ow does a young man from Grenoble, France, find his way to Commerce Boulevard in Attleboro?
With hockey skates and a hockey stick.
At 20 years of age, Louis Boudon has miles of experience on his skates, beginning his journey at the rink 15 minutes from his hometown and traveling through Europe with French national youth teams and now across North America.
Boudon has ranked among the top-10 scorers in the North American Hockey League since the season began, skating for the New England Sports Village-based Northeast Generals.
Boudon already established the single-season assist record for the Generals and will shatter the career-scoring record as well — becoming the first General to surpass 100 points.
Boudon has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Lake Superior State in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
“The skating part was pretty natural, but the shooting was not,” Boudon said after a practice session with the Generals at the Sports Village. “I had growth issues when I was younger, I was really small. I was weak, so I couldn’t shoot the puck.”
The native of Grenoble stands just 5-foot-11 and weighs in at 175 pounds, but his playmaking skills endeared him to NAHL scouts, General Manager Bryan Erikson recalled.
“Our director of Midwest scouting (Cory Hunt) put the bug in my ear early that Louis was the player we were looking for — he sure was right,” Erikson said. “He came over from France and did it the old fashioned way — going through junior hockey ranks from Tier 3 to Tier 2 to Division 1. We were lucky to get him.
“He’s an NHL-caliber player — it wouldn’t surprise me that he played in the NHL, but would also have success. Some kids never get to that level, but he is such an elite worker. He’s well-built, he’s physical, he kills penalties, he’s on the power play, he does everything well.”
And if Boudon doesn’t do something well, he spends three hours the next day working on it, Erikson said.
“He’s truly one of those guys who makes everybody better,” the GM said. “Whether he’s distributing the puck, whether he’s shooting the puck, he gets guys to go to the right areas, he gets guys into buying to play at his level. He elevates everybody that he plays with.
“He’s a special kid, he’s a wonderful kid — very well-spoken, he’s exceptionally bright on the ice and off the ice as well. He’s kind of like a third coach. We’re excited to see what the next step for him will be.
“He has been everything we had hoped he would be and a lot more.”
The first line center (between Slovakia’s Aurel Naus and Belarus’ Sviatoslov Kuchynski) had a nine-game scoring streak (three goals, nine assists) in December and took a seven-game scoring streak (three goals, 11 assists with a single-game career best five against New Jersey) into the second week of the new year.
The Generals had one of the best turnarounds in North American League history last season with Boudon skating his first full season, totaling nearly a point per game with 49 points (17 goals, 32 assists) in 51 games.
Currently, Boudon is at better than a point per game with 16 goals and 38 assists for 41 points in 44 games. He has points in 12 of the past 16 outings, ranking among the top 10 scorers in the league.
After winning just four games during their 2016-17 debut season, the Generals have won 29 games and posted 63 points — a 51-point improvement.
“Louis has come in and worked his tail off since day one,” Generals coach Joe Lovell said, adding that Boudon started the season in “tremendous fashion,” leading the league in points through 15 games with seven goals, 12 assists for 19 points.
“Obviously, when you put up numbers scouts will come and watch you play,” Lovell said. “But Louis is more than his numbers as he works hard and is a great teammate.”
Boudon arrived on Commerce Boulevard having spent the 2016-17 season with the Fraser, Mich.-based Metro Jets of the U.S. Premier League. In 46 games with the Jets, Boudon raised eyebrows among scouts in the stands, totaling 81 points with 38 goals and 43 assists.
Boudon was tabbed the NA3HL MVP, selected as the East Division Forward of the Year and named to the All-NA3HL First All Star Team.
He was raised in the Gallic village of Grenoble (population over 160,000) in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps. It’s where the river Drac joins the Isère, the “Capital of the Alps” due to its size and its proximity to the mountains.
Grenoble hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1968, three decades before Boudon was born.
He said he returns there every summer revisiting family and friends, “sometimes at Christmas too, but only for five days.”
His dad, Jerome, played professional hockey in France, so naturally Boudon experienced many a formative day at the rink.
“I did a bunch of sports when I was younger — skiing, tennis — but I stuck to hockey,” he said. “I started when I was 6 or 7 years old, kind of old because some kids start when they are 2. But, it was harder to access the rink, it was harder to skate during the summer.
“In France, when you start young, everybody grows up and you keep playing hockey. I was pretty good, I was having fun playing.
“I could always skate pretty well and I would stick-handle and practice in the driveway. We still have the net up! I broke only one window, though. I even use it now, during the summer when I’m back over there.”
Jets’ coach Justin Quenneville was not surprised by the numbers that Boudon accumulated.
“Louis is a special player and truly put in the work available here to develop his skill set,” Quenneville said. “He has a bright future and the Generals’ staff did a great job recognizing his potential early last year.
“Louis is a great example of the opportunities available at the NA3HL and NAHL, and now he gets to play NCAA Division I hockey.”
“Our goal as an organization is to put players in a position to showcase their talents,” Erikson added. “It is great that Louis received his commitment so early. We have a ton of guys that will follow him soon. We look forward to watching Louis and his teammates continue to develop this year.”
The Generals qualified for the NAHL playoffs for the first time last season and took a stunning 2-1 lead on No. 1 seeded Philadelphia in the opening round of the Robertson Cup best-of-five series.
“I think the team last year exceeded all of our expectations,” Lovell said. “Not just because of the number of wins we had, but the number of (NCAA) commitments we had. The guys embraced the challenge and wanted to make a statement that our first year was behind us.”
The Generals sent 13 players into the NCAA ranks last season, seven to Division I and the rest to Divisions II and III.
“I think it goes to show what a great job the NAHL and our teams do,” Lovell said. “It is a testament to the talent level in the league and the coaches placing a priority and emphasis on developing their players to a point where they are becoming ready for the NCAA.”
In addition to Boudon, the Generals have a half-dozen skaters already committed to NCAA Division 1 programs — goalie David Fessenden of Parker, Colo. (University of Alabama-Huntsville), forward Brady Gaudette of Braintree (Maine), forward John Jaworski of Grinnell, Iowa (Sacred Heart), forward Clark Kerner of Kansas City (UMass Lowell), defenseman Tim Lovell of Hingham (Ohio State), forward Connor Marshall of Parkland, Fla. (Brown) and forward Trevor Smith of Raleigh, N.C. (Vermont).
“The number of commitments helps our recruitment process,” Lovell said. “It goes to show how far our program has come in a very short time. It is neat to follow their careers as they leave us and develop as hockey players and young men.”
Boudon began gaining notoriety with the Villard-de-Lans under-18 team in the 2012-13 season (16 points in 17 games) and continuing through 2013-14 (42 points in 17 games) and in 2014-15 (34 points in 18 games).
Boudon moved up to France’s Under-18 “A” team for the 2015-16 season.
“I always wanted to leave my house, to experience hockey and do studies (education),” Boudon explained, who is being housed for a second year by a family in Plymouth. “I wanted to play college hockey. In France, you cannot do that — you have to pick one or the other at some point.
“The only way to do that was to play college hockey, so I decided to leave. I ended up in Michigan and I came here (after a Tier 1 tryout for junior players in Corpus Christi, Texas in 2016).
“In France, when you’re 13, they start tabbing you (for junior teams). It’s like the same players, from the time you’re 13 until you’re 20 years old.
“If you want to play somewhere else, they get mad at you. They told me that last year for the World Juniors. I would love to play for the (French) National Team. But, that’s not my dream. My dream was to play college hockey. I just knew that college hockey in America was the spot to be.”
Boudon didn’t know Hockey East from the WCHA back in France, and it was just as hard to follow the NHL. But since arriving on Commerce Boulevard in late February of 2017 for spot duty with the Generals, Boudon has taken in Boston University and Boston College hockey games as well as Bruins, Red Sox and Celtic games.
“Now that I’m here I follow Hockey East,” he said. “When I went to my first BC-BU game a couple of years ago, that’s when I really knew that I wanted to play college hockey — the energy, the atmosphere was fun, it was awesome.”
Boudon said his favorite team in the NHL is the Washington Capitals, and ripped off a sweatshirt to display a red-white-and-blue team T-shirt. That’s because his favorite player is Alex Ovechkin, the 33-year-old Russian who is regarded as one of the NHL’s all-time greats. Ovechkin has better than a point-per-game scoring average with over 1,000 career points.
“It’s good to look at points and all that, but it’s been good for me to see my development,” said Boudon, who arrived in North America at age 17.
And that development even extends to adapting to American culture, learning the English language (“I watched a lot of movies”) and acquiring a taste for his now favorite food staple, hamburgers.
“The first month was really hard — sometimes I have to think in French first before I can speak!” he said. “I’ve noticed my improvement from year to year, I’m not a big guy. I was anxious to come to the Generals. I focus on what I need to improve on, I have progression points.
“I’ve always played center, I like to pass the puck and make plays. I read the game pretty well which allows me to make these plays.”