Billia made strides this season in 41 games for a young Sags squad (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)
Julio Billia has had ample opportunity this season to endear himself to those who pull for the underdog.
It's rare for a goalie in his age-17 season to get the 30-40 games many experts believe is necessary for proper development. The soft-spoken St-Léonard, Que., native got that with a young Chicoutimi Saguenéens team that struggled in the second half after moving star Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon to contending Baie-Comeau for a package of draft picks. That led to Billia, who's on the small side at a listed 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, often dealing with a heavy shot volume.
Billia, whose Saguenéens are presently down 2-0 to Rimouski in the first round of the playoffs, is well-aware of the NHL's preference for bigger goalies. He's determined to show there's no stigma on smaller masked men.
"For sure the scouts and everybody they say, 'ah, your size' and everything," says Billia, who had a 3.52 average and .894 save percentage while averaging 33.3 shots per night across 41 regular-season games. "I don't think about that. In the NHL you see that there are still some goalies who are 5-foot-10, 5-11. There will always be those goalies. You just have to be better and work harder than everyone else.
"The tall goalies have it easier because the puck can just hit them, almost. I have to be square and also I use my speed to my advantage. And also, I have a good play reading. I add that to my game."
Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Julio Billia, Chicoutimi Sagueneens