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Intrigue Project 2024: a stylish beast

Intrigue Project 2024: a stylish beast

A 6-foot-6 midfielder who plays for St. Andrew's College, a prep school in Ontario, Dean Letourneau is the enigma of the draft. Recruiters will want to draft him at the end of the first round, but the thinking won't be that simple.

It's difficult to gauge the limits of this giant's potential and the fact that he doesn't play in one of the more important circuits like the Canadian Major League or USHL are many factors that further complicate the evaluation process.

On the other hand, if Letourneau were to become Taj Thompson…

“With this range, this level of skill and this skating, we can definitely compare players,” St. Andrew’s College head coach David Manning said in an interview with TVASports.ca.

With 127 points, including 61 goals, in 56 games, Letourneau set the school single-season production record. But what importance should we give to such a performance against high school players? Letourneau played two games in the USHL this season and was ruled out. Thin sample.

“NHL scouts are confused,” Bob McKenzie famously explained in January. Some recruiters have him in the top 10 or top 15, and many others have him more in the second or third round.

“American scouts are used to the reality of prep school, the USHL and different universities,” says David Manning. They adapt to multiple tournaments, and in this sense, they are better equipped than others. There are teams in Ontario that give us the same importance as the OHL. “I think if you’re good enough to get drafted, you get drafted.”

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Not a giraffe

Most figure skating giants have major coordination problems. That didn't stop Michael McCarron from being drafted in the first round by the Canadiens with average skating in 2013. But it wasn't until he was 29 years old, with the Nashville Predators, that McCarron really established himself in the NHL.

What makes Letourneau more interesting than any other phenomenon of his kind is his atypical agility. On the ice, he doesn't look like a giraffe.

“I always said he was 6-foot-6 and played like he was 5-foot-4,” Manning says. He has great touch with the puck. He can do the same things young players do in tight spaces. He can handle the puck near his feet and around his body. Most of the young men who have grown up this far, the way they move is not very elegant. This was never the case with him.”

“I think it comes from a combination of the sports I played during my youth: soccer, basketball, volleyball, golf,” Letourneau says by phone.

Development above all

A team that selects Letourneau in the draft cannot expect him to make it to the NHL strong within a year or two.

In fact, even though he signed his letter of intent with Boston University, Letourneau is unlikely to play in the NCAA until 2025-26.

“I initially chose St Andrews because I needed time to develop,” he reveals. At St Andrews, I play 20 minutes a game in all situations. That wasn't a guarantee in the USHL this season. “Next year I will join the USHL and I will be able to show what I have learned.”

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There is still a lot of room for improvement in Letourneau's performance. We can hear it in a negative way, but for recruiters, it matches the potential.

“One part of his game that can be opened up is his physical engagement,” Manning notes. He's still learning how to use his big size and it's scary. He's learning to play big. I see a competitive player. Doesn't avoid contact. He simply has an identity as a talented striker. He can create space with his body, but most of the time he does it with his skill. “He can take his game to another level.”

“It's something I'm trying to incorporate into my game,” Letourneau admits. It's difficult because in the league I play in, I often hit opposing players' heads against my will because of my height. When I played some games in the USHL, I was able to be more physical. I knew the players were bigger and the penalties were given less in this type of play. I was able to hit more. I can't wait to bring this to the table next year.

With a choice of aircraft?

While it's clear that Letourneau won't be an option for the Habs with their first pick, he could be considered when Kent Hughes takes the podium with the first-round pick the Winnipeg Jets offered Sean Monahan.

Let's remember that CH is in a position where it is advantageous to favor players from Europe or the United States. With plenty of opportunities in its pool and a 50-contract cap to respect, the team benefits from a larger window to put players under contract when they don't come from the top Canadian juniors.

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“Montreal is a wonderful city,” Letourneau says. I love watching Cole Caufield play. I watch the way he releases the puck. I filled out an email survey of Canadians and spoke to them in person once.

But will he be drafted in the first round or later in the draft? All bets are allowed.

“I don't think about it much,” Letourneau says. It would be great if that happened, but my only goal is to play in the NHL for a long time. Even if I get drafted in the first round, it won't change anything about this target I have to wait. “I hope to get there in a few years.”