MONTREAL – Gabriel D’Aigle is only 15 years old and easy to forget. Even for his close guard.
At 6’4″, the Victoriaville Tigres rookie goalie is just an inch behind two of his new teammates, Tommy Montreuil and Igor Mburanumwe. On the scale he dominates them all at 209 pounds. And in his semicircle, he already imposes.
“It’s impressive to see, Tigers goalkeeping coach and associate coach Sébastien Charpentier testifies of his student’s progress since his selection in the second tier of the last QMJHL draft. He is a big guy and he is already physically mature. His presence does not suggest that he is 15 years old. »
“His level of competition is very high, develops Charpentier. No matter the players, the level they come from, their age or if they are veterans, when they go to the net you are guaranteed the best of Gabriel. he wants to stop everything discs. When I talk about performance, [je veux dire qu’]conveys the attitude of someone who has accomplished things in the league. »
Gabriel D’Aigle, the most hastily recruited goalkeeper in 22 years on the Quebec tour, is much more than a good man stuck between two posts.
“He has an explosion that requires good physical strength. The young man still weighs more than 200 pounds. To drag that weight, at that age, you must have done hours, you must have taken the time to repeat movements and learn to control them, ”Charpentier deduces.
Between the ages of 6 and 12, D’Aigle would spend hours in his basement with his father, a former goalkeeper, multiplying two days of three lateral movements on a synthetic surface.
“It’s practical. Just practice, practice, practice”, simplifies D’Aigle, who has also left traces of these training sessions on YouTube. Just take a quick look at it to understand how the young athlete has made the speed of his movements his specialty.
This was more than evident this summer at Hockey Canada’s U-17 development camp. In addition to finishing the exercise with the best average (2.50) among the 10 invited goalkeepers, D’Aigle captivated the gallery and the most informed Tigres fans on Twitter with the paralysis of the camp, while he stole a rival’s great glove in a two-on-one situation.
— Victoriaville Tigers (@TigresVicto) July 14, 2022
“With his size, he can stay compact in those long games and cover as many goals as possible at the same time. This is the great potential of Chat “, discerns Charpentier, whose mandate now is to refine this direction.
“All the hours you put into repeating post-to-post moves, maybe you missed game situations all the way through. […] Sometimes you are so used to moving that you are impatient and anxious to move. So I told him if we don’t need it, we don’t do it. We stay calm and stay well positioned. They are small things that we began to work on quietly, without upsetting the young man’s past and without wanting to do everything at the same time. »
The best hope since Fleury?
D’Aigle will only turn 16 on November 21. Therefore, Charpentier and the Tigers have three full seasons at his disposal to hone their rising star’s technique before he is eligible for the NHL Draft in 2025.
For his debut this year, he’ll support 19-year veteran Nathan Darveau at No. 2. In an ideal world where injuries don’t exist, he’d make 20-25 starts. The more than likely participation of him in the World Under-17 Challenge, from November 5 to 12 in British Columbia, could however force the club to review the use of him downwards.
“We can afford to do things well, especially with Nathan, who still has an important status in our team,” recalls Charpentier. […] It allows us to really work on the small details and things to the fullest. Because we won’t hide it, you’re under the same pressure when it’s your draft year. maybe you work a Little a little more tense, but at 18, when you’re in your third season, I think you’re able to handle these expectations much better heading into the NL draft. »
And expectations, there may be some.
“This guy is the best goalkeeping prospect in Quebec since Marc-André Fleury,” popular draft specialist Simon “Snake” Boisvert dared to advance in a recent interview with the The Sick Podcast with Tony Marinaro. “He is Quebec’s next star goalkeeper in the NHL. »
Exercising his right of reserve, Charpentier is careful not to put such a label on his protégé. It’s too soon. However, he acknowledges that in his age group, D’Aigle is one of a kind.
“Everyone has been talking about it for a few years: how come we don’t have more goalies from Quebec who come up more often in the draft? Chat it’s on a line where we can go back to the map. »
” Call me whenever you want “
At the very least, he is already on many radars, including that of Fleury, his famous Sorelois partner, with whom he shared the ice rink this summer, and a common personal trainer, Stéphane Ménard.
“It was Marc-André who asked to train with me,” reveals D’Aigle, who later met the Minnesota Wild star. “I think he is trying to take me under his wing. »
The two athletes promised to repeat the experience at the end of the next campaign. Until then, there’s always the phone.
“He gave me his number and said: ‘Call me anytime for advice.’ I haven’t called him yet. I’m a little upset. »
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