Benoit-Olivier Groulx is in the shadow of his highly touted teammate Filip Zadina, and like many players in the same situation, we are left to wonder how much of their production is due to them and how much is due to who they play with.
Groulx was Zadina’s centre with the Halifax Mooseheads for most of the season and put up good numbers as a result. In 68 games, he had 55 points (28 goals), 42 of which were primary points. At 5v5, he put up 38 points, 30 of which were primary points. His 5v5 numbers were second in the QMJHL among players in their first year of draft eligibility, ahead of even Joe Veleno who is consistently ranked ahead of him.
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Date of birth: February 6, 2000
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Of course, Veleno didn’t have Zadina to play with, but if you look at some of the plays Groulx makes, you can see that it wasn’t all due to his talented Czech teammate.
If you look at this video, Groulx picks up the puck in his defensive zone and uses a mix of edge work and speed to skate around practically the entire team before making a no-look pass to Zadina on the door step.
It’s a play like that which makes you see the top-six potential in his game. His skating is a concern by most scouts, but they also say it has steadily improved and the clip above shows that.
Groulx is the son of former QMJHL and Canadian World Junior coach and current Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx. He was born in France while his father was playing his final season of professional hockey.
As a coach’s son, his hockey sense and competitiveness get top marks from all of the scouting services. Many see him as a surefire NHL player at the very least but with limited offensive upside.
If you look at some statistics tracked by former EOTP contributor Mitch Brown when you compare the two Halifax teammates, you can see the differences in their games but you can also see how they compliment each other.
While Zadina was the one who carried the puck into the zone, Groulx - as the centre more often than not - was the one to get it out of the zone. And while Zadina compiled the shots and scoring chances, Groulx was the better all-around player as he had a better percentage of scoring chances and of shot attempts on goal than his teammate.
Besides the clips above, his shot is also good but not spectacular. He uses a wrist shot to deceive and can get it off rather quickly. Scouts also praise that the shot can be heavy.
In terms of special teams, he is definitely someone who can play on the penalty kill. He had one shorthanded goal this season with Halifax, but projects as one of the best defensive forwards in the entire class.
ISS ranks him as the top defensive forward in the class and where you set him in the final rankings depends on how likely you feel he is to score at the NHL level. If you think he can do it, the rankings go higher. If you feel his more of a middle-six forward than top-six, you rank him low but because his skillset is rather refined, he’s likely going to have an NHL career.
Future Considerations: #24
The Hockey News: #33
NHL Central Scouting: #20 (North American skaters)
“When you talk to any evaluator or coach he’s played for, they rave about his work ethic and character. He would go through a wall if it got him the puck back.” - Corey Pronman, The Athletic
“He’s not elite offensively, but scouts say he’ll succeed at the next level because he can score some goals and make things happen. A low-risk kind of pick that is almost certain to produce an NHLer.” - Future Considerations
Groulx is not among the top centres available in the class, which is why he finds himself in the late first or early second rounds, which makes him a candidate for the Montreal Canadiens in the draft.
If the Habs select Zadina, and Groulx falls out of the first round, you can conceivably draft the two linemates. Even if the Habs go in a different direction than Zadina, Groulx is definitely a good enough player to stand on his own.
His scouting report reads similar to a guy like Phillip Danault or Jordan Staal (who ISS compares him to). Someone who won’t be a guy to create a whole lot of offence, but is reliable in his own end and won’t look out of place in the offensive zone.
In fact, to me, his skill set plays like another son of a coach, former Canadien and current Washington Capital Lars Eller.
Someone who can make plays like the ones above definitely has enough skill to make things happen, and the ability to make plays like that will translate to the NHL, even if the volume at which it happens goes down.
Groulx will be one of those players that great teams always have. He may not win a scoring title, or run a power play, but if he can improve his skating and scoring, he could be a very important piece in the NHL.