(Laval) The number 50 is symbolic in hockey. The 50-goal mark remains the yardstick that distinguishes true sharpshooters from good scorers.
For Noah Juulsen, the number has a completely different meaning. Last season, the Canadiens’ 2015 first-round pick reached 50…in the games played column. For a guy who comes back from so far, it’s not trivial.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to play a full season, be with the guys and start feeling like a hockey player again. It’s been an incredible year,” says Juulsen, gathered after the Abbotsford Canucks’ morning practice on Wednesday for the afternoon game against the Rockets in Laval.
Last year, Juulsen played 50 games for Abbotsford, another eight for the big club, the Vancouver Canucks. “I missed a weekend because I was sick. For the rest, I have been healthy all year, ”he says proudly.
To understand his joy, you have to go back to November 19, 2018, the day he received not once, but twice in the same eye during a game. Recurring migraine problems derailed a promising career. His responsibilities were increasing, during the match before the incident, he had even been employed for 20 minutes by Claude Julien. See the number of games played by him in recent years.
Matches played by Noah Juulsen
- 2018-19: 24 (including 21 in the NHL)
- 2019-20: 13 (all in AHL)
- 2020-2021: 9 (including 4 in the NHL)
- Total : 46
Last season alone, therefore, he played more than the previous three seasons combined. During these three years, he Juulsen moped.
We are hockey players, but off the ice, we have a life. Off the ice, I didn’t feel like myself. There was a long period where I didn’t feel well. I no longer felt like I liked hockey.
An active player who says he doesn’t “like” hockey anymore is pretty rare. Some reach levels of discouragement, but words rarely go that far.
“The two and a half years that I missed, it was very difficult mentally. It was hard as a player, but also as a human being. Many people expect you to help your team, to make a difference. When you arrive and things don’t go the way you want, it’s difficult. »
The transaction that changes everything
Without the presence of a benevolent general manager, Juulsen might have continued to meditate last season.
In the fall of 2021, he participated in camp for the Florida Panthers, who had picked him up on waivers when the Canadian had sent him there the previous winter. Except that Juulsen arrives with very little mileage on the body. 1Ahem October, is subject to vote; ignored, he is demoted the next day.
The problem: Last year, the Panthers’ farm club, the Charlotte Checkers, was in joint custody with the Seattle Kraken, which only got its own subsidiary this fall. This meant, therefore, that there would be an excess of hope and that there would not be room for everyone, every night.
A few days after Juulsen’s firing, the Canucks asked. Panthers general manager Bill Zito immediately contacted his player to explain the situation. A nice attention to a player who did not have a special status within the team.
Bill has been very good to me. He was right and he told me what was going on. When he told me about the trade, he warned me that since we shared the school club with Seattle, he might not practice every day.
It is a still fragile Juulsen who thinks. “I must have taken a day to think about it. I didn’t know where he was in my career. »
Finally he takes the leap and a year later he does not regret it. “It’s the best thing that could have happened to me,” says the British Colombian, who plays at home.
Health is still standing. He was playing his ninth game of the season with Abbotsford on Wednesday and had two games with Vancouver.
“He’s not a asking guy, he’s a giving guy,” boasts his head coach, Jeremy Colliton. Now we use him on the power play because he has a good shot. But his great strength is five against five, to play the difficult minutes, to take penalties, to block shots. »
Ties with Montreal are obviously severed. When asked who he’s kept in touch with, he names Michael McCarron, Charlie Lindgren and Gustav Olofsson, all of whom play elsewhere.
“I am grateful that the Canadian took a risk on me. The first year was good, then I got injured the next year. The fans have been good to me. But that’s in the past. It’s a good start to the season for me, as a player and as a person. »
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