No. 25: Max Lajoie (Reader rank: 29, Last year: N/A)
It’s time to kick off this year’s edition of the Top 25 Under 25! (If you’re interested in comparing, you can check out last year’s here.) We’re going to count down five players a week, right up until the obvious number one choice is revealed on September 2nd!
Clocking in just barely is 2016 Ottawa Senators 5th-round pick (133rd overall) Max Lajoie, a left-shooting defenceman currently playing for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. Many draft-watchers were surprised to see the Sens get their hands on the d-man so late, since he’d been picked to go anywhere from the second to the fourth rounds by major publications.
In our piece right after he was drafted, it was noted that in 2014-15, Lajoie finished second in the WHL in points among rookie defencemen. As you can see in the stats table below, his points-per-game went up slightly in his second year. As Callum found out in talking to his coach, that included a span of 18 points in 18 games to end the year while battling mono. Lajoie also evolved to be the team’s top defenceman in all situations: leading, trailing, penalty kill, powerplay.
He may have flown under the radar being a good defenceman on a terrible Swift Current team. Of course, the best player on a bad team can still be bad. But this year, with the Broncos on a serious upswing, Sens fans may get the chance to see a breakout year from another late-round draft pick.