Our 18 | Three Questions on the 2023-24 Val-d’Or Foreurs
Who’s ready to lead this squad back to the top?
Coming off a season which saw it barely miss out on a playoff berth, the future has arrived for this Val-d’Or squad. Thomas Larouche, a free agent acquisition last summer, should take on a larger workload after an impressive rookie campaign in 2022-23. Czechia-born Tomas Cibulka returns after leading all Foreurs defensemen in scoring and stepping up in key situations over the second half of last year. His countryman, Samuel Fiala, has impressed so far in camp after being selected fifth overall at the 2023 CHL Import Draft. Fans will also be on the lookout for winger Philippe Veilleux, selected 11th overall at the 2023 QMJHL Draft, who has already shown his strong offensive game in the pre-season. From a veteran standpoint, the club was bolstered by the acquisition of two-way center Alexander Gaudio from Rimouski during training camp.
How much will the state of the West Division help the Foreurs?
Last year, the Gatineau Olympiques were the talk of the West Division. This year, the Foreurs’ rivals from up Route 117, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, will try to stake their claim to that title. However, the remainder of the division is a big question mark. Who will land where in the standings? And, more importantly, who will take advantage of key inter-divisional matchups to improve in the overall standings? With the Olympiques at the starting line of a major rebuild and the Armada, like the Foreurs, working its way up the ladder, this could be a golden opportunity for Val-d’Or to earn some points while gaining valuable confidence along the way.
How far can Blackburn carry the load?
The most important person in the entire organization may very well stand between the pipes. William Blackburn was on the bench when the Foreurs made a deep playoff run in 2021. Since then, he’s gained a great measure of experience, turning in respectable performances considering the inexperienced teams he’s had in front of him. Now, the overage netminder embarks on yet another challenge, returning from a major knee injury that derailed the end of his 2022-23 campaign while holding the fort for a squad still learning on the job. That said, don’t let the stats of the past fool you; Blackburn is more than up to the challenge.
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|Record||24-40-2-2 (52 points)|
|Division Ranking||4th West|
|Goals For||223 (11th)|
|Goals Against||301 (17th)|
|PP (Overall)||24.0% (7th)|
|PK (Overall)||76.9% (10th)|
|Leading Rookie||Larouche (16-21-37)|
|Leading Scorers||Provost (34-34-68)|