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Prospect Update: Benoit-Olivier Groulx
By Thomas Harrington
A second-round pick from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Benoit-Olivier Groulx completed his junior career this past season.
Groulx started out the year as the captain of the Halifax Mooseheads. In 26 games, he scored 15 goals and 41 points. Unfortunately, Halifax was struggling, and they ended up finishing the season in ninth place in the eastern conference. As a result of the team’s struggles, Groulx was traded to the Moncton Wildcats for three draft picks in late December. Groulx finished his career in Halifax with over 200 points in 221 games. Groulx finished the season in Moncton, scoring 14 goals and 37 points in 29 games for his new team.
Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic, the QMJHL’s season was cut short, and Groulx and the Wildcats did not get a chance to participate in the postseason. At the time the season was canceled, Moncton was at the top of the eastern conference and had the second-best record in the QMJHL. Groulx’s 78 points had him tied for 12th in scoring and his 49 assists were tied for seventh in the QMJHL. He finished his junior career with 244 points in 250 games. After the season was over, Groulx was named the top defensive forward in the QMJHL.
Groulx was in the mix to make Team Canada at the World Junior Tournament, but he ended up being the final player cut from the team. Canada was able to win gold at the tournament. Hopefully, being so close to the tournament will serve as motivation for him going forward.
Despite how last season ended, Groulx was still able to meet one of the expectations I set for him a year ago and came very close to my second. My first expectation for him was to have 70+ points, as long as he was healthy. Well, despite the season being cut short, he finished the year with 78 points in 55 games. If he had played over 60 games, he would have undoubtedly broken his career-high of 80 points set the season before. My second expectation for him was to make Team Canada. Well, this one didn’t quite happen, but he got about as close as he possibly could by being the team’s final cut.
While I only had two expectations for Groulx, I did have a hope as well, and that was for him to win the Memorial Cup in his final season of junior hockey. Well, unfortunately, because of the ongoing pandemic, he didn’t even get a chance to do that, but he was on one of the best teams in the QMJHL, and in some parallel universe where there is no pandemic, he would have had the opportunity.
This coming season, Groulx will be turning pro. Assuming the AHL is able to play this year, I believe that he’ll spend the entire year with the Gulls. He’s got good hands and is responsible defensively, but he’ll likely need some time in the minors to adjust to the pro game before getting a shot at the NHL.
Expectations are hard to set for this coming season, but assuming the Gulls are able to play, I just want Groulx to play as much hockey as possible. Goals and points will be nice, but I want him to focus on his overall game, especially early in the season. He’s got enough talent that the points will come for him if he can adjust from junior hockey to pro hockey. He’s a smart player with good defensive skills. If he can prove invaluable on San Diego’s penalty kill, that will lead to more ice time for him and hopefully more offensive opportunities.
In terms of his NHL future, I think Groulx is at least one year, possibly two, from getting a shot at Anaheim’s lineup. He’s a skilled player, but doesn’t have the overall talent level of some of Anaheim’s recent first-round picks. However, Groulx is a very smart, dependable player who can be a very effective penalty killer. If he can carve out a spot on San Diego’s second or third line and be one of their top defensive players, then I think he could get a shot at the NHL in a season or two.
As the 2019-2020 season began, Groulx signed his entry-level contract with the Ducks. It will run for three years and start whenever this season begins. Once completed, he’ll be a restricted free agent. I’m hopeful that he can develop into a solid third-line winger. If he can do that, he can expect a one-way deal in three years. However, if he’s still rounding out his game between the NHL and AHL, then he’ll likely be re-signed on a two-way contract.
The next prospect update will be on Roman Durny.
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December 14th, 2020