"We're pretty tight me and [Giroux], we speak French. I try to help him. He's a smart kid. I don't think you need to teach him too much. He's got everything to be a great player. It's just amazing the way he's playing."
>> Simon Gagne
When one of the elite players in the game says such things about another player, one should open their ears and listen. But it's not as if Simon Gagne is saying something we do not realize. It's not as if Claude Giroux is playing hockey under the cover of night.
He's been good. Damn good, even. Watching the games, we know this. It's not all in the numbers with Giroux, but those aren't bad either. He's really come on lately, tallying six points in his last five games.
He's done it on the top line, which is both impressive and understandable. It's impressive that he's been given the trust this early in his NHL career to play on the top line of one of the deepest offensive teams in the league, but it's also understandable that when playing with Gagne and Mike Knuble, you're going to get a few points.
Perhaps more impressive is that he's put up points on the third line, where he's played most of the time. He's got five points while paired with Scottie Upshall and Darroll Powe and he had a three point game against the Rangers on Sunday while leading that line.
None of his success should be a surprise, however. He's been an incredible player at every level he's played.
In 2005/06, his first year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Giroux was first among rookies in scoring with 39 goals and 164 assists for 103 points. Those are amazing numbers in the NHL, but the Q is a wide open offensive league. Nevertheless, Giroux still led his peers, and that is nothing to frown at.
But many players do not carry QMJHL success onto the professional ranks. Take Dany Roussin, for example. He finished second behind Sidney Crosby in Q scoring in 2004/05, but has yet to crack an NHL lineup, and has been an average ECHL player with the Reading Royals and Bakersfield Condors. Or Alex Bourret, who in 2004/05 tallied 114 points in the Q. He's got 14 points in 37 AHL games this season.
Giroux is different. With almost any other organization, he would've been an NHLer from the start. But as an unproven rookie, he couldn't crack the Flyers ridiculously deep roster and he knew coming into training camp that it would be tough.
"I think there are a lot of good players on this team," Giroux told the media in September. "The lineup is unreal. They have a lot of young, good players, and if I want to make the team I've really got to prove myself."
And boy did he ever prove himself. Giroux didn't just play well with the Phantoms -- he led the AHL in scoring with 17 goals and 17 assists, a total of 34 points in just 32 games.
It was only a matter of time until he got called up, and now he's making his mark. It's an awesome feeling knowing that he's only 16 games into his career. The best of Claude Giroux is still to come.