Victoria Royals defenceman Laroque selected in fourth round of NHL draft by San Jose Sharks

Defenceman Gannon Laroque of the Victoria Royals was one of the second-day surprises in the NHL draft on Saturday. He went a lot sooner than projected, 103rd overall in the fourth round to the San Jose Sharks, among 33 WHL players selected.

The six-foot-two, 200-pound blueliner from Edmonton was ranked the 219th North American skater for the draft by Central Scouting. He had a goal and six assists for seven points in 21 games in the abbreviated 2021 WHL season. “I developed a lot in the mini bubble,” Laroque said of his rookie WHL season played in a double bubble in Kelowna and Kamloops.

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The Sharks certainly think so.

Largely unheralded, Laroque rose in the bubble to become a Royals top-pairing defenceman as he registered the most minutes played for the club.

“I’m a 200-foot defenceman who is physical and an agitator and with a big shot on offence,” said Laroque, when he was listed by Central Scouting. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the Victoria community in the more normal seasons ahead.”

Royals GM and head coach Dan Price says Laroque “has a straight-out work ethic and is a two-way player who moves the puck well and is extremely physical, especially in pushing along the boards and around the net.”

Ellis Rickwood of the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL was ranked 144th among North American skaters, but was overlooked. The returning forward was tied for second in 2021 BCHL scoring with 13 goals and 30 points in 20 games.

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