BUFFALO — William Rousseau, 20 years old and full of NHL dreams, backed the Quebec Remparts to the Memorial Cup last season with his stellar work in net.
What more could an aspiring NHL tender want than to have goalie legend Patrick Roy behind the Remparts bench? The perfect fit, right? Even if Roy, a Stanley Cup winner in both Montreal and Colorado is, you know, a bit of the old world.
“Three years in Quebec with Patrick Roy, a helluva coach for me, on the mental side,” mused a smiling Rousseau, following his Bruins debut Friday afternoon in the annual Prospects Challenge, “because maybe on the technical side he doesn’t really have it anymore.”
Roy, who will turn 58 just prior to the start of the upcoming NHL season, in the mid-1980s was among the very first adopters of the then-new butterfly style of goaltending. He was part of the goalie evolution/revolution, helped immensely by the new lightweight leg pads that just came into fashion. Roy’s early heroics in net for the Canadiens proved to be the bridge from the old method of netminding to today’s even more technical and athletic style.
No doubt the fiery Roy, his temper often hair-trigger, would be peeved to hear that his methods are now considered, shall we say, vintage.
“On the mental side, I think his competitiveness was quite good for me,” noted Rousseau, providing more context around the subject of St. Patrick. “He gave me a bit of that killer instinct aspect, that maybe my game [lacked] a little bit? So I think he was real good for that.”
But on the technical side, coach Roy came up short.
“I mean, he could tell me two-pad stack, or maybe make that big save,” added Rousseau, smiling even wider, “but, no, he left that to our goalie coach.”
Dyed-in-the-woolen-sock hockey fans might recognize the Rousseau name from the Original Six era. Bobby Rousseau, a Canadiens winger for most of the 1960s, is young William’s grandfather. The senior Rousseau finished out his career with three-plus seasons with the New York Rangers, totaling 942 NHL games and 703 points.
“He’s told me that Bobby Orr was the best D-man in the NHL of all-time,” said Rousseau. “And it’s pretty special obviously to [be here], playing for an Original Six team, and my grandfather playing in that Montreal-Boston rivalry.”
Never drafted, even after adding the Memorial Cup to his bona fides, Rousseau didn’t receive his invitation to join the Bruins rookie camp until just days ago. He turned back 19 of 21 shots in the 4-2 win over Penguins wannabes in the first of three freshman tuneups the Bruins will play before making the drive back to Boston following a Monday morning farewell wrapup vs. the Devils.
Wingers Luke Toporowski and Brett Harrison each scored a pair of goals in the Bruins win. After the Pens pulled even at 2-2 early in the second period, Rousseau snuffed out the final 11 shots he faced over 38:01 of play, which should be enough to earn him another look on Monday for at least half of the final game. Samuel St. Hilaire, another invitee, is expected to make the start Saturday afternoon vs. the Canadiens.
“I thought the goaltending was awesome today,” said Ryan Mougenel, the AHL Providence coach who again is directing the Bruins rookie squad in the tourney.
Rousseau attended the Senators development camp in the summer of 2022. He appeared headed straight back to the Quebec Major Junior League — this year for Rouyn-Noranda — for more seasoning until the Bruins came calling with the rookie camp invite.
The Bruins, of course, don’t need goaltending depth on their varsity roster. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, the league’s best goalie tandem last season, are back for more in 2023-24.
What Rousseau is hoping for here is something similar to Kyle Keyser, who received an invite to Bruins rookie camp as an undrafted junior goalie with OHL Oshawa and eventually earned himself a contract. After five seasons in the minor pros, Keyser has yet to make it into an NHL game, but similar to Rousseau, he’s keeping the dream alive.
Prior to boarding the team bus back to the hotel, the 6-foot-1-inch Rousseau recited the location of the three NHL drafts in which none of the NHL’s 32 clubs called his name.
“I just take it as motivation, actually,” he said. “I think being undrafted as a goalie, you have to be patient, of course. I’m not a really big-sized goalie.
“I think what not being drafted did for me is quite good. It made me practice even harder, to go to the gym every day and keep grinding, and hope I get my chance somewhere to prove myself.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.