Being tested on a nearly nightly basis has been a trial by fire this season for Guillaume Brisebois.
As a classic junior hockey archetype with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan — the 17-year-old on a struggling team playing the role typically earmarked for an older player, as a workhorse defenceman and alternate captain — Brisebois faces some world-class players in the Maritimes Division. The defenceman's docket includes the likes of Halifax's Nikolaj Ehlers, Moncton's Ivan Barbashev and emerging stars in Charlottetown such as Filip Chlapik and Daniel Sprong, who have each hit the 30-goal plateau as 17-year-olds.
"It's given me a lot of experience," the 6-foot-1¾, 170-pound Brisebois, whose Titan wrap up their season this weekend, said in a recent interview. "I'm always playing against someone really good. It's made me improve my game defensively. I have to be careful when I'm on the ice.
"I've done pretty well since the beginning of the year," added Brisebois, who was No. 30 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's January ranmking. "My coaches have worked extremely hard with me to improve my game."
Brisebois, who has four goals and 27 points in 61 games for a Titan team that is lodged in the league basement, is a relatively recent convert to the blueline. Growing up in St-Hilaire, Que., he was a forward until he reached the bantam age group.
"My coaches said I have the great vision, so that would allow me to be a great defenceman," said Brisebois, who played in the CHL Top Prospects Game in January. |It's a great position and I like supporting my team."
While the Titan are bound for the QMJHL's version of a draft lottery — the coin flip between the owners of the first two picks — Brisebois enjoys living in the league's smallest centre.
"It's the smallest city, but the fans are behind us," he said. "It's a great opportunity to focus on only hockey."
1. What is your best asset on the ice?
"Probably my vision with the puck, my hockey sense."
2. No one — even Connor McDavid — is a finished product at age 17; where do you need to improve the most?
"I want to improve my physical game. I have to work on it. And my battling."
3. Which NHL defenceman do you watch closely?
"I really love to watch Drew Doughty from the L.A. Kings. He does amazing things on the ice."
4. What other sports did you play before going all in on hockey?
"I played baseball when I was younger, until I was 14 years old. I played third base. I always looked forward to it."
5. Not including your own team, who has the nicest jerseys in the Q?
"I'd say it's the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.