Goneau Hoping to Go Back to New York
by Tricia McMillan, AHL Correspondent
Was there anyone in the National Hockey League who started the season hotter than the Rangers' Daniel Goneau? Perhaps there were one or two players, but Goneau started his rookie season with a flurry of goals and took the league by surprise in October. Few people thought the 1996 draft pick would make the Rangers' roster, let alone be a team leader in goals. Goneau, however, wasn't surprised to find himself in the NHL.
"All summer long while I was training, I was focussing on making the big team this year," says Goneau, 21. "In my mind I was ready."
Certainly playing with centers like Gretzky and Messier can't hurt either. "When you play with great guys, you know for sure you're going to get the puck on the tape, so it was kind of easy," notes Goneau.
It probably helped that Goneau is somewhat older than your average draft pick: when the Rangers selected him in the second round, it was Goneau's second trip through the draft process as he was drafted two years earlier in the fourth round by the Boston Bruins. However, recent Bruins tradition dictates that on those rare occasions when they draft a good player, they will find a way to lose him (see: Adams, Kevyn) and such was the case with Goneau, even though he grew up a Cam Neely fan and missed his chance to play with his hero.
"They didn't offer enough money," shrugs Goneau. That simple? "Yup."
He kept busy while waiting for the Bruins to make an offer he liked though. While Goneau had played his first three years of juniors with the Laval Titan, much of the Titan's ownership and front office left the team to run the Granby Predateurs after the 1994-95 season and one of their first moves in Granby was to trade for Goneau. His numbers in his final juniors season with the Granby Predateurs were worthy of a first-round selection (54 goals and 105 points in 67 games), but as the Bruins failed to sign him earlier, any team drafting him in the first round was obligated to surrender their second-round pick to the Bruins.
Thus, Goneau's draft fate was rather iffy. "A few teams spoke to my agent, so I knew I was going to get drafted again and get another chance," he says. "I didn't know when, and I know the round you get drafted means a lot. I was kind of lucky the Rangers took me in the second round."
But while the Rangers had the last laugh on Boston, it didn't take long for Goneau's ice time in New York to begin dwindling. After scoring all his goals in October, Goneau cooled off somewhat; plus, the Rangers as a whole didn't start off the season particularly well and decided to rely exclusively on their veteran players, with Goneau and Christian Dubé the usual losers. The final blow to Goneau's ice time came when the Rangers traded for another veteran player and Goneau found himself in Binghamton.
"When I was up there [in New York] I was not enjoying the game anymore, because I only played like two, three shifts a game, so it was kind of hard," he says. "When I got sent down I had a meeting with Colin Campbell...he told me, I didn't do any mistakes, that's not why they're sending me down. [Brian]Noonan came to New York and he took my ice time away, so that is why he told me to go down to Binghamton. I had no ice time and he wanted me to make sure I get my confidence back."
Goneau didn't get his confidence back right away, with few points when he first arrived in Binghamton. But after a few weeks, his scoring touch returned and he had 10 goals and 20 points, including a point streak and a few Player of the Week nominations. Goneau is ready to go back to New York, especially now that Noonan has been traded away, but it appears the Rangers want him in Binghamton for now. Goneau doesn't mind as long as it's 'for now'.
"If you can make the jump from junior to NHL, you better make that jump because you don't want to stay too long in the AHL," he thinks. "[The AHL]'s good for maybe a year, two years to get your confidence and play a lot. The speed is more faster and the execution is faster than junior, because you're playing with men, there's older guys... while it's good, you don't want to stay too long down there."
Actually, Goneau wouldn't mind going back to New York just long enough to pick up his new hockey cards. Goneau got his first look at his freshly minted rookie cards in mid-March and was delighted with them, especially the Fleer Metal, to the point of gleefully showing them off to his teammates. "My Dad's probably got a hundred of these already," he says.
The Montreal native has quite a few things for his father to collect though, as his minor hockey teams had a knack for winning championships the last few years. Goneau won an Air Canada championship in AAA midget hockey four years ago and the revamped Predateurs won the Memorial Cup last spring, the first QMJHL team to win the championship since 1971.
"That was one of my greatest feelings," he says. "That's one of the hardest trophies to win, because you play three years average, maybe four years of junior and you've got so many teams trying to win that trophy, so it was a big thing. Especially in Quebec, since it's been twenty five years I think, since the Quebec league won the Cup...so it was a real big thing for us and...the province of Quebec."
Given the luck his teams have had recently, will Binghamton win the Calder? Or maybe Goneau should be in New York?
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