The world of sports like no other understands the old adage, ”never underestimate an underdog.”
Philippe Daoust epitomizes the underdog.
After a brilliant debut in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats, the free agent from Barrie, Ontario now has his sights set on living out his childhood dream of one day playing in the National Hockey League.
From obscurity to a potential NHL Draft Pick, Daoust continues to make a name for himself.
From Tier II Junior, to the QMJHL, to the NHL?
Nothing seems out of the question for Philippe Daoust.
Daoust and the Wildcats were well on their way to becoming a championship contender before the horrific COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“It was very disappointing,” confessed the highly skilled forward when asked about the abrupt end of the promising season.
“It took awhile for it to sink in and to realize that we wouldn’t get the opportunity to see how far we could go.”
Daoust’s rise from junior hockey obscurity to CHL rising star is truly remarkable.
The free agent forward proved the Moncton Wildcats and their scouting staff right with an rookie campaign.
All Daoust needed was an opportunity to showcase his talents.
“We had such a great team and everything was put in place for us to go as far as we wanted I think.”
“We all bought into the game plan,” Daoust said.
“Line combinations could change for different situations and we would still have great results. To have such a deep roster with quality guys like that is rare, which makes me wonder even more, what if, but in the end, health and safety had to come first,” explained Dauost.
Daoust is quick to credit the Cats character and leadership group wife the organization’s success.
“It was something special this year with our group of vets.”
“Their work ethic is what showed their character and leadership,” Daoust said proudly.
“Even with our winning streaks, no one ever slacked off or took days off.”
“They set the bar high and stayed in the gym and on the ice post game and practice, they were all in.”
“They didn’t just rely on their talent,” admitted Daoust.
“It was a great year to be a rookie because we got to learn so much from those guys,” he said proudly.
At the heart of the Wildcats leadership group was Jakob Pelletier.
How does Daoust feel only having one year to play with and get to know Jakob Pelletier?
“Pelts is the type of guy that doesn’t hold anything back, on or off the ice.”
“Whether I played with him one or two seasons, he’s already shown us what character and leadership is.”
“I remember at training camp, he came up to me, put his arm on my shoulder and told me to have fun and that he will help me get better, and that’s what he did.”
Daoust last statement regarding the Wildcats former captain really says it all.
“The determination and energy you see on the ice as fans, that’s what he takes to practice, to the room between periods, on the bus.”
“Pelts is fun to play alongside and learn from. It would have been nice to play another year with him here, but I wish him the all best, except when he plays against the Cats I guess,” said Daoust with smile.
Daoust’s ascension in the game has certainly caught the attention of NHL scouts.
In 58 games this season, Daoust scored 7 goals and added 22 assists, and was a stellar + 13 while centering the Wildcats 3rd line.
One has to look beyond the numbers to fully appreciate Daoust’s skill set and the intangibles he brings to the game every time he steps on the ice.
The kid from Barrie, Ontario does all the little things right in all three zones, but it’s his creativity, puck skills, vision and his ability to make good things happen that truly sets him apart.
What has the highly skilled center been doing to stay in shape and motivated for his second Q camp and potential NHL Camp?
“I’m lucky in that I have a bit of training equipment at home so when everything shut down I could keep a pretty good routine on my own,” explained Daoust.
“With things have opened up a bit here in Barrie, I’ve started seeing my off ice trainers at Mind to Muscle, working on hockey related plyometric exercises and strength training.”
“I was also really excited to get back on the ice a couple of weeks ago. Zach McCullough from Apex Hockey, and Paul Matheson of Evolution Skating have helped me a lot in my development and I couldn’t wait to start working with them again,” Daoust said.
Daoust’s elusiveness, vision and playing ability in close quarters was outstanding this season.
All of his success can be trace back to working with his trainers.
“Zach focuses on high tempo drills and tight area skills while Paul fine tunes my skating stride to get better productivity,” explained Daoust.
“I know that the upcoming season will be challenging and demanding, so I need to be stronger and ready to fill whatever role they ask of me.”
Daoust is quick to downplay his potential new role with the organization, but in all likelihood the kid from Barrie that was only 5’3 and about 110 pounds in his first year Midget will no doubt be the Cats 1st line center.
“I don’t know what my role will be next season really. I am just looking forward to the new challenge with a rebuilding team,” Daoust said.
“Whether they play me on the first line or fourth line, I have to be ready to play. If they put me as a top line guy, then I don’t see it as pressure really, but more as an opportunity to gage myself against the top players from other teams.”
“If they see me on the fourth line then that’s an opportunity to show them that I can be a grinder, win puck battles and contribute on all 200ft of the ice.”
“In any case, I know that we will need the team to come together and stick together to see success. Right now I’m only hoping that we get the season started early October, it can’t come soon enough,” Daoust said.
What goals has Daoust set for himself in his sophomore season in the QMJHL?
“With the rebuild, it’ll be a different team on the ice and in the dressing room for sure.”
“We will miss some of the guys. So my goal is to step up and be more productive offensively and put more points on the board from the get go, but also to play a leadership role and put in practice what the big guys taught me last season.”
Daoust has worked incredibly hard to get to this stage of his career and he hasn’t taken one second for granted since arriving in the Hub City.
Did he ever think he would ever make it this far in the CHL and what’s it like playing in Moncton?
“It’s the best rink in the Q.”
“We are so lucky to have such an outstanding facility.”
“The dressing room, training facility, the ice quality, the physio area is all top notch.”
You see Philippe Daoust is all heart and soul.
He understands the opportunity he’s been given and has earned to get to this point of his career.
“The people working there and the fans are what makes the Avenir Centre come alive.”
“To have the attendance that we have game in and game out is amazing. It’s such a great place to come to everyday.”
Spoken like a team first guy and a kid that truly loves the game.
The road to the QMJHL was an unconventional one to say the least for Daoust.
He wouldn’t change it for the world.
Daoust had a solid start, but things definitely turned around when Dan Lacroix took over behind the bench.
Daoust flourished under Lacroix.
“Dan came in mid-season as I was finding my footing at this level and it kind of gave me a fresh start.”
“He had a different role for me on the team and it gave me confidence out there,” Daoust said.
Confidence is a game changer in so many ways for young players and you could see it almost instantly in Daoust’s game once Lacroix took over.
“I find that we built a good relationship. He is a good communicator and was very forthcoming with things I needed to work on so that those things became instinctive in game situation.”
“As someone who wants to learn and progress, I welcome and appreciate that in a coach,” said the mature well spoken forward.
“I was very happy to hear that he was coming back to help rebuild the team. His experience and leadership will be big for us and will ease the growing pains for sure,” Daoust said.
Have a lot of NHL teams met with him and what would it mean to Daoust to get drafted?
“Yes, NHL teams have reached out to me and I’m very honored by that,” Daoust said.
“It seems unreal to me and for sure, it would be a dream come true to get drafted.”
The underdog from Ontario did all of his talking on the ice this season.
As for the NHL dream, it’s all about staying patient and staying in the moment.
“I really try not to think too far ahead.”
“I try to focus on what’s in front of me right now and what I can control.”
“This strategy seems to have put me on the right path to this point,” Daoust said.
“But if I do let myself go there for a brief moment and think about getting drafted, I only go there to use it as motivation to bear down and keep working.”
Philippe Daoust has been an underdog his entire career, he wouldn’t change it for the world.
The underdog mentality continues to fuel his inspirational journey in the game and take him all the way to the NHL.