“I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Famous last words or true character. Most young athletes these days throw clichés around like Snapchats. Does this generation of players really believe in what they say?
Are they really willing to make the sacrifices necessary to play and excel at the next level?
“I’ll do whatever it takes.”
That’s exactly what Drew Elliott said moments after hearing his name called at the Centre Videotron last week at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Entry Draft.
Whatever it takes, there’s something different when Drew Elliott says that line, the quiet confident soft-spoken kid from Musquash, New Brunswick has lived it his entire life.
You see whatever it takes has been Elliott’s mantra ever since he first strapped on the blades. “To have my name called on draft day was an amazing feeling, it’s a dream come true.”
“Playing in the QMJHL has been my dream for as long as I can remember,” Elliott said.
Hockey dreams do come true, but the elite skating skilled winger realizes this is just the beginning.
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar selected Elliott with their first pick of the draft in the 2nd round, 26th overall. “Being the Drakkar’s first pick was extremely special,” Elliott said.
“The draft was the most exciting day of my life, I couldn’t have been more nervous not knowing what was going to be the next chapter of my career.”
“I’m ready to push further and crack the roster,” stressed Elliott.
Drew Elliott’s dream of playing the QMJHL was soon to become a reality.
Home Ice Advantage
From free skates to frozen feet Drew Elliott’s journey in the game began like any other young hockey crazed kid with one exception, his field of dreams quickly became the family’s backyard pond.
Home ice took on an entirely different meaning for the Elliott family.
“I have been skating with my Dad at public skates and on the pond in our backyard since I was two and half years old,” explained Elliott.
“I just remember spending as much time as I could with a stick in my hand.”
Elliott’s drive, passion and love for the game all started on the family’s frozen oasis.
Hours upon hours Elliott would hone his skill under the watchful eyes of his father.
Elliott’s home ice advantage gave the shy confident kid the upper hand when it finally came time to join organized hockey.
A young man a very few words, Drew Elliott has always let his play on the ice do the talking.
Every young aspiring player needs a mentor, in Drew Elliott’s case he had two, his father and former NHL Draft pick, longtime pro and Port City native Andy Bezeau.
“Andy has been my coach since I was five years old. My dad and Andy have taught me everything I know about the game,” Elliott said proudly.
“Andy has been the coach that has had the biggest impact on my career thus far.”
“He continues to push me to get better, even when I felt I couldn’t go any further it was Andy that would pushed me to the next level,” stressed Elliott.
Bezeau was instrumental in convincing Elliott to play Bantam AAA and Midget AAA as an underager which has undoubtedly helped the forwards overall development and progression.
“My work ethic and never give up attitude is all from Andy, ” admitted Elliott.
Elliott will never forget what his long time mentor told him about the challenges and potential benefits of playing as an underager. “A 30 point season is better than a 100 point season playing at your own level,” Bezeau told the young phenom.
“Drew loves the game and has a drive to succeed,” said Bezeau.
“He asks questions and is engaged, a lot of guys talk about it, but aren’t willing to make the sacrifices,” Bezeau added.
So what impact will Elliott have at the next level?
“There are lot of variables that will come into play, but Drew will bring energy and workmanship to any team he’s on,” explained Bezeau.
“Drew has strong character and a positive attitude, he’s the type of player you would want in a locker room.”
Drew Elliott has never faced a challenge he couldn’t overcome, and his longtime mentor believes he’s ready to face the rigors of the QMJHL.
“He can handle adversity, which will make him a better player and make the players around him better,” Bezeau said.
Elliott’s first foray into the NB/PEI Major Midget AAA ranks as an underager was grueling yet very rewarding.
“Playing Midget AAA with the Vito’s made me a stronger and faster player. It not only prepared me physically, but mentally as well.”
“I felt I adapted much quicker playing as an underage in Midget AAA, then I did as an underage in Bantam AAA,” admitted Elliott.
In 33 games as an underager Elliott lite the lamp 9 times and added 14 assists for 23 points. The highly touted winger took everything in stride in his first full season with the Vito’s and certainly didn’t look out of place.
The highly skilled gritty forward played in every situation for former NHL’er and former Vito’s Head Coach Randy Jones.
Elliott’s ability to play any style of game made him a very effective player. Even at fourteen Elliott definitely made an impression.
On many nights the multi-talented forward was hands down the best skater on the ice, everyone took notice when Elliott took flight. The highly touted rookie didn’t shy away from the dirty areas of the ice as most first year players do. The young dynamic skating forward showed no fear.
There’s no question, Elliott was under hockey’s microscope given the fact he was granted exceptional status at the Midget level. The youngster from small town New Brunswick without a doubt caught the eye of many QMJHL scouts.
How would Drew Elliott handle the biggest year of his hockey playing life, his draft year?
Drew Elliott has had to live up to high expectations his entire career, it’s really nothing new, but his second full season in the NB/PEI Major Midget AAA league was different.
It was his draft year and a Canada Winter Games year. There was a lot at stake.
By all accounts Elliott handled the pressure of his draft year like a true pro. In 7 appearances at the Winter Games, Elliott had 1 goal and 3 assists. Everything was building up towards the QMJHL Draft.
Where would he go? Was he going to be a first rounder?
Elliott’s overall offensive numbers may not have been as high as some may have expected or projected, but it was clear the highly touted prospect was focused on playing a full 200ft game in his draft year.
In 31 games Elliott scored 11 goals and added 18 assists for 29 points.
In retrospect his offensive numbers may have lowered his overall draft ranking slightly, but there’s no doubting Elliott is Q ready.
In 9 playoff games with the Vito’s Elliott had 6 goals and 3 assists.
Elliott’s powerful stride, physique, skill and style of play will definitely translate well to the next level.
Jones was able to play Elliott at both forward positions over the past two seasons, but all indications point to Elliott starting his Q career on the wing.
His board work is solid in his own zone, but his will to compete and battle in those areas of the ice will guarantee him a regular shift at the next level.
Throughout the course of the year it was clear to see Elliott’s desire to develop a more well-rounded and complete approach to the game.
Every time he stepped on the ice he was responsible and accountable on the defensive side of the puck.
Some talented draft eligible players cheat and take risks defensively in order to generate offence; Elliott showed a lot of poise and restraint this season, which will serve him very well at the next level.
Elliott’s pride and refinement on the defensive side of things certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
Game in game out the two-way winger was very active defensively, killed penalties and really improved his stick positioning in all three zones.
Elliott did have the luxury of playing two years at the Midget level, nonetheless, those finite details are recognized and in many cases very appreciated by scouts.
Offensively Elliott showed signs of tremendous potential.
Based on his skating alone he could have had at least ten more goals if he was able to burry all of his opportunities.
Elliott possesses a very heavy shot for his size, but will have to continue to work hard this summer on improving his accuracy.
Elliott has never scored a ton of goals throughout his career, but he certainly creates opportunities for his line mates.
The gifted skater creates a lot of time and space and is an above average playmaker.
The talented 16-year-old will be the first to admit that he has to work harder on his offensive game.
“Heading into camp, I hope to make the roster. However, I am changing my style of play by working hard with Andy, to be a more offensive player,” Elliot said. “I want to drive to the net and score more points.”
“I will still maintain my physical play and being a two-way player and backchecker,” stressed Elliott.
“Drew can play with pace he needs to continue to do so while working on his ability to finish and make plays and creating scoring opportunities,” said Bezeau.
“At this stage what separates him from other players I’ve seen is his willingness and commitment to getting better, to be stronger.”
“He’s putting the time in and making the sacrifices that other guys aren’t willing to make,” Bezeau added.
There’s no question Drew Elliott perfectly fits Baie-Comeau’s identity, structure and organizational philosophy. Elliott’s ability to play up and down the line up will definitely gain the trust of new bench boss Jon Goyens.
From Musquash to Baie-Comeau, Drew Elliott remains as grounded and focused as ever. The sacrifices his parents and others have made to get him to this point of his career isn’t lost on him.
“The sacrifices my parents have made are hard to describe,” confesses Elliott.
“I couldn’t have made this journey without them.”
“Not only have they been there for me, but also my sister, my grandparents, neighbors, my family and friends. I have so much support behind me. I think every day just how lucky I am,” Elliot said proudly.
The professional ranks are the farthest thing from Drew Elliott’s mind right now, but his longtime mentor believes he definitely can get there some day.
“There will be external factors that will influence how and when he gets there, by that I mean having a coach that trusts him and gives him quality ice time and puts him in situations to succeed,” Bezeau said.
“Drew possesses the traits of a good pro, he is at the gym before school, shooting pucks when he is off the ice and has the drive and work ethic and he’s willing to make the sacrifices.”
Whatever it takes, that’s the type of character player and person Drew Elliott really is. It’s not a cliché, it’s reality.