Maxime Boisclair slowly adapts to pro game after 70-goal junior season

The Canadian Press
The Hockey News

Maxime Boisclair slowly adapts to pro game after 70-goal junior season

The Canadian Press

"It might take a little more time than usual but that is my hope, as soon as possible," he says of his big-league aspirations. If he were to make it, it would be an improbable success story given that he was rescued from a Haitian orphanage at the age of three.

Scoring goals is his forte. He got 70 in 70 games with the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens last season. He did it after twice being passed over in the NHL entry draft.

Boisclair signed a one-year, one-way AHL contract last summer to play in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. The six-foot-one, 205-pound forward has 14 goals in 42 ECHL games with Pennsylvania's Johnstown Chiefs, and he has one goal in 17 AHL games on call-ups to the Springfield Falcons. He's back with the Chiefs now.

"It hasn't been that hard," he says of his baptism into the pro game. "It's faster, the players are bigger and stronger and the one-on-one battles are tougher, but it's pretty much the same."

A puck is a puck, after all, although it wasn't until he was brought to Canada that he saw one.

Boisclair was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1985. President Jean-Claude Duvalier would be overthrown in 1986 after violent demonstrations across Haiti against a corrupt government. Poverty was inevitable for most and AIDS was afflicting many. Thousands would die in subsequent coups.

Boisclair was fortunate. He was adopted by Robert and Yolande Boisclair of Drummondville, Que., when still a tot. He does not know the identity of his birth parents. A new life began for him in Canada.

"I'm thankful," he said from Johnstown. "I'm one of the lucky ones.

"It was pretty dangerous and violent in Haiti. I'm glad my parents chose me. It's sweet to live in Canada."

He began playing hockey at age five.

"My dad always told me I had too much energy so he took me to the rink," he explained. "I played baseball and soccer, too, so I put all that energy to use."

He was good enough by age 16 to make the major junior team in Sherbrooke, Que., and he was acquired by Chicoutimi during the following season. He had a 51-goal season before his 70-goal binge. But the NHL scouts didn't like his skating and lack of quickness and he wasn't drafted.

Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone is hoping Boisclair will get hot and help the Chiefs into the ECHL playoffs.

He is strong over the puck and can create space for himself with his strength, but it has been tough sledding for him because he's a finisher and the Chiefs' best playmaking forwards have been called up by Springfield.

"He's had to come a long way this season in his skating and in maintaining the pace," says Anzalone. "It's a little more challenging for him than for some of the others right now because we're so depleted."

Anzalone says he needs to get quicker and more mobile and grow into the role of a scorer at the pro level.

"He's getting a maximum opportunity to showcase what he can do, and he has to take advantage of that," said Anzalone. "We're fighting to be in the playoffs and he has to show that, 'Hey, I'm a keeper.' Hopefully, he will. I hope he gets hot because he's a guy who can score in bunches."

Boisclair and teammate Jean Desrochers are two of the few French-speaking residents of Johnstown.

Boisclair's favourite NHL player is Jarome Iginla.

Boisclair wouldn't be the only Haitian-born skater to make it to the NHL. Claude Vilgrain, who also played in the QMJHL, was born in Port-au-Prince in 1963. Between 1987 and 1994, he got into 89 games with Vancouver, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

There's a long way to go, but Boisclair has experience in emerging from obscurity.


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Maxime Boisclair slowly adapts to pro game after 70-goal junior season