On a picturesque, sunny afternoon last July, Olivier Nadeau and 30 people gathered outside his family home in Lac Eichen, a four-season holiday destination town southeast of Quebec City, to watch the second day of the NHL Draft.
Surrounded by bushy hills and just a short walk from the five-kilometer lake town, Nadeau was shining on TV when his selection was announced by the Buffalo Sabers with the first pick for the fourth round.
“It was a special moment,” the powerful 6-foot-2 striker mentioned in a recent phone interview with The Buffalo News.
Nadeau, 19, hugged family, friends and colleagues who could attend. A phone call with Buffalo reporters was scheduled shortly thereafter.
Text messages of congratulations poured in, including one from Alex Tangway, the retired NHL striker from the area who won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001. In Lac-Etchemin, a municipality of about 4,000 people, Nadio said, “Everyone knows everyone,” the celebration took place. Achieved by those who watched his career from near and far.
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Nadio gave them another reason to celebrate this month. His four goals and 16 points in 16 playoff games led the Shawneegan Cataracts to the Junior Hockey League title in Quebec. They have secured a spot in the Memorial Cup, where champions from Canada’s top three junior leagues vie for the right to call themselves the country’s number one team.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “We finished seventh in the league this year. We were underdogs in all the qualifiers. I am very proud of the way we did.”
Starting on Monday, the four-team Memorial Robin Cup, featuring host St. John C. Dogs, concludes with the championship game on June 29. Hockey League Championship.
That’s the kind of development opportunity that Cypress wanted for Club when they picked him with No. 97. For most of the season, Nadeau played left wing on a streak with first-round picks from NHL Xavier Bourgault (Edmonton Oilers) and Mavrik Bourque (Dallas Stars). The trio combined for 63 points during the QMJHL playoffs.
He led Nadu Shawinigan in scoring during the regular season, with a total of 35 goals and 78 points in 65 games. He improved his skating to help him overcome opponents to pinch and create the indignity of impulsiveness. Nadeau described himself as a worker bee, willing to do the “hard work” to help his fellow scorers. He models his game after Edmonton Oilers’ Zach Hyman, a skilled 6-foot-1 forward with three seasons of 20 goals and the skill to play for stars like Conor McDavid or Austin Matthews.
“We just complement each other really well,” Nadeau said of his streak. “Borgo is the scorer, the scorer by nature. He is very good. Burke is a two-way player and the best player in the CHL right now. He can do everything on the ice. I am the strong striker on the line who gets the disc in the O and gets it, go to the front of the net.
“I do the hard work, and we finish the play well.”
The development team at Sabers Nadeau visited frequently throughout the season to monitor his progress in his third year with Shawinigan and provide helpful advice. Nadeau was productive amid difficult conditions in the 2020-21 season that cut the epidemic short with 13 goals and 45 points in 34 matches. But his game has reached another level since enlisting.
The club had at least one point in 23 of Shawinigan’s first 29 games in the regular season, including four goals and seven points for a 20-point crown in October. The consistency continued into the playoffs, when he had six points in their five games to start the championship series.
After the second round, the Sabers signed Nadeau to a three-year entry contract. The NHL’s development agreement with the Canadian Hockey League, which governs the country’s top three junior leagues, prevents Nadeo from playing for the Rochester U.S. team until he turns 20, but the move ensures he will join the Sabers organization next spring. .
“I was so excited,” he said of signing. Maybe it was a sign of trust from them. I’ve had a great season so far and the playoffs. They thought this was a good moment to sign me and it gave me a boost for the rest of the qualifiers.”
Sabers has no other player like Nadeau in the potential pipeline. He frustrates the defenders’ men on a front scan, outruns opponents for proper positioning in front of the net and has the vision to set up his comrades. Longtime Sabers Kevin Devine’s Boy Scouts are based in the Canadian Maritime Provinces, yet Nadeau has been the organization’s first draft choice from QMJHL since 2014.
Now, Nadeau will share the spotlight with fellow talented, other high-end prospects selected by the NHL teams and top players to be selected in next month’s draft of the tournament. Club already has a plan for how it will celebrate winning the Anniversary Cup.
“I am so excited to bring the Cup home this summer to celebrate with everyone,” he said. “Everyone supports me.”