If you read the headline in the press release issued by the Allen Americans it says, “Americans Add Young, Skilled Players, Courtnall And Roy To The Roster” and there are a lot of similarities between these players. They are both 6’3″ and weigh about 210 pounds. They were both drafted by the NHL with Courtnall going in the 7th round to the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2007 and Roy to the Calgary Flames in the 5th round in 2013.
Both come to Allen with the hope of getting to the next level as Courtnall has 123 AHL games over the last three seasons and Roy was just released from the Calgary Flames NHL rookie camp. Courtnall will be starting his fourth professional season. Roy will be starting his first professional season having played the last five years as a junior for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
But, the back stories on Eric Roy (pronounced like Roy Rogers not Patrick Roy) and Justin Courtnall are very different.
Eric was born in a small community (Beauval) of around 750 in northwest Saskatchewan. It is a sparsely populated area about 600 miles north of the Montana border where the average low temperature in January is ten below zero and the average high is ten above zero. He didn’t grow up with a rink in his backyard — there was not even a rink in his hometown. That should have discouraged anyone from playing hockey but his parents and relatives would drive him to the nearest rink which was 90 miles away to practice and play games. Eric left home at the age of 14 to play hockey and has spent the last five years playing junior hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Eric is of Metis ancestry. The Metis Nation is one of three Aboriginal peoples in Canada with a population of near 400,000. Eric was the first Metis to play in the WHL and was also the first to be drafted by the NHL.
When you read all of the scouting reports about Eric before and after he was drafted you get a picture of a skilled offensive player that needs to continue to work on the defensive part of his game to make it to the next level. Here are few quotes from various scouting reports:
– “An impressive mix of menacing size and fluid skating ability that is impossible to miss when he is on the ice”
– “A strong puck handler that is able to corral tough passes and make solid outlet passes”
– “A big defender with good offensive ability and a solid work ethic”
– “He plays with a bit of an edge and has shown he can throw a hard check and isn’t afraid to engage after the whistle”
– “To reach the NHL Eric must continue to improve his overall technical skill level in every aspect of the game and become more consistent in his positional play”
– “Eric Roy possesses tremendous offensive tools. He skates well and also has an above average shot. The advantage with Roy is that his biggest weakness is something that can be taught. His neglect and overall lack of attention paid to the defensive zone can be adjusted and if he is willing to learn, can become a sufficiently executed part of his game”
Eric, who has said in the past the player in the NHL that he tries to model his game after is Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings, will come to Allen with something to prove after just being released by the Calgary Flames organization. He should get plenty of opportunity to show his offensive abilities in the Steve Martinson system along with time on the power play. If he continues to work on the defensive part of his game he could see time in the AHL this season.
Here are Eric’s career stats, according to Elite Prospects:
Meet Justin Courtnall.
Justin is the son of long-time National Hockey League forward Geoff Courtnall and the nephew of Geoff’s younger brother, Russ, also of NHL fame.
Geoff played 17 seasons in the NHL, notching 799 points in 1,049 regular-season games with Boston, Edmonton, Washington, St. Louis and Vancouver and winning the Stanley Cup in 1988 with the Oilers. Russ played 16 years in the NHL, tallying 744 points in 1,029 regular-season games with Toronto, Montreal, Minnesota/Dallas, Vancouver, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles.
Justin, now in his first season with the Allen Americans and fourth as a professional, is quick to credit his family for his success.
“Yeah, they’re definitely one of the main reasons I’ve made it to this point,” he said. “Growing up I always had someone to look up to and always had childhood heroes within my family.” The question is which role model does Justin try to replicate his own game after most? “I think my dad,” said the 24-year-old Courtnall. “I wanted to be exactly like my dad. Growing up, I basically tried to emulate him and become a player that could be in the same category as him. I really watched him. He was obviously my favorite player.”
While having such role models has been extremely influential to Courtnall’s development, the lifestyle of having a father in the NHL isn’t always the easiest one for a family to deal with.
“Growing up with a father who played hockey during the season, you didn’t see him a lot with him being busy and on the road, but it was a lot of fun,” Courtnall said. “He took us to the rink all the time and we grew up around the hockey world. It was definitely a special upbringing and made me who I am today.”
Courtnall was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward played his junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League, and played for his dad in Victoria after Geoff was hired as head coach midway through the 2007-08 season. The team won the BCHL regular-season title in 2009. “It was great. I had a really good time there and learned a lot from my dad,” Courtnall said. “Obviously at times he was harder on me than the other guys, but I kind of expected it and embraced it. I knew he was trying to make me better and I never really got down about it or anything.”
It wasn’t only the head coach who was hard on Courtnall at times. Many players around the league often targeted him simply because of the name on the back of his jersey. “It was tough at times, but I learned to play with it and deal with it,” said Courtnall. “It definitely gives you a thick skin and teaches you how to play with guys coming after you all the time. At times it was almost fun because it was easy to get into the game because someone was always trying to hit you and you had to be on your toes.”
After his four seasons in the BCHL, Justin decided to pursue an opportunity with Boston University. “In their recruiting process, they had just won the national championship,” Courtnall said. “That was definitely a big draw for me because I obviously wanted to win. Being such a well-known program, I knew I had a really solid chance of being turned into a pro there.”
Courtnall spent three years with the Terriers, seeing an increase in production each year. In his junior season, he served as an assistant captain and recorded seven points (four goals and three assists) and 73 penalty minutes in 39 games. Courtnall was then faced with the difficult decision of whether to return for his senior season or pursue a pro career. “I felt that I accomplished everything that could be accomplished in the role that was given to me on the team,” said Courtnall. “If I wanted to try and make it to the NHL, my best option was to move on.”
In 2012, Justin signed with the Providence Bruins, but played in only five AHL games. He spent the majority of 2012-13 with South Carolina of the ECHL, tallying nine points and 92 penalty minutes in 44 games. Since the 2012-13 season, Courtnall has played for three teams in the AHL (Hamilton, Bridgeport, Syracuse) where he has collected 23 points (13G, 10A) and 169 penalty minutes.
While he likes to engage physically, he doesn’t consider himself a heavyweight. “I wouldn’t call myself a heavyweight fighter,” Courtnall said with a grin. “But I’ll stick up for my teammates at any time. I just try to be a team player and if the guys need a little bit of a lift I don’t mind bringing that into my game.”
His team-first attitude and whatever-it-takes approach has allowed Courtnall to find a key role with the Bulldogs. While he continues to chase the NHL dream, there’s no denying that his rich hockey bloodlines and instrumental mentorship with his father have been critical to his success. “Without him coaching me,” Courtnall said, “I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it to the next level.”
Here are Justin’s career stats, according to Elite Prospects:
Eric and Justin play different positions and have taken very different paths to become teammates with the Allen Americans but they share a common goal and that is to show that they are worthy of an opportunity to play in the AHL. With the Steve Martinson system and his history of loaning players along with the championship experience on the team both Eric and Justin will have a great chance to achieve their goals.
DID YOU KNOW: Trevor Ludwig’s dad (Craig) and Justin Courtnall’s uncle (Russ) were teammates on three different teams. Montreal Canadiens (1989-90), Minnesota North Stars (1992-93) and Dallas Stars (1993-95).