Mikaël Hébert has been a five-foot, seven-inch dynamo that you can’t help but notice since joining the Ottawa Junior Senators.
“I feel like I’m six-foot-two,” the 20-year-old centre said.
Hébert certainly plays like he is—as opponents have discovered. The 155-pounder does not shy away from the physical aspects of the game. He regularly ventures into and causes havoc in the corners, taking the body and creating turnovers. He also is often found jostling for position in front of the opposing net.
That is just a part of his game. Hébert is a strong skater, he has a knack for finding open teammates and he’s good on faceoffs. Thus far, in 19 matches he has contributed three goals and seven assists, including the go-ahead marker in a recent 6-2 triumph over the Cornwall Colts.
“Mikaël is super-skilled; he moves the puck so well,” Junior Senators Coach Kyle Makaric said. “He makes passes that make you think he has eyes in the back of his head. He’s a great stickhandler, he blocks shots and he’s an excellent penalty killer.”
Hébert admitted it took several games for him to adjust to the speed and size of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL). He’s clearly become more comfortable and confident on the ice with each passing game, Makaric added.
“It was a big step for me to come to the CCHL, it’s a totally different game here and opposing players bring their best every night,” Hébert said. “I’m settled in now and I think moving the puck and contributing to the offense is the best part of my game. But I’m also a 200-foot player and I work hard at being responsible in our end. I’ve gained the trust of the coaches and they’re putting me out in all kinds of situations.”
Interestingly, Hébert began his hockey journey on figure skates at the age of three in his native Rouyn-Noranda, Québec. He soon convinced his mom, Patricia, to purchase a hockey stick.
“I was the only kid taking those lessons with a stick,” he recalled.
Hébert quickly graduated to the local youth leagues, where he played for several seasons under his dad, Stéphane. The youngster progressed through the local leagues and played briefly with the Gatineau Flames of the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League (QJAAAHL). He also had a brief stint back home with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, before settling in with the Saint-Laurent Patriotes in the QJHL.
Although centre is his natural position, Hébert occasionally moved to wing last season because of his chemistry with other members of Patriotes, where he posted 16 goals and 29 assists and 75 penalty minutes in 31 games. His play attracted the attention of several teams, including the Junior Sens. After speaking at length with Ottawa GM Jamie Mayo, Hébert knew he wanted to play in the nation’s capital.
“I knew right away that this would be a great opportunity,” Hébert said. This is a team that’s trying to win championships.”
Hébert quickly blended in with his new teammates and as one of the older guys on the roster has assumed a leader position.
“Mikaël plays bigger than he is,” Makaric said. “He wants to win and he wants to help his teammates. I’ve seen him go up to one of our younger guys who was working on face-offs. Mickaël presented his advice in a good way asking ‘did you ever think of trying this.’ He’s really a great guy to have on the team.”
As for the future, Hébert is hoping to play at the university level or possibly play professionally in Europe.
Right now, however, he’s focused on helping the Junior Senators win another Bogart Cup.
“We have a great team and we have leaders like [Massimo] Gentile, [Vincent] Velocci and [Wil] Murphy who have two or three years of experience in the league,” Hébert said. “We really have a lot of talented players. I just want to help us win.”