You don't often see a fifth round pick targeted as a team's best player by the opposition. But on a line that boasted 64th overall selection Dennis Yan, it was 125th overall draftee Dmytro Timashov who took the nightly Gatineau Olympiques punishment as his Shawinigan Cataractes paid a visit to the Robert Guertin Centre on Thursday night.
The Olympiques are a tough team to play against, playing out of a rink whose deafening music is matched by an aggressive crowd. And without Cataractes captain and first round pick Anthony Beauvillier in the lineup, it was the team's newest addition, a 5-9 Swede drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the later rounds of the 2015 NHL Draft despite being named QMJHL Rookie of the Year, who received all of that energy from the home team.
After all, Timashov had registered seven points in his first two games with the Cataractes ahead of their matchup against the Olympiques. He has fit in nicely.
"It's a good team and everybody takes good care of me," Timashov said. "A lot of good chemistry and the boys are just like a family here."
Teammate and top 2016 NHL Draft prospect Samuel Girard echoed Timashov's sentiment, pointing to him as a perfect fit and "great player."
"I think he's happy to be here with us because we want to go all the way," Girard said.
"He's a good kid, very good kid," added head coach Martin Bernard, noting that Timashov's Russian roots (he was born in Ukraine, but represents Sweden internationally) have allowed him to quickly become close friends with Yan, who is a dual Russian citizen with the United States. "They feel very comfortable and he's very enthusiastic to be with the team."
And while the team from Hull often got the better of Timashov physically -- he could be seen hunched over after one of many big hits in the third period -- it was clear that he wasn't going to shy away from the the pressure, taking two minor penalties (one of which was out of frustration) and initiating contact of his own whenever he could.
Confident with the puck on his stick, Timashov seemed to rise to the occasion and carried the puck at defenders and forecheckers without hesitation throughout the game, finding linemate Danny Moynihan in the slot four times.
It's that ability to find his teammates that separates Timashov from other highly skilled players.
"He's a playmaker, he's a huge playmaker," Bernard said. "He sees a lot of plays that nobody sees and with a good guy like Beauvillier, Yan, or (Alexis) D'Aoust who can score goals he can feed that kind of player."
With the game tied 1-1 in overtime, that playmaking finally paid off, as Timashov found Yan on a backhand saucer pass in the neutral zone for a breakaway goal and the 2-1 win.
"I can bring offence to the team and make plays and help the team to win," he said. "I want to make other players around me better and make passes to them so that they can score -- that's what I'm good at."
After a standout performance with Team Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship (WJC), where Sweden was the only undefeated-in-regulation team after group play only to finish without a medal, Timashov isn't going to let regular season success on the East Division leading Cataractes sway his expectations.
"We started good and we have a lot of confidence but we lost against Finland," he said, pausing. "I think the refs were a little bit on their side, they had eight penalties in their favour but they won because they scored on the powerplay and we didn't."
Despite the heartbreaking semifinal loss, Timashov enjoyed the tournament.
"It was a great experience playing against the best players in the world my age," he recalled. "Lots of fun."
And while Timashov didn't have any direct conversations with Leafs management after registering seven points in seven games at the WJC, he's aware that he impressed.
"I heard a little bit," he said. "You read a little bit of the stuff that you get tagged on but that's the only thing I've heard."
With 61 points in 32 games on a team poised to go deep in the QMJHL playoffs, he's going to start hearing his name a little bit more.