Raymond Bourque, Eric Desjardins, Patrice Brisebois, Keith Yandle, and Kris Letang are just a few of the impressive names that adorn the Emile Bouchard Trophy, awarded annually to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Defenseman of the Year.
But only one name – Lukas Cormier – is listed twice.
The first two-time recipient of the award did so in back-to-back seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders in 2021 and 2022. Now the 2020 Golden Knights draft pick is ready to take the next step in his first professional season.
“Last fall after the tryout with Vegas, I went back to junior and ended up having a good season there,” said Cormier, who also won a gold medal with Canada at the World Junior Championship in August. “It’s fun to get here in Henderson and to get to see some people who are starting to become familiar faces now. It’s fun to get with the group and start to build some chemistry.”
Cormier’s offensive instincts are no secret. In 2020-21, his first Defenseman of the Year campaign, Cormier led all QMJHL defensemen with 38 assists and 54 points in 39 games. His encore last season was to lead QMJHL blue-liners with 33 goals and 81 points in 62 games, the highest point total for a QMJHL defenseman since 2013-14.
While the offensive totals speak for themselves, Cormier’s puck skills are a 200-foot asset for the Silver Knights as training camp progresses.
“What stands out to me first for Lukas is how he moves the puck,” said Head Coach Manny Viveiros. “For a young kid who moves the puck, we say he passes the puck like a real pro. It’s a huge part of his game that he makes a strong first pass, where he can beat pressure. When there’s a forecheck, maybe one or two guys on him, with one pass he can beat that pressure.”
Cormier was a picture of offensive consistency last season in Charlottetown. He posted five separate points streaks of six games or longer, 20 multipoint games, five 4-point outings, and six multi-goal games.
“As a defenseman, it’s always good to get shots to the net,” said Cormier. “But when you have skilled forwards on the half-wall, get them the puck and make the right play at the right time.”
A defenseman posting those numbers will certainly grab headlines, but a defenseman at the pro level also must be able to defend. Cormier gave significant focus to play in his own end last season.
“I think last year, I focused on defense a bit more. That was the goal coming from [Vegas], the feedback I received,” said Cormier. “My coaches were good at helping me with that, where if I’d cheat a bit on the offense, they were quick to tell me. I think I took a big step in that area last year, and the offense was still there.”
Cormier will adjust to a new defensive system, as will many of his teammates now that Golden Knights Head Coach Bruce Cassidy is applying his X’s and O’s at the NHL level. Several of the younger Silver Knights have been applying that system for several weeks now, especially those like Cormier who took part in Rookie Camp and the Rookie Tournament in early September.
During those camps, as was the case when he attended in the fall of 2021, Cormier became familiar with the teaching styles of the Silver Knights coaching staff.
Since arriving in Vegas to begin preparations for the season, Cormier has roomed with teammate Layton Ahac, a player who likely feels like a seasoned veteran in his third season while skating on the blue line with newcomers like Cormier and Daniil Chayka. Cormier has also been able to lean on another rookie and a former teammate in 2022 draft pick Patrick Guay, with whom Cormier went to a President’s Cup Final last spring with Charlottetown.
The young defenseman is coming off two highly decorated junior seasons, both of which came after his draft year. But as is the case for all upcoming prospects, development for Cormier is a step-by-step process.
“You have a little bit more confidence when you’re a little bit older,” said Cormier. “Everything is a little bit better, you know everyone a little bit more. Every year is another step.”
“I want to keep building on that.”