Jérémy Roy came into this season with his appetite for winning whetted.
It might not be ideal, in some ways, to break into major junior hockey with a franchise such as the Sherbrooke Phoenix that is trying to shed the expansion tag. Roy endured some long nights as a rookie while the Phoenix missed the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs. However, being part of a golden effort with Canada's summer under-18 team at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka showcase tournament propelled the 17-year-old defenceman into this season.
"It's the moment when I saw how much I loved to win something, to be part of a team that went for the top honour," says the 5-foot-11¾, 189-pound Roy, who is NHL Central Scouting's 23rd-ranked North American skater. "That is what I want this year.
"It was hard at the beginning," adds Roy, who is seventh in defenceman scoring in the QMJHL with five goals and 41 points across 43 games. "Last year we lost almost all our games and that was tough. But it's a real good franchise. The organization is really strong and our coaches are good at helping every player out.
A renewed understanding that hockey is more about skill than size means a defenceman such as Roy, who is a shade less than six feet tall, is less likely to be overlooked. While he's often labelled as an offensive defenceman, Roy is also very strong for his size and is determined to improve at using angling and leverage to contain opposing forwards.
"I'm not the biggest guy, so I need to use my strength smartly," the Richelieu, Que., native says. "I'm pretty strong for my size so I can throw good hits. But I need to use it more to box players out, that kind of thing."
With Roy on the blueline, the third-year Phoenix are sixth in the QMJHL in point percentage (.591) and need just two more wins to secure their first winning season. Roy notes that being aligned with creative forwards such as Montreal Canadiens draft pick Daniel Audette and Swiss imports Kay Schweri and Tim Wieser has helped him better learn how to find openings on the ice.
"They're easy players to read, both Schweri and Wieser and Audette and Cam Darcy and Carl Neill, whom I'm playing with on defence," Roy says. "You get used to it."
1. What are your best assets as a defenceman?
"It's my vision, like my hockey sense and my shot, probably."
2. Which defenceman in the NHL do you like to watch?
"I'd say Drew Doughty [of the Los Angeles Kings]. Him and Alex Pietrangelo, too. I'm trying to mix my game between these two guys. They have some similarities."
3. Who's been the toughest forward you have faced in the QMJHL, over your two seasons?
"There's a bunch. Ivan Barbashev is hard to play against. Nikolaj Ehlers, of course, and Anthony Duclair."
4. What do you like to do when you need to take your mind off of hockey?
"Hang out with friends, play video games. In the summer, go play roller hockey just with my friends back home."
5. Where is your favourite road rink in the QMJHL?
"Shawinigan. The rink has a nice atmosphere and the ice is really nice."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.