'Hockey Paradis' in Syracuse
Philippe Paradis describes it as one of his best memories.
Surrounded by friends and family at the Bell Centre in Montreal, not far from his hometown of Normandin, Paradis was selected 27th overall by Carolina Hurricanes in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
As Paradis made his way to the stage, one TV analyst mentioned his height, 6-1, and his ability to shoot the puck – 95.7 mph in the hardest shot competition during the CHL Top Prospects Game.
"A solid up and down player," one analyst said.
"This guy can shoot a puck through a wall," another said.
Four years, three trades, and more than 100 professional games later, Paradis hardly resembles the kid standing on stage at the 2009 draft. The Syracuse Crunch forward's hair has grown out past his shoulders, he’s ditched the glasses, and leaves his face scruffy.
But the biggest transformation has been on the ice, where Paradis has excelled a role that is unusual for former first-round picks. Although he has chipped in nine points in 27 games since being traded to the Tampa Bay organization late last season, Paradis is mainly used to provide energy through his grit and big hits.
"You do whatever you need to do to get up there," Paradis said of making the NHL.
"It's always good to be on the scoreboard, but I'm not going to force anything," he added. "I just keep it simple and get as much ice time as I can."
Paradis has quickly earned the trust of Crunch coach Rob Zettler, who believes Paradis has improved as a hockey player since coming to Syracuse.
"He's made it so I can play him any time and play him a lot, and I've got no problem putting him out there against whoever," Zettler said. "He brings that physicalness that we love."
Call it Hockey Paradis for Syracuse.
Paradis has also shown he can chip in during big moments. In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, he recorded a hat trick in a 7-0 rout to eliminate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
"He's got a heck of a shot, and he's not afraid to get to the front of the net," Zettler said.
"Just keep it simple and play my game," Paradis said. "Play good defense, and offense is a bonus. Just keep it simple."
Paradis' progress since he was drafted extends beyond his look and play.
"I'm older now; I was only 18 back then," Paradis said. "My English might be better, too."
Pictured: Paradis celebrates his third goal vs the Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins in the 2013 AHL playoffs.