By Tim Morris
Playing for the Ottawa Junior Senators is everything Maxime Blanchard expected and more.
The first-year defenseman knew there would be an adjustment period going from prep school to junior hockey in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).
“There was always a concern,” said Blanchard. “It was uncharted territory. The hockey is faster paced. It was a learning curve, but now I’m getting comfortable.”
Ottawa Head Coach and GM Martin Dagenais has used the 18-year-old in a variety of situations attesting to the player’s all-around talent and the coach’s confidence in him. Blanchard’s been used to kill penalties, on the power play and as a regular part of the defensive rotation.
“I think of myself as a two-way defenseman,” Blanchard explained. “I play well with the puck on my stick.”
Blanchard, who is 6-0, 170-pounds, can protect the defensive zone with his size and as a puck moving defenseman, can help the transition from defense to offense with his skating and stick skills. He can jump-start the offence with his up-ice rushes (he’s scored two goals and chipped in with five assists thus far).
Getting more comfortable with each game with his own play and his teammates, Blanchard is making an impact on a Junior Senators team that finds itself in a familiar position, in first place in the CCHL’s Yzerman Division standings.
“We’re getting to know each other and starting to find a rhythm as a team,” Blanchard remarked. “I see great things for the team.”
There was more to adjusting to the CCHL than the hockey itself. Blanchard was joining a new team, one that has experience great success recently winning the Fred Page and Bogart Cups as well as dominating the Yzerman Division in the CCHL.
That meant high expectations, new coaches and new teammates. Also, he was living away from home for the first time. To Blanchard’s surprise, that adjustment went smoothly.
“Everything is going good,” noted Blanchard. “I’m loving it so far. The guys are great and the coaches are invested in the players. The coaches really set you up for success which I appreciate. I love the organization.”
The closeness of the players made Blanchard feel right at home from the start. The Junior Senators, he discovered, are a family.
“Off-ice it’s a great environment,” he remarked noting how workouts are done as a team and the players do so many other things together. “We’re all great friends.”
Blanchard enjoyed an excellent prep career at Ridley College in St. Catharines before joining Ottawa. He helped Ridley win the Midwest Prep Hockey League championship last season.
Away from the ice, he was a standout in badminton teaming up with his younger brother Alex for doubles.
At the end of the school year, Blanchard was the co-winner of the JP Matheson Trophy as the school’s Male Athlete of the Year.
Growing up in his hometown of Pelham (20 miles from Niagara Falls) Blanchard played baseball, volleyball and badminton, but he pointed out, hockey was always number one. He’s enjoyed badminton enough to play it at Ridley but, now it’s hockey full time for the Ottawa defenseman.
A decision that is clearly paying off for the Junior Senators.