It’s been a whirlwind season for Maxime Comtois.
An impressive training camp saw the 19-year-old begin the year with the Anaheim Ducks, where he collected seven points through 10 games before being returned to the Drummondville Voltigeurs in late November. He’s now away from his new junior team once again, this time to lead Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
From skating with the Ducks to attending the world juniors, Comtois has spent little time in Drummondville – he was acquired from the Victoriaville Tigres in June. Fortunately, he’s not a new face to Voltigeurs bench boss Steve Hartley, who previously coached Comtois at the midget level. It was there that Hartley first saw many of the attributes that make Comtois a successful player today.
“I wasn’t surprised at all with what we saw from Max. He’s a leader. He’s a very mature young man that wants to make a difference,” Hartley told the Canadian Hockey League. “He came to camp with the mindset that he wanted to be in the NHL. It was evident in his preparation. His summer preparation, his approach to our training camp, it was a business-like approach.
“That’s how he found a way to stick for a short stint (in Anaheim). For our young guys, to see how he approaches every day, how he approaches the game, it’s something that’s going to be very helpful as we continue on our season.”
While his stint in Anaheim was relatively short, it was a tremendous learning opportunity, where Comtois gained greater insight into what is required to play at the pro level.
“For him to be able to see what it takes to be an every day NHLer, I think it’s such valuable knowledge and experience,” Hartley said. “That’s only going to help next year to go into camp in Anaheim and knock the door down.
“I understand for Max (getting sent back) was a disappointment, but for our club it’s a big addition. I thought he did basically all he could do while he was in Anaheim. It was a management decision and maybe even a bit of a numbers game that got the best of him with the injured guys coming back. But I thought he left a very good impression and it’s something to build on for next season.”
After impressing as a pro, Comtois is now showcasing his skill on the national stage with Team Canada. The Longueuil, Que., native is the only returnee from last year’s squad and, despite the Canadian lineup counting 10 players who captain their junior team, Comtois was selected to lead this year’s edition.
“It means everything,” Comtois told TSN’s Mark Masters. “I don’t really have words for it, but just to represent my teammates and the coaching staff and that they believe in me that I can assume this role and be a leader on this team, it’s a huge honour.”
Comtois was arguably Canada’s top performer through pre-tournament action, and his play hasn’t cooled off through the early goings of the round robin. Through two games, Comtois has tallied five points, including a four-goal outburst against Denmark in the tournament opener.
“All the guys today were talking about his big night,” Hartley said. “It’s fun to see. It’s exciting times for our hockey team to see two of our guys (Joe Veleno) there. Obviously we hope to see them back in Drummondville with a gold medal.”