Rode: Lapointe’s size, skill a fit for Kings

At the age of 17 Mathieu Lapointe had visions of playing hockey in Red Deer.

Coming out of midget AAA the Edmonton native signed with the Red Deer Rebels and attended training camp. As it turned out the Rebels sent him to the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and he never did return to the Western Hockey League club.

“I was a late cut by the Rebels, early in October, and eventually my rights were traded to the Spokane Chiefs,” explained the 22-year-old, who finally made it back to Red Deer joining the RDC Kings at Christmas.

“Once my rights were traded to Spokane I didn’t feel like trying to go that route, and decided to go the junior route.”

The six-foot-three 200-pound forward played one season with the Thunder, who traded him to Dauphin Kings of the MJHL. He spent one season with the Kings, scoring 18 goals and 26 assists in 58 games.

“It wasn’t a great year as the coach was all over the place and was fired after the season,” said Lapoine. “But I had some buddies who were playing on the East coast and I decided to give it a try. I played two years (with the Amhurst, N.S., Ramblers) and loved it.”

He had two excellent seasons with the Ramblers, finishing with 54 goals and 72 assists for 126 points in 96 games. He played 12 playoff games in the 2016-17 season finishing with five goals and 12 helpers.

He attended the University of Moncton last season taking mechanical engineering, but managed just one assist.

“It was a learning experience for sure,” he said. “It was a big jump. I was going from a big role to a small role … it was much harder than I thought and I also didn’t have much puck-luck.”

Following the season he decided to switch majors and return home to Alberta.

“I decided to take energy engineering, which I can take at the University of Calgary after three years here.” he explained. “I could have went to NAIT, SAIT or here and this was a good fit.”

He contacted Kings head coach Trevor Keeper about attending RDC at Christmas.

“To be eligible I couldn’t play the first semester. I played some senior hockey, but my plan all along was to be here for the second half,” he said.

Lapointe has fit in nicely, not only adding skill, but size to the wing and in front of the net.

“From what I know they (Kings) needed someone in front of the net, and that’s always been my style,” he said.

Lapointe has been playing on the first power play.

“He got a lot of points in junior and with a year in USport we knew he would be effective for us.” said Keeper. “He’s good at protecting the puck and screening the goalie … getting in front, tipping shots and banging the rebounds.

“He has a lot of skill, is quick and adds size to the wing. We needed that element. He also adds maturity and fit in quickly.”

“It’s a great group of guys,” added Lapointe. “It hasn’t been hard to adjust at all, although it’ll still takes a few games for that chemistry.”

Lapointe has three assists in four games as the Kings prepare for a home-and-home series against the Concordia Thunder — Friday in Edmonton and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre.

The Kings go into the weekend in a five-team battle for top spot. Grant MacEwan (13-4-1-0) sits first with 27 points, one up on SAIT and NAIT, both at 13-5-0-0, and three ahead of RDC (11-5-1-1) and University of Alberta Augustana (12-6-0-0).

Concordia is sixth with a 3-12-1-1 record.

Chase Thudium leads the Kings in scoring with 23 points, which is fifth in the conference, and is first in the ACAC with 14 goals. Tanner Butler leads all defencemen in scoring with 10 goals, 12 assists and 22 points.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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