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2016-17 IceCaps Season Review: Is Jeremy Gregoire squandering his potential?

With the right focus, there’s more to Gregoire’s future than a fourth-line role.

Jeff Parsons/St. John’s IceCaps

Jeremy Gregoire has been an interesting prospect in his two professional seasons in St. John’s. In his time in the QMJHL, Gregoire played an outstanding defensive game and was a very capable scoring forward. During his time in the AHL, Gregoire has played primarily fourth line minutes and has become quite the pugilist whenever the situation presented itself. Even then, he continued to display his offensive chops. So, the question is, is there more than a fourth line future for the Sherbrooke native?

Compared to his fourth line teammates, Gregoire had the best nose for the net this past season, netting nine goals and placing him ninth on the IceCaps this year. He plays by going forward the whole time, crashing the net, and scoring dirty goals around the crease. He has solid hands and makes good use of them to deflect pucks or swat them out of the air.

In the above clip, Gregoire battles to the front of the net as Jacob de la Rose swats at the puck, knocking it towards Gregoire. He then gets his stick on it, giving Thatcher Demko no chance as he scores. In spite of a meager three assists on the year, Gregoire can be an adept playmaker as well. When he’s focused on the actual hockey-playing parts of the game Gregoire is an extremely useful player, even with minimal ice time.

Much like fellow linemate Mark MacMillan, Gregoire wasn’t a major offensive driver, but due to his defensive game he eventually earned Sylvain Lefebvre’s trust. With that in mind, it wasn’t uncommon to see the fourth line take crucial draws late in the game, regardless of the score. Once they cleared the zone, you’d see the top lines hop on the ice and pick up the play in the offensive zone, easing their workload and freeing them up to focus on creating goals.

Currently, the biggest issue with Gregoire is that in trying to make an impact in the lineup he’s using his hands for punching instead of for scoring. Despite standing six feet tall, he’s often the smaller combatant in the contest and ends up getting ragdolled on occasion. In fact, out of his seven fights this year, just two matchups were in his favour in terms of height. To his credit, Gregoire is pretty tough. Scrapping with Tom Sestito and Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond is a tough task, even for the best AHL fighters.

On a team that had David Broll and Bobby Farnham, and even Johnathan Racine for a time, Gregoire shouldn’t have to fight. He has a legitimate upside but seems to be getting shoehorned into a role that doesn’t match his potential. Going forward, that will be Gregoire’s biggest challenge. He has to keep his focus on playing instead of punching.

Gregoire is entering the last season of his entry-level contract, and is assumed to be a leader for Laval next season. With potential players possibly graduating to the NHL, it will be up to players like Gregoire to fill their skates. The best way he can do that is by continuing with his strong defensive play and focusing on being that net-front offence producer.

Gregoire has plenty of talent, it’s just being misdirected right now. With a bit of coaching and focus, he could become a great two-way forward for the Rocket.