August 22, 2011
Given that the Shawinigan Cataractes are MasterCard Memorial Cup hosts and that it's nearly unheard of for a NHL first-round pick to end up playing an overage season, their trade for former world junior forward Louis Leblanc certainly will raise a few eyebrows.
The Cataractes, on this final day of the QMJHL summer trade period, have acquired the rights to Leblanc (pictured), the Montreal Canadiens first-rounder who's set to be rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder. It's a gamble. Typically, someone with Leblanc's status would be starting his age-20 season in the AHL, with a possibility of making his NHL debut later in the season (but sooner rather than later from a fan perspective). Steve Turcotte of Le Nouvelliste explains that the trade, which sends 18-year-old forward Cole Hawes to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, does have conditions in the event Leblanc goes pro and doesn't play another junior game. Apparently, though, Cataractes GM Martin Mondou is hopeful that the Canadiens, not wanting Leblanc to risk re-injuring his shoulder against bigger and more physical AHLers, might send him to junior.
La pari est quand même intéressant, car Leblanc devrait amorcer la saison à l'infirmerie après être passé sous le bistouri après les séries du Junior. Qui sait si le Canadien, même s'il a déjà accordé un contrat à son premier choix, ne sera pas tenté de le renvoyer junior où, il faut bien l'admettre, Leblanc n'a rien cassé la saison dernière…
Si jamais Leblanc se présentait à Shawinigan, les Cataractes refileraient également des choix de 2e et 3e rondes en 2012 à l'Armada, de même qu'un choix de 2e ronde en 2013. (Temps d'Arrret)
The odds still favour Leblanc, who had 26 goals and 58 points in 51 games with the Montreal Juniors last season, ending up with Montreal's AHL affiliate in Hamilton. There is the odd case of a player who's competed in the world junior championship becoming an overage; last season Tyler Johnson, who helped Team USA win in 2010, ended up with the Spokane Chiefs and laid waste to the WHL with a 115-point season. Goaltender Igor Bobkov, who was credited with the win for Russia in the 2011 gold-medal game against Canada and Leblanc, will be an overage with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs. Evidently, for Shawinigan, it's worth it to have Leblanc as an insurance policy; if he doesn't fall in the Cats' cradle, the Memorial Cup hosts will likely trade for another impact overage in December.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.