Resurgence: a rising again into life, activity, or prominence
Making the jump to the next level, doesn’t always go as planned. Living up to high expectations and coping with enormous stress and pressure is assumed to be just part of the game, part of the process, however no one ever talks about how crippling and demoralizing it can actually be.
Just imagine what that pressure would feel like when you are a top prospect, top tier draft selection, pegged as the next great young defencemen in the QMJHL and often compared to one of the best defencemen in the NHL and 3 X Stanley Cup Champion Kris Letang.
That type of pressure is real. That type of pressure that can ruin a young players confidence. That kind of pressure can derail a career. William Villeneuve knows that pressure all to well.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel pressure from the organization at all,” confessed Villeneuve when asked about his rookie season.
“They have been incredible with me. The pressure was coming from myself,” explained the highly skilled offensive minded defencemen.
Living up to someone else’s expectations is one thing living up to your own is all together different and perhaps more daunting and hurtful.
“I’m really hard on myself, I wanted to be the best every night. I didn’t feel I played at my best last year, so I’m looking forward to comeback stronger than ever.”
The highly touted second year defender has done just that. It’s been only two games, but William Villeneuve looks like a totally different player.
Villeneuve admits the transition to the QMJHL was larger than expected. “The biggest difference from Midget was the physical game.”
“I’m not a big defencemen , so last year I had rough nights going after guys thirty pounds bigger than me.”
When all the eyes are on you as a rookie defencemen, there’s nowhere to go, nowhere or hide, the pressure becomes all-consuming. On some nights the pressure seemed to expose and engulf Villeneuve.
“It was a learning year for me and for the team,” admitted the 2020 NHL Draft Prospect.
“Leaving home, friends, school at sixteen was tough. Losing a lot was something new for me and it was hard, I took the results of the team very personally so that was really tough.”
To add insult to injury, Villeneuve contracted mononucleosis at the mid way point of the season.
“I had mono coming back from Christmas, so I hadn’t been good at the end of the season.”
“That was a the darkest time of the season for me.”
Villeneuve amassed 19 points in 55 games and finished his rookie campaign with minus-52 ranking. Obviously, not the start he had envisioned.
The young defencemen tried to take everything in stride at the end focusing on the process rather than the results.
“Saint John is the best organization in the league.”
“I had a lot of minutes and privileges as a sixteen-year-old defencemen and I had the chance to work a lot with Jeff Cowan.”
Villeneuve is quick to credit Jeff Cowan for guidance and a helping hand through a very difficult season.
“The hardest part about last season was losing,” confessed Villeneuve.
“I have been on winning teams since I started playing, so losing a lot was really tough.
From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, William Villeneuve experienced them all in his first full season in the CHL.
Villeneuve was chosen to represent Canada at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge, something that the Sherbrooke, Quebec product will never forget.
“Representing my country was the best experience in my life.”
“I have been dreaming for that moment since I was five years old. I enjoyed every part of that experience.”
Unfortunately, Villeneuve didn’t make the U-18 squad that represents Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Championship this past summer. The young defender is eager to get back to that level in the future.
Villeneuve didn’t let that set back derail an amazing summer of training and preparation both on and off the ice.
“It’s been the longest, but the best summer of my life,” admitted Villeneuve.
“My strength coach Olivier Carignan and I had four to five months to get ready for the season.”
“My parents, but especially my mom was cooking all my meals, so I have been able to follow a strict diet all summer. I’m proud to say that I gained around fifteen pounds.”
“My goal for this season is to win some hockey games and get better everyday, personally I want to prove everybody wrong and become an elite 200ft defenceman in this league.”
High expectations for sure, but this time around Villeneuve is setting his own perimeters.
“Will has lots of leadership qualities, so even as he rode the roller coaster of a first major junior hockey season, he impressed all of us with his attitude and work ethic. In fact, he won the Irving Oil Team Player Award last season – an impressive feat at sixteen,” said Sea Dogs President and General Manager Trevor Georgie.
“Will also played heavy minutes, he was used in a shutdown D role at sixteen and would play 20+ minutes a night against other teams’ top lines. That is invaluable experience but also exceptionally demanding. Not only that, but he had mono last season and missed very little time,” explained Georgie.
“He is an impressive human being.”
“This season he’s healthy, he’s confident, and he knows what to expect.”
“He puts in the work and he’s also having a lot of fun. He’s trusting the process and his commitment to our process has been unwavering. It’s nice to see him get rewarded early on this season with two big goals,” added Georgie.
Sea Dogs Head Coach Josh Dixon is also pleased with his young blueliners start this season and work ethic throughout his tenure with the Sea Dogs.
“William has been focused and determined on becoming a professional ever since he joined our team.”
“He is typically the first guy on the ice and the last one off everyday at practice. He is a natural leader with a positive attitude and an infectious desire to improve which has rubbed off on all of our young players,” confessed Dixon.
“The adversity he faced a year ago, and the responsibility he was given in terms of match ups and situational play, while difficult at the time, have clearly paid dividends in terms of his development and it is noticeable the degree of improvement he has gone through over the off season.”
“Will is a big part of our team and we look for him to be a model of performance consistency for a number of years to come with the Sea Dogs.”
Villeneuve points to Anthony Boucher, Ben Gagne and Michael Campoli for having a hand in mentoring him throughout his rookie season.
“Michael was there all year for me, he was there for my good and bad moments. He acted like a real pro on and off the ice, he taught me how to be a good person and a good pro hockey player.”
“I will always be grateful for that,” confessed the well-spoken seventeen-year-old.
Making the jump to the next level, doesn’t always go as planned, it takes time to adapt, adjust and excel.
Sometimes it takes a resurgence.
Living up to high expectations and coping with enormous stress and pressure is part of the game, part of the process, and when young players figure that aspect out and embrace the journey, they often excel.
The struggle, pressure and adversity that confronts young players once thought to be crippling and demoralizing galvanizes and protects the player, reassuring them that they do belong at the next level.
“Like every hockey player, I want to get to the next level as soon as possible, but I really understand the process,” confessed Villeneuve.
“My mind is all in Saint John, it feels like home, something special is coming and all of us are pretty pumped about it. I feel blessed to be part of it.”
“The NHL draft is at the end of the year, so my mind is all on what I can do to help my team win some hockey games.”
Resurgence: a rising again into life, activity, or prominence