Former bantam teammates Comtois and Morand hope to find chemistry with the Ducks

Ever since they were teammates as 12-year-olds on a bantam team, Maxime Comtois and Antoine Morand have shared a clairvoyance.

In that unspoken chemistry that is unique to hockey, they clicked when they were put on a line together.

“I don’t have to look for him,” Comtois said. “I know he’s going to be there.”

Growing up in Quebec, the French-speaking province in Canada, they were best friends, and their sixth sense surfaced off the ice last month before the NHL draft.

“Coming into Chicago and the weekend, we talked to each other and we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we got drafted by the same team?’” Morand said. “The chances were very thin, but we got lucky and we’re here together.”

In a twist of circumstance and perhaps fate, both were drafted by the Ducks, Comtois with the 50th pick and Morand with the 60th. Ten picks apart for players who grew up 10 minutes from each other, from a bantam team, Grenadiers Chateauguay, to the Ducks.

The two were bombarded by French-Canadian media, but Comtois cut his scrum short.

“I stopped all my interviews to wait for him to come,” Comtois said.

The Ducks were aware of the duo’s friendship through their Eastern Canada scout Stephane Pilotte, whose son scouts junior teams in that area. But Martin Madden, director of professional and amateur scouting for the Ducks, said the players’ compatibility wasn’t a factor.

“Not at all,” Madden said. “It just happened. We liked both for different reasons.”

There’s a reason for their chemistry because both slot into familiar, ying-yang hockey types. Comtois, at 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, has the size to play down low and in the corners at left wing. He is physical and edgy and patterns his game after defensive specialist Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, as well as Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf.

Morand, listed at 5-10 and 178 pounds, is a finesse playmaker with good hockey vision and instincts at center. They were put on the same line for the Ducks’ development camp scrimmage. Comtois wore jersey No. 53, Morand No. 54.

“We’re different on the ice,” Morand said. “We don’t have the same personality, but we’re a good mix together.”

Morand said that he’s more reserved, but a quiet confidence serves him well at crucial times.

“Antoine was one of our best interviews at the combine,” Madden said. “You never know with kids facing 10 scouts in that interview room. But he showed lots of poise.”

Comtois is probably more of a type-A personality. Both players are easygoing yet ambitious, and they leaned on each other when they were separated, at 16, on different teams in junior hockey. Comtois played for the Victoriaville Tigres and Morand for Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

It was a new challenge at a new level, and they tackled it with the help of text messages and FaceTime chats.

“Youngest guys in the league,” Comtois said. “You have to try to kind of think the game the right way … so we stayed connected. Even last year, I had a little bit of a tough season, so I stayed connected with him. Talking about anything else than hockey just helped me to get through that.”

Projected as a potential 50-goal scorer, Comtois finished with 22 goals in 64 games last season. He’d had a good showing for Canada in a series against Russia and at the Memorial Cup, so his slow start was a bit puzzling.

But that’s behind Comtois. He got a glimpse of the next chapter of his and Morand’s career at development camp, where they skated under the Ducks’ banners and were awed by seeing former Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who works in player development.

Fourteen years ago, the Ducks had enormous success with a center and wing drafted within 10 picks of each other who became synonymous with chemistry. Getzlaf was chosen 19th and Corey Perry 28th in the 2003 draft.

Both became franchise cornerstones.

No one is harboring those kinds of aspirations for Comtois and Morand, but the two can dream about achieving their ultimate goal together.

“I think it’s possible that we both play in the NHL one day,” Comtois said. “If it’s not this year, we’re going to find a way to make it next year.”

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Source : http://www.latimes.com/sports/ducks/la-sp-ducks-draft-picks-20170704-story.html

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