Great players surround themselves with great people and to that end, goalie Jeffrey Noonan of Rousseau Sports Laval-Bourassa (Quebec midget triple-A) can’t fail.
The 15-year-old standout’s father, Daniel, was a No. 1 pick in the Quebec League draft back in the 1970s and now scouts for the junior circuit’s Saint John Sea Dogs. And in a strange bit of synergy, Jeffrey’s battery partner at Laval-Bourassa is netminder Simon Giroux, drafted by the Drummondville Voltigeurs, but recently traded to the Sea Dogs in a package deal that sent Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Chris DiDomenico the other way.
For the younger Noonan, who has played slightly more games than Giroux this season, nights off provide a great educational opportunity.
“I’m trying to learn from my other goalie because he is excellent and has already been drafted into major junior,” Noonan said.
This gives Laval-Bourassa director of hockey operations Bob Plante a wonderful problem; having the tandem of Giroux and Noonan is a blessing for a team very much focused on post-season success and in a league where every team makes it in, preparation is the key to moving on.
“We’re trying to mix them in so everyone is ready for the playoffs,” Plante revealed. “When I talked to the players and coaches at the beginning of the year, the goal was to go at least two rounds in the playoffs. We had a plan and we’re sticking to it and doing well.”
Laval-Bourassa is currently tied for third in its division with games in hand. Noonan has a slight statistical edge over Giroux in net and Plante is very pleased with the way his rookie tender has performed.
“When he goes into the net, he’s on a mission,” Plante said. “He’s doing everything he can to get to the next level. He doesn’t try to do more than he has to.”
Off the ice, Plante sees Noonan as a “gentleman” from a solid family.
For his part, Noonan recognizes where his strengths lie on the ice.
“I’m good mentally and very fast,” he said. “When you get to midget triple-A, it’s not about technique, it’s about playing the best you can every game.”
So far this season, that has meant stoning the opposition more times than not. Through 18 appearances, Noonan boasts a 2.78 goals-against average and .908 save percentage, very solid for a midget goaltender.
And though his father scouts in the league Jeffrey hopes to star in, the father and son don’t usually talk shop in that way. On the other hand, the graduation to major junior is very important for Noonan and the fact his father has gone through the process is a boon.
“He was drafted first overall, so he can give me confidence,” Noonan said.
But based on the way Noonan plays, confidence is something that comes with the knowledge that he can bring it at a high level already. Interestingly enough, that impact could come sooner than later. If there has been one intriguing trend in the Quebec League recently, it has been very young netminders making big splashes early on.
Olivier Roy may be the top draft eligible goalie this season, but he was hot as a 16-year-old, too. Nicholas Champion had a similar rookie run in 2007-08 and this year, underager Louis Domingue is continuing the trend. Does Noonan expect to make the same impact next year?
“Yes,” he said with confidence. “I think I’ve got the talent to do well right away.”
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.
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