Anthony Brodeur Gets A Fresh Start In The West
Being a junior hockey goaltender can be a humbling experience. At that age, goalies are still learning their craft, and typically play behind less-than-stellar defensive systems. Some of the shooters are only one step away from the National Hockey League, and the result is a fast-paced, high-scoring environment.
Last year in the QMJHL, the highest-scoring major junior league in Canada, only five goaltenders finished with a save percentage over .900. It’s a tough scenario for a goaltender to develop in, especially those that are seeking immediate success, but most of them feel that they are better for having experienced it. Some of the best current goaltenders made their way through the league, including Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, and Corey Crawford.
Anthony Brodeur’s QMJHL career started off well with the Gatineau Olympiques, but a tumultuous second season saw the New Jersey Devils’ former seventh-round pick move from Gatineau to Drummondville part way through the season.
The highs with Drummondville included a 54-save performance against Nikolaj Ehlers and the Halifax Mooseheads in January, but the lows included an ill-timed injury one month later. His numbers improved on his new team, but it wasn’t enough to convince them to stick with him for his age-20 season.
After taking part in the Devils’ developmental camp in the off season, Brodeur weighed his options. He decided that his best course of action would be to leave major junior completely, and head out west to play for the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. An unorthodox and bold move, to say the least.
“I was planning on trying to go pro somewhere. I had good times with the Devils, I played well with them, and we still talk,” Brodeur explained.
“[The Devils] said this was a good idea. When [the Vees] asked me, they gave me about a day to decide if I wanted to come out or not. Kind of a quick decision, but I’m happy to be here. It’s a great league and I’m having a lot of fun.”
The Vees look to be a very competitive team in 2015-2016 once again, and are carrying a unique mix of players on their roster. Joining Brodeur in the crease is another former QMJHL goaltender named Emilien Boily. The forward group contains former Penn State centre Scott Conway, St. Cloud State commit Easton Brodzinski, and University of North Dakota commit Tyson Jost. Each player is likely to garner a fair amount of attention from scouts, which was one of the deciding factors for Brodeur.
“Lately this league has gotten a lot of exposure. There are some players on this team that are going to attract a lot of NHL scouts, and I think it’ll be a good chance for me to get a lot of playing time here. It’s good for me to get in front of a bunch of scouts, play my game, and show them what I can do,” Brodeur continued.
“I didn’t know what to expect, really. I didn’t know what this league was like, but it’s been good to get out here and see what the talent is like. The Q, of course, is an offensive league with a lot of skill, but it’s not far off from out here.”
Although he has been living away from home since the age of 14 because of hockey, living three time zones away presents a new and exciting challenge. Admittedly a bit homesick, Anthony still talks to his younger brother Jeremy, a goaltender for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, on a regular basis.
“We talk at least every other day. He texts me, or I text him. Usually it’s him texting me. He always has something to say!” Brodeur said with a laugh.
“He always tells me how his games go, or what the situation is over there. I think he’s going to be starting more this year, which is good for him. He’ll get to play a lot of games. He worked pretty hard this summer, so I think he’ll have a good season.”
Jeremy was a rookie for Oshawa last season, and won the Memorial Cup as the backup to Ken Appleby. It was an exciting moment for everyone in the Brodeur family, even though Anthony was not on hand to share in the celebration.
With a new set of Penticton-coloured Vaughn V6 gear on the way, and a new mask, Brodeur made it very clear that he would not be switching to Bauer’s new OD1N line of equipment, like his brother Jeremy.
“He told me he loves them, but I don’t think my style fits the gear like him. I just love the Vaughn gear, so I’m happy to stay with that. I’m keeping the same pads that I’ve had.”
“I’m kinda like my Dad, I just use whatever they send me. He probably doesn’t even know the length of his pad if you asked him!”
The next step for Brodeur? He wants to enjoy his final year of junior in Penticton as a mentor to some of the younger players on the team, but more importantly, he wants to build toward next season when he plans on going pro.
“I’m here to show the scouts what I can do. I can win. That’s my goal. Hopefully I’ll get a camp invite at the end of the year, or something. Whatever happens, happens. I’m looking to go pro next year and play somewhere. Whether it’s in the ECHL, or the AHL. I think it will be big.”