Photo credit: Garrett James Photography
The 2023 NHL Draft is set to take place on June 28 and 29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings include five players that played in the BCHL last year and another two who are BCHL alumni in college hockey.
Leading up to the draft, we will share interviews with the prospects about the draft process and a variety of other subjects.
The BCHL’s 2023 NHL Draft coverage is presented by Chevrolet.
Chilliwack Chiefs forward AJ Lacroix has been Mr. Consistent over his first two years in the BCHL. After piling up 40 points as a 16-year-old in his rookie year, he came back and put up 44 in his second campaign, finishing second in team scoring.
Lacroix, who was listed on NHL Central Scouting’s ranking in October and January, was not included on the final rankings in April. It appears as he used this as motivation as the 18-year-old took his game new heights in the postseason, scoring eight goals and adding nine assists for 17 points in 15 contests and helping the Chiefs to the Coastal Conference Final.
We spoke with Lacroix before the draft to discuss how he handled being left off the final rankings, his playoff success and how he’s grown as a player in recent years.
BCHL: How did you handle the pressure of it being your draft year?
Lacroix: I’m lucky to say I had a lot of support around me, whether it was my teammates, coaching staff or parents. I was pretty lucky to have a lot of people to talk to if the pressure did build. One of the biggest things that helped me deal with it was just being in a comfortable environment and I was pretty fortunate to have that in Chilliwack. It really helped, being comfortable going to the rink every day, knowing that I can escape the pressure and just have fun.
BCHL: You played the best hockey of your BCHL career during the 2023 postseason. How were you able to step up like that?
Lacroix: The biggest thing for me this year, and I talked with coach [Brian] Maloney about this a lot, is just trying to find my identity and figure out what’s going to make me successful down the road. Coming into the last 10 or 15 games of the year and into the playoffs, we really figured out what’s going to make me successful and what’s going to help the people around me. Whether it’s being more physical or playing at a quicker pace, that combination, along with truly understanding what I can be, was pretty helpful.
BCHL: You were listed by Central Scouting in the first two rankings, but were left off of the final list. Was that disappointing?
Lacroix: Like any other kid, being on something like that and then getting taken off was disappointing. You can look at it and be sad about it, but rather than looking at it and saying ‘why is that not me?’, I looked at it as motivation. In the end, a number is just a number. It might have been a little frustrating or unfortunate, but I think I used it in the right way to fuel my playoffs. You need to be confident in yourself before other people are confident in you.
BCHL: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Lacroix: My game is somewhat of a Swiss Army Knife. I’m a player that’s willing to compete 110 per cent in any zone. I’m someone who cares about the small details, is a physical player, has a high IQ and likes to make plays offensively. I’m not afraid of playing in the hard corners of the ice, but I also like to play at a fast pace.
BCHL: What would it mean to you to get drafted?
Lacroix: It would mean the world. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. There are 32 teams and if any of them were to draft me, I’d be the happiest kid.