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Eric Veilleux’s future with Shawinigan Cataractes unclear after career-defining championship

Eric Veilleux steered Shawinigan to its first MasterCard Memorial Cup title on Sunday (Francis Vachon, The Canadian …

It now makes sense why Éric Veilleux was such a study in composure amid the maelstrom of MasterCard Memorial Cup pressure. The coach who steered the Shawinigan Cataractes to their first major championship might be moving on for next season, which would explain why he was so secure throughout a hectic tournament.

The past four Memorial Cup championship games have each involved a coach, not necessarily from the wining team, who left for the NHL immediately following the season. So when reports began swirling that Bob Hartley, who joined the Cataractes for the tournament tour de force as an adviser, will become the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, it was only naturally talk of Veilleux going on staff would follow suit. It is at least an open question in Shawinigan of whether he'll be back. Cataractes general manager Martin Mondou saying he at least expects Veilleux will explore all options.

"My greatest wish is that he gets his chance to graduate to the professional levels," Mondou told Steve Turcotte of Le Nouvelliste. "He deserves it."

The Cataractes are likely looking at a season similar to what the Kitchener Rangers had after they hosted the 2008 Memorial Cup and saw coach-GM Peter DeBoer off to the NHL. The Rangers had gone all out to try to win the Memorial Cup and were willing to endure an also-ran season the following winter, when they finished with 57 points and were out of the playoffs.

Shawinigan, like most championship teams, is saying goodbye to a host of 19-year-old NHL draft picks. It is not only that, though. As many as four regulars — believed to be goalie Alex Dubeau, defenders Jonathan Racine and Justin Haché and wing Yannick Veilleux — could also be on the move to complete the trades with Cape Breton and Moncton for star defencemen Morgan Ellis and Brandon Gormley, with draft picks given up in previous trades possibly coming back in return. They also don't have, at this writing, a pick in the first three rounds of Saturday's QMJHL entry draft, so it might take more than one year to refill the pantry.

Éric Veilleux's stock is sky-high. No doubt he would work just as hard with a young team and being near the bottom of the standings in the QMJHL wouldn't diminish him in the eyes of people who really know hockey. But NHL opportunities are few and far between and the iron is hot for him.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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