Boulet will likely need to go through similar seasoning before becoming a regular for the the Lightning.
“I think he is in that mold. Now, he’s going to have to put the work in that those guys put in to become the players they have become,” Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said when asked about Barré-Boulet’s size. “He’s a young guy… We’ll work on him getting stronger, more powerful, improve his skating. He’s tough to play against because of his competitiveness. The times I’ve seen him, what’s really impressed me the most is his hockey sense. He’s a good prospect.”
If any team can turn Barré-Boulet’s raw skill into a complete NHL player, it’s Tampa Bay.
And if they succeed, the rest of the league will be left wondering how they let him slip through their fingers.