48 Louis-Marc Aubry
Pluses: The Red Wings seemingly drafted a gentle giant who’s learning to drop his politeness in the massive 6’4,” 184-lb Louis-Marc Aubry, who literally and figuratively looks like he’s still got a ways to grow. Aubry posted decent numbers for the QMJHL’s Montreal Juniors in his sophomore season in the “Q,” and the son of a former Red Wing in Pierre Aubry (who was only 5’10,” go figure) came into the Red Wings’ locker room, admittedly wearing the jersey of the team he cheered for as a youngster…
And he looked terrified, absolutely terrified. He looks like he’s 15 to begin with, speaks a hair above a whisper, albeit in superb self and roommate-taught English, and for the first two days of camp, I watched a 6’4” doe attempt to not trip over himself on the ice while adjusting to the pace of play and the intensity of the drills the Wings’ coaches put them through.
He looked especially out-of-balance during skating drills because the growth spurts which have, per RedWingsCentral, added eight inches to his height over the past four years—and I’d suggest that there’s an inch or two left before he has to learn how to shave—he skates with a hunched-over posture, wasting energy as his shoulders are way out over the toes of his skates instead of no further forward than his knees, forcing him to work extra hard to get up to a remarkable level of speed for a big man and robbing him of energy during stops and starts or changes in direction.
Therein lay the rub, however. Aubry told me that he took notes during Thomas Storm’s stickhandling drills and Andy Weidenbach’s skill drills, and did the same in terms of trying to learn the specifics of Curt Fraser and the coaching staff’s situational drills, as well as the tips that Piet Van Zant and the Wings’ training staff gave the incredibly stringy young man about improving his core strength and building his body up from the inside out and building his body the right way, slowly but surely. Aubry struck me as studious and thoughtful to a fault at times, but he stated that he knew he was at the camp to learn as much as possible, and I’m not sure if anyone took it more seriously than Marc-Louis did.
So, not surprisingly, his game is remarkably mature for his age. Aubry skates superbly well for a big man, has a solid shot and deft passing abilities, he stickhandles very very well, and can generate a fair amount of offense when used in that role, but he was used as a defensive forward in Montreal, and in terms of his defensive awareness and understanding of when to hang back as the “high man” in the slot or when he needed to get those big legs churning to help his defenders, if not bail them out and precede them to the puck, to get that big body in front of shots and his long stick in shooting and passing lanes, to grind the puck out down low in his own end, help his defenders clear the puck, lead the rush himself or just simply make the safe and easy play at a camp where players very often either retreated into the safety of trap hockey or overextended themselves trying to do too much on his own…
Aubry displayed the mature defensive awareness and polish of Brent Raedeke or Landon Ferraro, if not a professional hockey player. He definitely possesses the raw offensive skills to display more flourish to his game, but if he never puts the puck in the net again, his defensive game is worthy of a Mike Babcock-delivered, “Fan-tastic.”
Minuses: Aubry won’t have to shave until he’s 20 at the earliest (and he turns 19 in November), and I would very conservatively estimate that he’s got another inch to grow. The biggest concern involves Louis-Marc growing into that big body and working on his strength and conditioning so that he fills out and can eventually use that size to a huge advantage, no pun intended, as he works up the ranks. His personality’s also reflected in his lack of on-ice assertiveness at times, and if he wants to establish himself as a forward who can do more than play defense, his offensive skills must manifest themselves in a demonstrative manner.
Mostly, he’s a prospect who illustrates the frustrating fact that the post-lockout CBA forces teams to make incredibly difficult decisions as to the worthiness of their Major Junior Hockey-playing prospects of a spot on their 50-man roster in short order, because the Wings have to decide whether to sign Aubry by June of 2012, and at this rate, he could just be getting accustomed to a fully-grown and filled-out physique. He’s on an NHL-mandated clock.
Potential “upside”: If he keeps growing into his body and building it up while establishing himself as a two-way forward in the QMJHL, and if he lays people out more regularly—in the limited-hitting environment of the prospect camp, he didn’t issue many bodychecks, but obviously can do so as he led Montreal in hits—and finds a way to fold scoring into his portfolio, the Wings will sign him two years from now, he’ll continue to grow into that big body and learn the game with that big brain, and he’ll emerge as a superb two-way forward and third-line center. He very literally has a huge upside, and the bottom line must not be minimized: he took notes. You can’t bet against somebody who’s a compulsive note taker.