Tanguay, Walleye on playoff thresholdWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | email@example.com
It has been has been an unlikely journey to the Glass City for Toledo Walleye center Maxime Tanguay. The 22 year old thought his fall would be spent in the classroom and not on the ice.
“I had played two years of junior hockey, after being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks,” Tanguay said. “They didn’t sign me though, and I was all set to begin school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.”
Tanguay’s agent called him just before school started, and told him an opportunity had presented itself in Rockford, the AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks. Tanguay would be signed to a two way contract, which meant Tanguay would be available to be sent down in the minor leagues without having to clear waivers.
“I thought I would try it for a year, and if it didn’t work out I am a young guy and I can always go back to school,” he said. “I thought I had more to offer, and I went into camp with a positive attitude.”
Tanguay was sent to Toledo at the end of training camp, after Rockford had no available roster spot for him. The 5 foot 11 Tanguay was pleased with his camp and was looking forward to start the season in Toledo.
“There were a few guys from Rockford who came down with me, and I focused on getting off to a good start,” he said.
Tanguay got off to a great start, and he was a big reason the Walleye were sitting atop the American Conference’s North Division at Christmas time.
But several key players were called up to Rockford just as the Walleye began to hit their stride, which meant Tanguay would be relied on more by his teammates.
“It is something that happens on every team,” Tanguay said. “As soon as you are doing well, all of the players start getting called up, and it makes it hard to stay on top.”
The Walleye dropped in the standings, but the team never lost sight of this season’s main goal: a berth in the ECHL playoffs.
“We just focused on the team that you are in that moment,” Tanguay said. “All you can do is go out and do the best you can. Nothing good comes of dwelling on who is no longer on the team.”
After 25 games, Tanguay is the team leader in points, second on the team in goals, and he is first in assists. The Quebec native has been happy with his results this season.
“I am pretty pumped with how I have been playing all year,” Tanguay said. “I really have been working hard, and I got on a roll early on in the season, and I have kind of rode that throughout most of this year.”
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci has taken notice of Tanguay’s play too, and he said it has been crucial to the team’s success this season.
“Maxime brings an enthusiasm every day to the arena, and he is a very creative offensively,” Vitucci said. “He has been a guy we have relied on all season, and we are going to need him to continue to do that down the stretch.”
Tanguay is appreciative of the job Vitucci of the job has done with the Walleye.
“Nick has done a fantastic job with us this season,” Tanguay said. “He has helped me out by putting me in a position to succeed, and he is a guy that has been easy to get behind and believe in the things he teaches us.”
Tanguay said he is grateful to his teammates too, and he said that a lot of his success is due to them as well.
“I have been fortunate to play around some talented players,” he said. “Everybody knows their roles on this team, and that has helped me in my play too, because we all know each other style of play.”
Tanguay also has an ace in his pocket that many other players do not have. His brother Alex is a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, and Maxime said his older brother has been a nice resource for him this season.
“My brother has helped me out a lot,” he said. “He is given me some advice after seeing some of my games, and I can ask him questions about what I can do to make it to the NHL. I have a great relationship with him.”
But no matter how great of an individual season he has, Tanguay says that his ultimate goal is still the playoffs. Currently, the Walleye are tied for seventh seed with Reading, and if the team does make the playoffs, Tanguay expects the Walleye to make some noise.
“I think we have a great shot if we get in,” he said. “We have a good team, and we got a great chance to go far and maybe win a Kelly Cup. I think we have a talented group here, and if we step up, we can surprise a lot of people.”
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