Pageau dreaming big in chasing hockey dreams
Diminutive Senators prospect never lets size matter whenever he's out on the ice
|His short stature won't ever keep Senators prospect Jean-Gabriel Pageau from making a difference during a game. His 29 playoff points played a huge role in propelling the Gatineau Olympiques to a surprise berth in the QMJHL championship series (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
But the little dynamo from Gatineau always has a ready answer.
"That's something people always say," the Ottawa Senators prospect says in reference to his 5-9, 164-pound stature, which is small by National Hockey League standards. "But I don't think that affects me. I know what I can do and I can play against those big guys. Since I'm young, (it's always been) the same thing. I control what I can control and what I can't, I don't worry about."
But whenever Senators scouts made the trek across the river to watch the Gatineau Olympiques, they couldn't keep their eyes off the little big man. So when the time for their fourth-round pick arrived at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Senators happily made Pageau the 96th overall selection. Afterward, Ottawa director of player personnel director Pierre Dorion called him "probably my favourite pick" of the draft.
"When you went and saw him play in Gatineau, he was the best player on the ice most nights," said Dorion. "We know he's not big but ... (he's) competitive enough for a small body that he'll have an impact one day in the NHL."
Pageau doesn't have to look far for inspiration in his quest to prove the doubters wrong. Among his idols are Philadephia Flyers forward Daniel Briere, a fellow Gatineau native, and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They're listed at 5-10 and 5-8 respectively, but both have proven to be big-time NHL scorers for years.
"They're good examples for young people who are small," said Pageau, 18. "(Guys like) Martin St. Louis and Daniel Briere help me believe in my dream. They're kind of like heroes for me and examples for me. I try to be like them."
In the case of Briere, he's also become a close friend and mentor to Pageau.
"I'm close to Daniel Briere," said Pageau. "He lives in Gatineau in the summer, so we talk to each other sometimes. He gives me small tips. He tells me to just focus on my dream and work hard because when you're small, you have to work hard. You have to work, work and work."
Opponents saw plenty of evidence of that during the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs, when the unheralded Olympiques made a surprising run to the final before falling to the mighty Saint John Sea Dogs, the eventual Memorial Cup champs, whose roster was packed with 2011 NHL draft picks. That group was headed by centre Jonathan Huberdeau, who went No. 3 overall to the Florida Panthers. But Pageau, who racked up 29 points in 24 playoff games to fuel Gatineau's playoff run, never backed down against the Dogs.
"I can tell you (Senators general manager) Bryan Murray isn't the biggest fan of small players," said Dorion. "But we went and saw Saint John against Gatineau in the final and he says 'Pierre, just take both No. 11s.' One was Huberdeau and the other was Pageau.
"He's a competitive player and he's a key player for that team. He was on the ice every second shift, he had no stamina, but he played his heart out and he did everything he could. He's a very good small player."
Added Pageau: "We had a good coach (Benoit Groulx). He prepared us for each game very well and that really helped us. Reaching the final was great for the team and the organization. We were proud of that."
Pageau was thrilled, to say the least, when the Senators called his name at the draft, which gives him the opportunity to keep chasing his biggest hockey dream right at home.
"I was in a little bit of a dream that day," he said of the draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. "I didn't realize what happened to me but, at the beginning of (the Senators' annual development) camp, I finally realized what happened to me and I'm very happy about it.
"It's Ottawa that picked me and it's close to my house. I've always represented my city and the team of my city and that's great (it can continue)."