Late bloomer Marcus Power filling the net

Published on December 21, 2013
Newfoundland’s Marcus Power has scored 17 goals with  52 points in only 34 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League so far this season. — Photo  courtesy Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

He’s Marcus Power, and he’s arguably the best Newfoundlander playing hockey who has not yet turned pro.

Now, fellow townie Chris Owens — who’s dominant in Atlantic intercollegiate hockey again this season — might challenge the tag, but let’s just say Power is definitely in the mix as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League clews up the pre-Christmas portion of its regular schedule this weekend.

Already this season, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies left-winger is close to equaling his career-high 59 points last year, and he’s only appeared in half the number of games.

The former St. John’s Caps minor and St. John’s Privateers major midget standout cites a number of factors for his increase in production, not the least of which is an abundance of confidence.

That’s part and parcel with the fact that, at 20, Power is an overage player in the “Q.”

In terms of his hockey future, there are two ways of looking at this: a) he went undrafted in the National Hockey League and/or b) he will be a free agent at the end of this season, open to any and all teams who might have taken a fancy to the fleet winger.

As far as the draft thing goes, Power was a relatively late bloomer in major junior hockey. Taken in the sixth round of the QMJHL midget draft in the spring of 2010, Power was back in his native St. John’s playing midget hockey for the Privateers that fall as St. John’s played host to the national championship.

He ripped up the midget league in 2010-11, finishing second in scoring and winning MVP honours. At the Atlantics, he led all scorers with six goals and five assists and was the tournament MVP.

At the nationals staged at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Power was eight in tournament scoring, with three goals and five assists, and won the most sportsmanlike player award.

That season, as the provincial major midget league took a break for the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Power was given a 10-game look-see by the Huskies and collected two assists.

By the time Power was ready for full-time QMJHL employment the next season — his first full major junior campaign — Power had already turned 18 the previous summer.

But if he feels at all discouraged by the fact he is a pending free agent, he need look no farther than fellow St. John’s native and good friend Zach O’Brien. O’Brien, an overager last season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, was invited to the St. John’s IceCaps’ training camp in October, landed a job with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign and has since been recalled by the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs, where he appears to have settled in quite nicely.

In some ways, Power might be better off as a free agent where he could wind up in the enviable position of picking and choosing.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get drafted coming into the league so late,” he said. “Probably not getting a tryout somewhere last year was a little disappointing because I did have a pretty good season — almost a point per game — and I had a pretty good playoff.

“So I set big goals for myself and I really want to achieve them ... getting first line minutes, first power play, being consistent every night. That’s something, definitely, I pride myself on, coming to play every night.

“If you do that, you attract attention. And being a free agent, you get to choose and see what fits best for you, see whatever team doesn’t have a strong minor league system ... stuff like that. The options are definitely a lot greater when you’re a free agent.”

In addition to his production, Power has proven to be reliable at the other end of the ice — witness his team-best plus-15 rating. It’s that side of the game that was stressed to him when he broke in with the Huskies on Andre Tourigny’s watch. Tourigny is now an assistant coach under Patrick Roy in Colorado.

“He knew you’re not going to make it to the next level just playing offence,” Power said.

“Defensive play is such a big thing today. You can’t play if you don’t know how to play on both sides of the puck. I pride myself on playing a two-way game.”

As for the Huskies, they’re seventh of 18 teams in the QMJHL entering last night’s slate of games. In Rouyn-Noranda, the Huskies are a big deal, just as other junior hockey teams are to their remote cities and towns.

And Rouyn-Noranda, in northwestern Quebec, is indeed remote. While nearby Val d’Or is only an hour and 15 minutes away by bus, the next closest stop is Gatineau, about six hours away. Teams in areas such as Boisbriand, just outside Montreal, Sherbrooke, Drummondville and Victoriaville are all close to seven or seven-and-a-half hours away.

“It’s crazy, but I’m used to it now,” he said. “The first year, it was terrible, especially being a rookie because you’re doubled up (in the seats). You can’t sleep, and you’re getting home at three in the morning and it’s -30 outside. It’s not a lot of fun. It’s definitely one of the lower points living in Rouyn.”

Since then, however, the Huskies have purchased new wheels, with leather La-Z-Boy seats, HD televisions and a kitchen in the back.

And while Power might not yet realize it, playing in Rouyn might make him a bit more attractive to pro teams, who feel kids playing in travel-laden cities like Rouyn, Brandon and the Soo are mentally strong and focused.

“There aren’t many distractions in Rouyn,” Power said.

“In Halifax, there are a lot of distractions because there’s so much stuff to do. Here in Rouyn, there’s not a lot to do only focus on hockey. And that’s the reason why I’m here.”

And he’s making the most of his opportunity.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort