LEWISTON – Eric Gelinas, at 16 years old, could have been intimidated.

Billy Lacasse, though a year older at 17, also could have shied away. At just 5 feet, 10 inches tall – four inches shorter than Gelinas – no one would have blamed him.

In their first brush with the Lewiston Maineiacs, though, the team’s first two draft picks from the league’s midget draft in June held their own, and then some.

“They’re certainly the future,” Maineiacs’ Head Coach and General Manager Ed Harding said. “We look at them like we did with (returning forward) Alex Beaton, and you can go all the way back to when (former Maineiacs’ forward) Mathieu Aubin didn’t make this organization going back to Sherbrooke as a 16. Then he came in, we know the story there, as a major contributor.”

Gelinas and Lacasse, meanwhile, are not looking at themselves as the next franchise players. In fact, they’re still just hoping to make the team.

“After three days here, my goal now is to make the team for the season,” Gelinas said.

“With the speed, again, I should be O.K.,” Lacasse said. “Even in midgets, when I first got there, everyone else was bigger than me, too, but I’m used to it.”

Gelinas, born in 1991, was the Maineiacs’ first overall selection in the draft. At 6 feet, 2 inches tall, he weighs just 171 pounds. There is plenty of room for growth on his lanky frame, and he already has an awareness of the game around him. His passes are crisp, and he plays a solid positional game.

“I spent a lot of time working out this summer,” Gelinas said. “I went to four hockey camps, and that’s basically everything I did all summer, was all hockey.”

The coaching staff has noticed.

“To be honest with you, I’m drooling right now, because I see all kinds of potential in him,” Harding said. “We have a reputation of developing young players, especially young defensemen, and I certainly think that Eric Gelinas can be one of those players.”

Lacasse, meanwhile, is dealing with the same issue he’s always dealt with – he’s shorter than most of the skaters around him.

“With the speed, again, I should be O.K.,” Lacasse said. “Even in midgets, when I first got there, everyone else was bigger than me, too, but I’m used to it.”

His speed allowed him to score a pair of goals in Sunday’s intrasquad game, and on Friday, in the first game, he played with Beaton, and the two appeared to complement each other well.

“I have to adapt my offensive game,” Lacasse said. “Defensively, I think I am a good player, I think everything is O.K., I just need to be more patient with the puck.”

The Maineiacs drafted Lacasse in Round 2, despite the fact that he is 17.

“A 17-year-old might be more ready to play than a 16-year-old,” Harding said, “and we needed a forward that was going to be ready to step in. He was one of the guys we identified, and we were lucky to be able to take him. At 17, he’s more ready to play than at 16.”

Whether the pair of rookies cracks the lineup remains to be seen, and Harding said Sunday making that decision might be one of the tougher calls he’s made.

But it’s not like he hasn’t been in on that kind of decision before.

“We had to make a big decision on Beaton last year,” Harding said, “I think we made the right one, though it wasn’t the popular one at the time, but sometimes you have to do that.”

Both players will skate this week in games against Acadie-Bathurst, which will likely go a long way in determining their immediate future.

In the long term, though, there is little doubt the Maineiacs have again stumbled upon a pair of solid young players.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.