Casual local hockey observers have likely noticed a difference, of late, with the Sudbury Minor Midget “AAA” Wolves. It would be hard not to.
Towering defenseman Ethan Lavallee, all 6’7” of him, is no longer in the lineup. Not long after the Labour Day weekend, the OHL draft eligible prospect was approached by Sudburian Brian Savage, presented with an opportunity that he and his family simply could not refuse.
Lavallee was selected to join a host of international young hockey talent at the Red Bull Hockey Academy in Salzburg (Austria), participating in a daily routine that blends his academic requirements with both on-ice and off-ice hockey training.
After playing with the local minor midget “AAA” team as an underage player last season, Lavallee was more than prepared to lend his experience to the incoming class of minor midget players this year, many of whom he has played with for several years.
“This came right out of left field,” acknowledged Ethan’s father Jason Lavallee. “We really weren’t looking for any outside opportunities, his path via minor midget was clear.” Given that the overwhelming majority of young men who will find themselves drafted into the Ontario Hockey League next April will have competed with one of the boatload of minor midget “AAA” teams, province-wide, there is generally very little advantage to by-passing this route for an alternate pathway.
“As we got more and more into the details, we realized that this had everything,” said the elder Lavallee. “It’s a chance to enjoy a schedule that is based around hockey. They don’t travel a lot, but do come to North America a few times.”
While many an athlete might be fearful of falling off the radar, with OHL scouts, at such a critical juncture of their hockey career, this poses very little concern to the Lavallee clan – for very good reason.
“Ethan had already played a year of minor midget, so he had the chance to play in front of the scouts last year,” said his father. “Playing on the big ice more suits his game, and will force him to skate a lot more.”
“He’s got to learn gap control, reading the plays, not sitting too far back, or jumping in too quick and getting caught. He’s got the North American game that he grew up playing, and now he’ll be immersed into the European culture and philosophy.”
“There are coaches from all sorts of countries,” continued Lavallee. “You get that overall flavour, it’s kind of a hybrid. That was a big enticement.” As the old saying goes, you can’t coach size, and the imposing frame of the local youngster has drawn attention for quite some time.
If his body is done growing, the same cannot be said for Lavallee’s game on the ice, where his potential far surpasses the current level of his play. “The opportunity for development was foremost for us,” noted Jason. “And they are just so well taken care of.”
Throw in the entire life experience that will come part and parcel of this package, and it’s easy to understand why Ethan Lavallee now finds himself several time zones away, pursuing his hockey dreams.