Why Did Claude Giroux Come “Out of Nowhere?”
December 19, 2011 Leave a comment
The entire hockey world knows Claude Giroux’s name right now. Maybe it’s because he is currently out indefinitely with a concussion. Maybe it’s his league-leading 39 points. Maybe it’s his 15 power play points, his 23 even strength points, or simply his dazzling style of play that Philadelphia Flyers fans have witnessed for the past three years. But why is it that no one in the hockey world (outside of Philadelphia) had been talking about him before this season? Where did this kid come from and what is with this seeming ignorance of his hockey skill the past few years?
As it turns out, this “ignorance” has been there for much longer than his brief NHL career. After playing Midget AA in 2003-04 and jumping to Junior A, Giroux was hit by a bout of mononucleosis. Although he still managed to put up 40 points in 48 games, and claim the rookie of the year award, Major Junior teams were not too impressed with his accomplishments. In fact, through 20 rounds of Ontario League draft, every team in the OHL passed over him, leaving him a “free agent” (so to speak) in the Canadian League.
But Giroux was lucky enough to be invited to the Gatineau Olympiques’ training camp before the start of the Quebec Major Junior League season. After seeing his abilities, head coach Benoit Groulx brought Giroux onto the team and immediately received dividends, as Giroux potted two points in his first game, and three points in his third game.
Giroux went on to be named the QMJHL Rookie of the Month twice that season, and ended the season with 39 goals and 103 points in 69 games – enough to be named to the league’s All-Rookie Team. That summer, Giroux had the privilege to attend the NHL’s Scouting Combine and attend team interviews. In fact, one interview with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which was recorded in Gare Joyce’s book, Future Greats and Heartbreaks, shows the general opinion of Giroux around the NHL. “I watched you play lots of times,” Columbus scout Wayne Smith said to Claude Giroux. “You played great pretty well every time I saw you…on a good team, too. You’re going to play in the NHL…but where did you come from?”
Giroux, ranked 38th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, was not necessarily slated to be drafted in the first round. Many teams had him ranked in their second, or even third round, and although Columbus had him ranked 11th overall, their first selection in the 2006 draft came too early to snag Giroux off the board. But when the Flyers drafted him 22nd overall, he wound up being taken behind just four of the 400 players that were selected in his place in that 2005 OHL Draft. In the next two seasons in Gatineau, Giroux posted 218 points in just 118 games. Not included in those numbers was a record-setting 51 points in 19 games in the 2008 QMJHL playoffs, which resulted in a trip to the Memorial Cup. The next year, Giroux found himself in the NHL on a full-time basis.
Although people claim Giroux did not break out until the 2010 playoffs or the 2011 season, those in Philadelphia recognized his talents immediately upon his entrance to rookie camp in 2006. His hockey sense, his passing ability, and his incredible ability to turn on the jets when needed, peaked the attention of those involved with the Flyers, both internally and in the media. So when Giroux turned out to be the best Flyers player in a first-round exit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, nobody really noticed, other than those watching the game.
Perhaps that’s why Giroux seemed to “come out of nowhere” this season, but it was to no surprise of those that watched him over the few years before the 2011-12 season. It was not long ago that a 5-foot-11, 172-pound forward from Hearst, Ontario would never even have sniffed the NHL, let alone become the league’s leading scorer more than a third through the season. But Giroux has proven time and time again that he does not need people’s recognition of his talents – he’ll score on you either way.
Alan Bass, a former writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.