by Ron Spence
I had made a spreadsheet of Mike Gillis’ empty cupboard last season, and decided to compare it with this year’s prospects – and missing was Charles-Antoine Messier.
I remembered that he had been a so so prospect, ranked along with Patrick White, Matt Butcher, etc. by Hockey’s Future.
Messier had been drafted in the sixth round by Baie-Comeau in 2005.
The 5’11”, 185 pounder had a mediocre rookie season in the Q, but had an impressive 27 goals and 21 assists in 69 names during his sophmore campaign.
This resulted in him being drafted in the 5th round – 145th Overall – by Vancouver at the 2007 Amateur Draft.
“…Messier is the type of long-shot prospect,” wrote Matt MacInnis, “with solid offensive upside that the team should be making at this stage of the draft considering the giant hole they have at the center position among prospects.”
So, he was drafted for his position and offense.
Charles-Antoine Messier had limitations. He was reasonably fast, but not fast enough for a small centre. His defensive play wasn’t that good, so he couldn’t be used as a two way pivot. He was easily knocked off the puck and inconsistent.
This, as well as his high skill level, were observed at his first rookie training camp.
“Messier wasn’t strong enough although he did pull off several slick moves that caught the attention of the coaching staff,” wrote MacInnis.
A number of Canucks’ fans attending the camp noted examples of Messier’s lack of strength.
Coach Vigneault was encouraging, however: “He’s playing real well, I think we all like his skill level and his speed on his ice, but obviously he’s not ready to make the next step.”
That summer Messier was traded by Baie-Comeau to Acadie-Bathurst.
Messier played just 34 games with the Titans, and was traded once again, this time to Chicoutimi. He completed the year with 41 points in 66 games – between the two teams – and had 3 points in 4 games during the post-season.
Last season, he was a twenty-year-old and needed to have a good season – “make the next step” – to earn a pro contract. Then, he injured his shoulder and had to miss a number of games.
But, he had good attitude and worked on his fitness.
“It’s been two weeks that I practice on the ice with my teammates,” he said. “Every day, over the last three months, I participated in two training sessions. I did what is called a”circuit” in addition to improving my cardio every night. I also realized how much food is important for a hockey player. This is not necessarily a concept that I applied previously. All the pounds that I lost permit me to be faster. “
During this period, he reduced his weight from 187 to 174 with his diet and intense training.
Messier returned and played in ten games, but collected only one assist.
And because he was an over-aged, under-producer, Chicoutimi released him.
“It’s hard to take,” Messier told Serge Emond. “I have not taken it well. Things were not great…I did not really see it coming…The team does not go very well today. Rather than having a player of 20, who has difficulty in producing, he prefers to give a chance to a younger player.”
Messier admitted that he might have lost his confidence: “I do not want to explain my lack of production by my injury. Perhaps a lack of confidence or pressure. “
After his demotion from Chicoutimi, Messier shopped around other Hockey League Quebec Major Junior teams, but could only find a roster spot one level below – in the League Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec.
Messier admitted that his demotion further hurt his confidence.
“It was hard but, this did not happen for nothing. I am now fully integrated with [the Granby] Inouk. I love playing hockey and I decided to come here to join my two friends, Patrick Rivard and François Lanctôt-Marcotte.”
Messier did well when he first arrived in Granbyenne. He had three assists during one game and seven points in four games.
His coach liked him and immediately made him an assistant captain.
“When a guy arrives with the experience and work ethic that Messier has, [I’ll] give him this role, of course,” commented the coach Patrice Bosc. “It would be easy for him to play the star, but this is not the case….”
The coach was also optimistic that Messier would return to his old form:
“He does lots of little things that nobody sees…he blocks shots, etc.. I look at him go, and I think at the end of the season, he will be at exactly the same level as a player 20-years-old completing his major junior. You can tell just by looking at him handling the puck. “
But, the hard-working Messier still wasn’t scoring.
“The 10th goal was not important for the team but for me, yes,” Messier told Gaetan Roy. “This is not my personal statistics, but for my confidence. For two years, I have a lock to score goals. [Now it] looks like I never make the right decision between pass and shoot. I console myself by saying that even if I did not score a goal, the team wins. “
In 10 games with the Inouk, Messier scored twice and assisted on 12 for 14 points.
His lack of goal scoring led to frustration and he received a suspension for a head attack.
“There is surely a reason for this gesture,” said Messier. “I was frustrated because the games piled up without my trademark. It was a useless gesture. I could have hurt the team. I was glad to see the team win without me.”
The Inouk reached the playoffs, and Charles-Antoine Messier scored two goals along with three assists in one game.
The coach also stated that Messier had played with a broken wrist and an injured groin during the playoff run.
The Vancouver Canucks had until June 1st, 2009 to sign Charles-Antoine Messier, but declined.
He had had one thing going for him – scoring – and had lost it – along with his confidence.
Had he been a Mike Gillis draft, the Canucks might have worked with him a little longer.
But, the ‘nucks cut bait.
Charles-Antoine Messier will be attending Concordia University.