VOORHEES, N.J. – You can call Maxim Lamarche a late-bloomer if you want, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
After all, Lamarche, 21, didn’t have a breakout season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League until he was an overage player last season.
However, sometimes in the sport of hockey, it’s more about the untapped potential of a player than it is a player finally figuring out his game to earn that late-bloomer tag.
Sometimes they coincide, and that may have been the case for Lamarche last season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL. Or, it could have been a change around the Drakkar that finally brought Lamarche’s games to the forefront.
In his first three seasons with the Drakkar, Lamarche played for coaches who believed in a more defensive system, which really didn’t allow for him to showcase his two-way skill.
Then a change was made last season to Eric Veilleux as coach. Veilleux had a successful run as the coach of the Shawinigan Cataracts where he had just one losing season in seven years behind their bench.
He brought with him a more up-tempo system, not too unlike the one employed by Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, and it was an immediate hit. The Drakkar scored the most goals it has as a team since the season was reduced to a 68-game schedule. And with offensive pressure being the key, the Drakkar also allowed the fewest goals in franchise history.
It was a style that got them to the QMJHL Finals for the first time in f the 16-year history of the franchise.
A lot of players found success under Veilleux’s leadership, but maybe none more than Lamarche, who became the quarterback of the Baie-Comeau offense from the blue line.
After averaging just 23 points in each of his first three season in the QMJHL, LaMarche nearly doubled that last season – and did so despite missing 13 games due to a leg injury.
LaMarche finished with nine goals and 34 assists for 43 points in just 55 regular season games. He added three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 19 playoff games.
But more importantly, he rounded out his game enough that several NHL teams felt that he just might be ready to play the game at the next level.
“Maxim’s resume is that of another guy who went undrafted but was a big part of his junior team for three solid years,” said Flyers Director of Scouting Chris Pryor. “He continually got better every year. He’s a big, thick kid who is strong and is a good competitor.
“Guys with those qualities give themselves a chance in pro hockey because of their maximum effort and their work ethic.”
Pryor said that Quebec area scouts Todd Hearty and Simon Nolet have been following Lamarche for a few years and although they liked him a little bit after the 2011-12 season, their interest spiked considerably following his breakout campaign last season.
“He’s a big body who isn’t fancy or flashy but he gets the job done,” said Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere. “I saw him play last year in the playoffs and then I talked to (Veilleux) and he said he’s a kid who works as hard off the ice as he does on it and that he’s a real character kid – and that’s something you always want in your organization.”
And since signing with the Flyers on May 31, Lamarche has exuded those same characteristics. He changed his summer workout regiment to train with Stephane Dube, a long-time strength and conditioning coach who has worked with a bevy of NHL players over the past two decades – including Laperriere.
“I’m training with pro guys for the first time,” said Lamarche. Who could pass for Simon Gagne’s younger brother. ”It’s been good for me to see how they train both in the gym and on the ice.”
Lamarche has also spent a decent amount of time in Philadelphia this summer, and wanted to get back to the area early in anticipation of rookie camp, which begins next week.
And in the process, he’s on the ice practicing with the Flyers defensemen, and getting a quick education.
“It’s amazing to just be out there with Kimmo [Timonen] and [Braydon] Coburn,” Lamarche said. “[Nick] Grossmann and Bruno [Gervais] too. They practice and train at another step higher than I’m used to. It’s good to learn how they do that and to see the speed of the game.”
Lamarche is likely ticketed to start the season with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL where he will be part of an interesting defensive corps for coach Terry Murray that will likely feature three guys with NHL experience in Brandon Manning, Matt Konan and Oliver Lauridsen as well as another solid defensive prospect in Mark Alt.
But Lamarche isn’t worried about where he will play this season. As of now he only cares about keeping his head down, and his work ethic up.
“I just want to work hard and I have a good work ethic and I want to keep it that way,” Lamarche said. “That’s one of my strengths. Just keep working every day and doing what the team wants so I can get better. It’s been good so far, so I’m going to keep doing it and we’ll see.”
And so will the Flyers. Considering they’ve liked what they’ve seen so far, they’re hoping that the natural progression for a player like Lamarche continues to reap the rewards that a worker like him continues to sow.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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