Back in 2020, the top end of the QMJHL draft was practically a private affair: thanks to some major wheeling and dealing, the Gatineau Olympiques ended up with three of the top four picks and four selections in the top eight. Now those players are poised to make their mark on the 2022 NHL draft and defenseman Tristan Luneau is leading the charge.
The first overall pick in that ‘Q’ draft, Luneau won defensive rookie-of-the-year honors last season while leading the Gatineau blueline with four goals and 18 points in 31 games. “What excites me the most about Tristan is his professionalism,” said coach-GM Louis Robitaille. “The way he approaches the game, the way he respects himself, respects his teammates and respects
the game. He’s a kid who is going to go above and beyond with his preparation.”
On a young team, Luneau played heavy minutes in the first ‘Q’ bubble – in one game against Chicoutimi he skated 30 minutes and was still just 16 at the time. Robitaille acquired future Pittsburgh draft pick Isaac Belliveau from Rimouski just after Christmas in order to lessen Luneau’s workload, and properly developing the team’s young core – which also includes high-scoring winger Antonin Verreault, agitating “pitbull” Samuel Savoie and big, beastly D-man Noah Warren, all picked in the top eight of 2020 – was key for the Olympiques.
“It was important for us to evaluate them individually and see where they were at and what they needed to get to the next level,” Robitaille said. “With Luneau, he’s such a smart player, a dynamic defenseman with really good upside offensively, but he needed to gain maturity in his game. He doesn’t need to be flashy all the time, he can go when needed.”
For Luneau, last season was gratifying, even though the Olympiques were middle-of-the-pack. “It was a really great experience, especially because of the quality of veterans we had,” he said. “They taught us how to play a solid game in the ‘Q’ and it’s easier to make the transition when you have other young players around you, which helped all four of us.”
This summer, Luneau, 17, got more experience when he had the chance to train with Ottawa Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot (both are repped by the Will Sports Group) and other pros in Quebec City. “It forced me to push harder every day,” Luneau said. “I was trying to do as much weight in the gym and run as fast and long as they could. It also taught me what pros do to be as good as they are. They bring so much maturity and fun to the game.”
Luneau, who stands 6-foot-2 and is bulking up his 174-pound frame, is no stranger to putting in work. He shoots 300 pucks a day away from the rink in order to continue improving his shot, something that bothered him during his under-16 days in Trois-Rivieres. He already has more power and accuracy, but there’s no ceiling on self-
improvement and with his talent and drive, Luneau’s potential as a future NHLer is high.