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SYDNEY, N.S. — When Olivier Houde joined the Cape Breton Eagles as a rookie last season, the team hoped he’d find his offensive game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In 2019-20, Houde was an offensive threat for the Lévis Chevaliers of the Quebec Under-18 ‘AAA’ Hockey League, leading the team with 29 goals and 60 points in 39 games.
However, the six-foot-one, 180-pound Houde quickly realized he couldn’t just focus on offence at the major junior level and was forced to transition into a two-way player for a young Eagles lineup.
It was then that he started to see the results he was hoping for and the points started to come for the then 18-year-old.
“I played defensively first and focused on that and then I found the offence came easier than when I was just playing offence,” said Houde. “I think that transition was a big part of my individual success.”
Houde, a seventh-round pick by the Eagles in 2020, began to notice his point production improving around November. It continued to grow into the new year, finishing the final two months of the regular season with 16 points.
Overall, Houde wrapped up the campaign fifth in team scoring with 18 goals and 44 points in 68 games.
“I think I had a pretty good year,” said Houde. “The points came, and I felt comfortable being in the league and I’m really just focusing on building off last year going into this season.”
Along with his two-way game, Houde also credits the support he received from veteran players Conor Shortall, Zach Biggar, Ivan Ivan and Samuel Johnson.
“The first couple of months can be pretty hard, you’re away from home for the first time, so being around the boys and knowing you can ask them questions really helped me,” said Houde.
“I haven’t forgot what those guys did for me and I want to lead by example and provide the younger guys on this year’s team with the same support the boys last year gave me.”
- Hometown: Dosquet, Que.
- Age: 19
- Position: Left wing
- Height: 6’1”
- Weight: 180
- Team: Cape Breton Eagles (QMJHL)
- QMJHL Entry Draft: Selected in the seventh-round, No. 127 overall, by Cape Breton in 2020
- NHL Entry Draft: Undrafted
With the expectation of having an expanded role with the team, Houde believes he has the ability to provide even more offence as a 19-year-old in the league in 2023-24.
“Offensively, I know I can bring more,” said Houde, noting he gained eight points during the off-season and was consistently in the gym preparing for the new year.
“I’m going to continue to focus on being a two-way player and responsible in my own zone, but I do want to add more offence this year.”
For the second straight year, Houde and his teammates have been forced to learn a new system following the hiring of head coach Louis Robitaille in July. However, Houde is starting to get used to it.
“It’s hard at the beginning, but when you get used to it and start using it more often, it will come,” said Houde. “The boys have been working hard and once we all fully understand it, we know we’re going to have success with it.”
Cape Breton and Moncton were scheduled to open the regular season on Friday night. They’ll meet again on Saturday at 7 p.m. Both games are at Centre 200 in Sydney. Click here following the games for a full recap.
Eagles forward Cam Squires won’t be in the lineup for a second straight night as the 18-year-old is currently attending the New Jersey Devils main training camp. Cam MacDonald is still at the Arizona Coyotes camp and won’t be available for Saturday’s contest.
Meanwhile, for the Wildcats, the team will be without elite defenceman Etienne Morin once again. The 18-year-old has been invited to attend the Calgary Flames main training camp. Morin was a second-round pick of the Flames in 2023.
The Wildcats lineup features former Eagle Connor Trenholm, who last season notched 14 goals and 41 points in 64 games between Saint John and Moncton.
Following Saturday’s game, Cape Breton will hit the road for a pair of games in New Brunswick against the Saint John Sea Dogs on Friday and Saturday at TD Station.
Jeremy Fraser is the sports reporter for the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on X (Twitter) @CBPost_Jeremy.