Sep 17, 2013
At 17, Felix Girard had just completed his second season with Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A grinder who was not afraid to go anywhere on the ice, Girard had racked up 63 penalty minutes in his second season to go with his 21 points (6 G – 15 A). He had 38 total points (11 G – 27 A) over his first two seasons.
Felix Girard was not a scorer, but he was eligible for the NHL Draft.
Thus, 17-year-old Felix Girard showed up in Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Draft and sat in the stands for two days as 211 names that were not his were read. Then, undrafted, Felix Girard went home.
“When you’re 17, you’re disappointed because you went to the Draft to get drafted,” Girard said. “I did not have a lot of expectations. I knew there was a possibility that I would not get drafted, so I wasn’t that disappointed. In the back of my mind I think I knew that maybe my name would not get called.”
Girard returned to his native Quebec and attended development camp with the Montreal Canadiens as a non-roster invitee.
“That was a great experience,” Girard said. “I learned a lot of stuff about being a pro and a better player. I think that helped me a lot last year.”
While he only spent a week with the Canadiens, Girard credits the development camp with turning his game – and perhaps his future – around.
“In Montreal, I learned a lot about my skating and improved that a lot,” Girard said. “I wasn’t always a very good skater before, but last summer, something clicked technically and I was a way better player after.”
Girard took the momentum from his time in Montreal as well as a chip on his shoulder from being snubbed in the Draft and exploded during the 2012-13 season. In 58 games, Girard registered 61 points (23 G – 38 P) and tacked on another 15 (4 G – 11 A) during Baie-Comeau’s 19-game playoff run for good measure. Girard was awarded the QMJHL’s defensive forward of the year honors for his efforts.
“I think (not being drafted) made me a better person and a better player because I was disappointed right after, but then I realized I needed to step up my game and I needed to win with my team and help my teammates to be better,” Girard said. “The only way my career is going to go forward is if everyone on the team is going to go forward. That’s what we did last year and a lot of players on our team got drafted or signed contracts.”
From 2009 through 2012, just three Baie-Comeau players had been drafted (including Nashville’s Gabriel Bourque). In 2013 alone, four Baie-Comeau players were selected.
Girard showed up to the Draft again this year in Newark, but despite his massive improvement and his accolades, he was ignored by most of the major Draft guides.
“There weren’t that many (places that ranked me), but I had a good season and spoke to a lot of teams,” Girard said. “I wasn’t really worried about it. I was just worried about my season and how my game was.”
After sitting through the whole 2012 Draft without being picked, Girard did not hesitate to go again.
“I talked to more teams this year and was more satisfied about my season,” Girard said. “I had fewer regrets than the year before so I felt better.”
Finally, when the fourth round came around, Nashville had the 95th pick in the Draft and Felix Girard finally heard his name called.
“I was getting worried because it felt like the year before at the Draft,” Girard said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s going to be the same thing again!’ I was very happy to hear my name. It was a great feeling.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua