Sports Predators Are Getting a Human Wrecking Ball in Zachary L'Heureux
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Few prospects from the 2021 NHL draft bring as much excitement to a game as Zachary L'Heureux. Now, Nashville hopes they can turn him into a vital piece of its franchise.
"The best comparison for him is... a tank. If you're in his path, watch out."
That scouting report from a Quebec-based scout is all you need to know about Nashville's second first-round pick, Zachary L'Heureux out of the QMJHL. His four suspensions last season - including one for flipping someone off during an interview - have been highly publicized, but it's partly because nobody on the planet wants to get near him on the ice.
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But Nashville loved what he brings to the table.
In a media call on Friday, Predators scout J-P Glaude said when the Predators asked L'Heureux why they should select him, the forward replied by saying "take anyone in the draft - if you put one puck in the corner, I'm going to get out with the puck. I'm going to win the battle." And that type of tenacity is what made him such a feared opponent in the QMJHL.
From a vertical perspective, L'Heureux stands at just 5-foot-11, but fills in at just shy of 200 pounds. He's often not the biggest kid on the ice, but he makes his mission clear: he's going to do whatever it takes to get the rubber disk on his stick by any means necessary.
And while his physical play is definitely a major noticeable aspect of his game, L'Heureux is no slouch offensively. He had a coming of age at the Canada Winter Games in 2019 when he led Quebec to a surprising championship victory over Ontario, highlighted by an incredible 10 goals and 13 points in six games.
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He followed that up with a 53-point rookie season with Moncton and 39 points in 33 contests in a shortened sophomore campaign this past season, with him finishing with 20 and 19 goals, respectively. You can only imagine the damage he'll do as a third-year QMJHLer in a full campaign next year.
L'Heureux seems like the guy that will become a fan favorite in due time. He's like a Brayden Schenn with the tenacity of Josh Anderson, but with a little less polish. The right coaching staff should temper him down and help his maturity, but scouts and teammates alike are fond of him.
"He'll do anything it takes to help his team win," a scout says. "Every team wants a kid like him, someone who can score and get in the face of the toughest opponents."
Nashville GM David Poile said they're hoping to have L'Heureux travel down for the team's development camp in August and go from there. L'Heureux is still a few years away from being a real threat of making the team, especially as he continues to polish some of the finer aspects of his game. His defensive game and decision-making without the puck is good, but could use some work.
As Nashville continues to look for its identity with some key changes in the lineup, the selections of Fedor Svechkov and L'Heureux offers the team something to look forward to in the future. You get one skilled center ready for the next stage of his development and a powerful winger who is an absolute pain to play against. In L'Heureux's case, get ready, because trading up to get him is going to make Polie look like a genius one day.
NHL trade tracker: List of deals completed during the 2021 offseason .
It's expected to be a busy offseason with a flurry of activity."There’s a number of teams that — there’s just really big decisions to be made," former Lightning general manager Brian Lawton told The Associated Press' Stephen Whyno. "Now it’s fast and furious trying to figure out what they can get done.