Yann Sauve remembers it well.
On June 10, 2006, at the Charlottetown Civic Centre, the big defenceman from the midget AAA Chateauguay Patriotes was picked first overall by the Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft.
“I was just a young kid coming from midget,” said Sauve, who is in Montreal for off-season training. “I didn’t know what to expect, really.”
He said he expected to be the top pick, but admitted he wasn’t sure if he’d end up in Saint John or Rimouski. The Oceanic held four of the top eight draft choices that year, including the second overall selection.
“The night before (the draft), I met with Saint John and I was confident that I would go to the Sea Dogs,” he said. “That helped me get a good sleep. I got picked by Saint John and things went from there.”
Sauve joined a Sea Dogs’ team fresh off its expansion season and spent four years wearing Saint John blue. He sits fifth in all-time scoring among defencemen with 102 points in 251 career games.
He said he’s proud to know he helped the team reach new heights, including its first ever playoff run and a first appearance in the President Cup final.
“It was great to take a team that was new and young, and take it to the next level,” Sauve reminisced. “I don’t think the league or (QMJHL Commissioner ) Gilles Courteau had any expectations of success for the franchise. It was pretty amazing to be part of one of the best franchises in the league.”
Sauve was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round (41st overall) of the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He became the first Sea Dogs’ alumnus to play in the NHL in February, 2011. To date, he has played eight NHL games, including three with the Canucks last season.
“I played real well up there,” Sauve stated of his most recent stint in Vancouver. “I felt like I was an NHL player.
“You know, that feeling of playing with the best players in the world, and playing well. You tell yourself, ‘Don’t quit right now because you’re really, really close.'”
Through it all, Sauve said he has remained a Sea Dog fan and follower. He took part in the team’s first-ever alumni weekend last summer, and wishes he could reconnect more often with his old teammates.
The Sea Dogs are slated to pick first overall again this weekend. And Sauve said any young player who has the chance to play for Saint John should take it.
“It is certainly a different team now than it was (in 2006),” Sauve started. “There were no Memorial Cups or President Cups then.
“I came in and I was Alex Grant’s shadow. For sure, there was a lot of pressure being the first overall pick. Expectations were that, ‘He’s a young player, he’s going to get better.'”
“I played four years in Saint John and I grew into being an adult. I grew up, not being a (Sidney) Crosby, but a Yann Sauve. I grew into the player I am right now.”