Star forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, ranked as the No. 2 and No. 3 North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, have been the focus for the Halifax Mooseheads all season.
But coaches and teammates alike point to 17-year-old goalie Zachary Fucale as an equally important member of the high-scoring Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions.
"He deserves more credit overall," Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme said this week at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. "There's so much talk about our offence that obviously there's sometimes where he's getting forgotten."
Mooseheads players say Fucale, who his ranked as the No. 1 North American goalie ahead of the draft and turns 18 next week, has poise beyond his years.
"He's a guy that's very mature. He acts like he's 30," said MacKinnon, whose team lost just six games during the regular season. "He doesn't get a lot of credit. He's been unbelievable. He helped us win the QMJHL championship and hopefully can help us win the Memorial Cup as well.
"Maybe if he was on a different team he'd be a little more looked at."
Fucale helped lead the Mooseheads to a 58-6-4 record in the regular season, compiling a personal stat line of 45-5-2 to go along with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. Halifax cruised through the QMJHL playoffs with a 16-1 mark, and after a 2-1 round robin at the Memorial Cup, is set to meet the Western Hockey League champion Portland Winterhawks in Sunday's final.
"It's hard not to fly under the radar when you've got Nathan and Jonathan on our team but Zach definitely deserves to be ranked where he is," Mooseheads defenceman Trey Lewis said. "Sometimes I don't think people give him the credit he deserves but he's been huge for us all year."
Fucale, a native of Rosemere, Que., says he doesn't worry about the attention he gets and instead takes a philosophical approach to his game and a position that's constantly under the microscope.
"As a player and as a person I just want to play the game hard and get better every day and whatever happens, it's good for me," he said. "Whether is a good thing or a bad thing for me (now), it can only be a good thing for me in the future and make me stronger as a person and a goalie."
With so much talent at the Memorial Cup — there were at least eight potential first-round picks — Mooseheads defenceman MacKenzie Weegar says it's easy to get lost in the shuffle, but adds the Mooseheads understand Fucale's importance both on and off the ice.
"Zach has been unbelievable. As much as Nate and Jonathan carry this team, you've got to give a lot of credit to Zach," Weegar said. "He keeps us in tight games when the other teams have got momentum and he's the one that bounces us back and he's always got a great attitude no matter how the period ends.
"He's a really mature kid and I think that's what helps him in his success."Suggest a correction