MONTREAL — Louis Leblanc was the centre of attention as the Montreal Canadiens opened the first of two development camps in Brossard, Que., Tuesday but the team’s top draft choice last June shed little light on his future plans.
“Right now, I’m here at camp and I’m enjoying my time here with my buddy Danny Kristo,” the 19-year-old from Pointe Claire, Que., said after a two-hour on-ice session. “I’m working hard and it’s going to be a good week to get better as a hockey player. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.”
Leblanc recently completed his freshman year at Harvard University and there has been speculation that he will abandon the halls of academe to pursue his NHL dreams at either the major junior or American Hockey League level. Leblanc said he is keeping his options open but he sounded like someone who’s content to spend another year in university.
“As of now, I’m signed to go to Harvard and that’s what I’m getting ready for and I’m excited,” said Leblanc. “But if I find something better, then I’ll do it. Harvard’s the better fit right now. I get to do my schooling at the best university in the world. My coach (Ted Donato, Harvard Class of 1991) played 13 years in the NHL and I think it’s the best combination.”
College players aren’t allowed to have agents but Leblanc did have Phil Lecavalier, the older brother to Tampa Bay Lightning star Vincent, as a family adviser until he decided recently “to move on” and make decisions on his own.
Leblanc’s junior rights belong to Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Canadiens also have the option to send him to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. He was also asked about a scenario which see his rights traded to the Montreal Juniors so that he combine junior hockey with school at McGill.
“I’ll discuss (any change), firstly with myself, I’ll think about it,” said Leblanc. “And I’ll talk with people who don’t have an agenda to follow, (people who) don’t own a team. I’ll make a decision with people who like me and want the best for me.”
Leblanc said his experience at Harvard was positive.
“I really enjoyed my school year,” he said. “It was an adjustment for school and hockey. It was the first time playing college hockey. It was the first time at Harvard University and it was tough at school a bit but, as the year went on, you get into a routine and get a feel for it. I enjoyed the coach and the guys I played with. It was good.
“It’s been fun but you still have to keep working, do the work in the gym, do the work at school in my case and do the work on the ice.”
Harvard struggled to a 9-21-3 record and finished ninth in the ECAC. Leblanc was the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals and 23 points and was the ECAC rookie of the year.
“On paper, we were as good as any team in the league,” said Leblanc. “After the first two games, we thought we’d have an unbelievable season. Everything was clicking, we were up 3-1 against Cornell at their rink and Cornell is one of the hardest rinks to play in. (But we lost) and after that game, everything went down and we didn’t really catch a break. It was really disappointing.”
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