Everything has a beginning. Whether it’s a life, relationship, passion, or career, it starts somewhere. For hockey players, their love for the game typically starts early on in life. That admiration translates into goals and dreams to one day play professionally.
In PSB’s new series, “Flyers Origin Stories,” we explore the path each player took to becoming a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. Our primary focus is their pre-NHL journey, starting with their play in Juniors. If a player played professionally for another NHL franchise, it will be mentioned but not in-depth.
There is no better place to start than with the franchise’s captain, Claude Giroux.
Undrafted by the “O”
Likely to the surprise of no one, Giroux’s success at playing hockey started early on in his Bantam and Minor Midget years. In his first OHL Draft eligibility year, Giroux posted 59 points in 39 games for the Cumberland Barons. Unfortunately no OHL franchise viewed it as enough, and Giroux’s name went unannounced in the 2004 OHL Priority Selection. Going 15 rounds without your name getting called can be a brutal pill to swallow. Still, Giroux got back to work with hopes of getting selected the following year.
Giroux played the 2004-05 season with the Cumberland Grads of the CJHL. He missed a good portion of the season but still managed 13 goals and 27 assists in 48 games. The league rewarded Giroux’s efforts by crowning him CJHL Rookie of the Year. Today he is arguably the second-most high-profile name to win that award, behind Steve Yzerman. Even with Giroux’s successful CJHL campaign, no OHL team selected him in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection. If Giroux desired to play in the CHL, it would need to be for a different league.
On to the “Q”
Undrafted by the OHL, Giroux was now a free agent. The QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques invited him to training camp for the 2005-06 season and signed him not too long after. To say Giroux impressed the team during his rookie season would be an understatement. On a team that also featured current Boston Bruin David Krejci, Giroux immediately stood out as their best player. He led Gatineau in every major offensive statistic with 39 goals, 64 assists, and 103 points in 69 games. Krejci ranked second on the team in points but still fell 22 short of Giroux’s total. Giroux also posted 20 points in 17 games on top of his regular-season numbers during Gatineau’s playoff run. After a stellar rookie tilt, he made both the CHL and QMJHL All-Rookie teams and played in the CHL Top Prospects Game. After looking like hope might be lost with not making the OHL, Giroux now sat as one of the top prospects in the 2006 NHL Draft class (more on that later).
Year-two in Gatineau brought more individual success for Giroux. He improved upon his rookie numbers with 112 points in six fewer games than year one. The interesting thing about Giroux’s sophomore numbers is his assist total remained the same. He witnessed a nice climb in his goal-total, getting close to the 50-goal benchmark with 48. Now an Alternate Captain for the Olympiques, Giroux became a full-fledged star in Gatineau and the entire QMJHL.
As should be the case, Giroux’s final year in the “Q” was his best. He managed 106 points in 55 regular-season games with Gatineau, posted 51 points en route to a QMJHL Cup, and won a Gold Medal with Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. He set records for most points and assists in the playoffs and brought home the QMJHL Playoffs MVP. In what was going to be his last season in Junior A hockey, Giroux accomplished almost everything he possibly could.
Giroux’s QMJHL career truly could not have been more perfect. In total, he played 187 regular-season games, scored 125 goals, and added 196 assists. Additionally, he added 24 goals and 54 assists in 41 playoff games. He ranks sixth in Olympiques history in points, eighth in goals, and fifth in assists. Not surprisingly, he ranks second among Olympiques in postseason points, only behind Martin Menard.
2006 NHL Entry Draft
Prior to Giroux’s emergence in the “Q” it’s hard to imagine his draft stock. Luckily, he demonstrated the type of player he could be if given the right opportunity and cemented himself as a top prospect in the 2006 NHL Draft class. Of course, Philadelphia selected him 22nd-overall.
In reality, the Flyers got a steal. Of all the players drafted, he ranks tied for third in NHL points with Jonathan Toews. Toews went third-overall to Chicago. The two players ahead of Giroux and Toews from that draft class are Nicklas Backstrom and Phil Kessel, who were taken fourth and fifth, respectively. Luckily for Philadelphia, the future “face of the franchise” fell into their laps.
It is interesting how life works sometimes. Although his best years might be behind him, Claude Giroux is Philadelphia Flyers hockey. He will go down as one of the best to ever pull the orange and black sweater over his head. It is hard to believe that this is the same person that failed to get drafted by an OHL team. Luckily now, all that is is a meaningless memory from the past.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire