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Rocket man: Crunch’s Pineault a hockey prodigy

by Ed Gonser || AHL On The Beat Archive

There was a man from Holyoke
Whose love for hockey was no joke
From the age of four
He knew he wanted more
There was no need to frown
He would play hockey as long as dad was around
He was handed the world
Oh, what a twirl
He struck gold
That never gets old
It was a real scene
For the young teen
Tried Boston College by golly
But he wasn’t jolly
With so many studies
Didn’t have time for his ice buddies
So he made the jump to Junior-A
Where they say
Came up short in the Memorial Cup championship fray
In the locker room when his team is down
He’ll clown around
But, when the puck drops
He gets his props
Because being on the ice
Is twice as nice
When he gets into the flow
And works down low
He’s a pest
That’s what he does best
Columbus awaits
If he has what it takes
There are no excuses, none that we know
For fans not to cheer a talented rookie named Adam Pineault

Yep, Adam Pineault a converted center who now toils at right wing. An all-around team player who has been honing a blistering slap shot since the age of four. Spending hours on a make-shift rink on the side of his parents house in that suburb of Springfield, Mass.

That was until with power greater than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet and many broken neighbor’s windows that came to an end.

A solid two-way power-forward with offensive upside and with a gun like that he became an easy selection for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round, number 46 overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

But what else do we not know about Adam Pineault?

He’s the middle child and only boy of Ester and Roland, born 20 years ago in Holyoke, Mass.

“Dad made a rink on the side of the house,” Pineault recalled. “I would be out there every chance I could. That only lasted until I was 12. Too many broken neighbor windows put a stop to that.”

Practicing that blistering slap shot no doubt. Dad introduced his son to hockey by taking him to all the Springfield Falcons games. He did what a lot of aspiring hockey prodigies would do and play for a junior NHL team. He was the youngest player in the Eastern Junior Hockey League playing for the Boston Jr. Bruins in 2000-01 where he registered 30 goals and 35 assists in 57 games with dad by his side.

“Dad drove me all the time. It was an hour trip to Boston and another hour home,” Pineault said as a smile crossed his face. “Monday through Friday in the car doing homework, practice and right back in the car and home to eat dinner.

“I would be tardy for school a lot,” Pineault said of his pre-high school years. “I had private shooting Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7-8 a.m. and a personal trainer on Tuesday and Thursdays from 6:30-8 a.m., so I was late quite a bit and the teachers were not happy.”

You think all the attention and missing school a lot might of rubbed his sisters the wrong way?

Needing to concentrate on his hockey and keep up with school work it was off to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he graduated from Pioneer (Michigan) High School. He was the youngest member of the U.S. National Under-17 Team. Won a gold medal at the 2002 World Under-17 Challenge in Winnipeg. In 58 games, as the youngest player, scored 16 goals and earned eight assists.

So he moved up to the U.S. National Under-18 Team that competed in the IIHF Under-18 World Championships in Yaroslavl, Russia, in April 2003 and still only 16 years old.

At 17 he made history becoming the youngest player ever to play NCAA Division-I hockey for the Boston College Eagles. In his only season with the Eagles, Pineault registered eight points (four goals, four assists) in 30 games. He was enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences but studies weren’t for him and his hockey suffered from the college life.

“College was probably the best time of my life away from hockey, but it put me a step backward instead of a step forward with hockey. Living in that college atmosphere was fun. Away from the ice it was going great, but on ice it wasn’t going great,” Pineault said. “I have to admit I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to knuckling down to the books.”

The Quebec Major Junior League’s Moncton Wildcats were the next stop on Pineault’s hockey odyssey having been the fourth overall selection in the 2002 QMJHL draft. He scored 26 goals and 20 assists in 61 games during his rookie season for Moncton in 2004-05. He ranked third in the QMJHL in shots on goal and tied for 16th in game-winning goals, while finishing among the league’s rookie leaders in most major statistical categories.

Pineault also appeared in seven games with Team USA during the World Junior Championships.

“Mom and Dad had quite a big investment in my career but they knew what it would take to get me to where I am,” Pineault said. “Without a doubt. Coming to Moncton, I couldn’t be happier with the way things went.”

And last year along with Crunch teammate and Moncton linemate Philippe Dupuis helped take the Wildcats to the Memorial Cup finals.

“We had a great time together playing on the same line in Moncton,” Dupuis said. “We are good friends on and off the ice. Anytime you want to do something and you call Adam he’ll be there for sure.”

Which brings us to the present where Pineault tends to play more physically when on the wing and seems to be more willing to use his huge shot, just like the days on the side of his parents house, he hones his skills waiting for his shot at the brass ring with the Blue Jackets.

“He’s a hard worker and gives his best every shift,” Crunch head coach Ross Yates said of his winger. “He has a real hard slap and wrist shot but he needs to learn to get it on net. It doesn’t matter how hard you can shoot the puck. It won’t go in if it’s not on net. We’re working with him to hit the net and with as hard as his shot is if he doesn’t score he should get a decent rebound we can try and take advantage of.”

You may notice that Pineault has the energy Crunch fans saw and see in a guy like Andrew Murray. Is it no coincidence that they should be on a line together?

“You always need the young guys to bring some energy to the game. We’re starting to click,” Murray said after a few games that the line was formed. “We have to work down low and find him in the slot. We get the puck in deep and work the corners and finish our checks. That’s our role and to be successful that’s what we have to do.”

“That line has been together for a few games now and they work hard,” Yates said. “They need to get the puck deep and create turnovers. They all like to finish their checks, they are a real high energy line for us.”

Pineault will need some time to adjust to the professional game in the AHL, but could be playing in the NHL in 2007-08 if his development goes well. He might need to add 20 pounds though onto his frame to be able to continue to play the power forward game in the NHL.

Pineault has the ability to put up second-line numbers, and his physicality is an added attraction. Pineault has the ability to get his shot off while he’s being hounded. He can get rid of it as well as most NHL players. He’s willing to play physical and can be nasty if needed and will take a hit in order to make a play.

He does need work on his skating. Pineault has good speed once he gets going, but his starts and stops need to improve. Watch Pineault and the Crunch and you’ll see that there might be a direct correlation between Pineault’s development and a successful Crunch season. He may need to put on a bit more muscle and hone his game for a few years, but he will be worth the short wait.

Stay tuned, it should be awesome.