“It’s exciting,” he says. “You grow up as a kid watching the team and going to every game and now you’re on the team playing.”
The 16-year-old, 6’2” defenseman lives in Melbourne, Yarmouth County. He played in the Yarmouth County Minor Hockey Association from Timbits to peewee AAA. After that he played two years of major bantam with the Western Hurricanes. Last year he played major midget with Newbridge Academy.
Asked what he considers to be his greatest improvement on ice in recent years, Boudreau points to his speed and my strength.
“To keep up with older guys, I really pushed to gain that,” he says. “Over the summer I was working out at Jones Gym four or five times a week, and also did training with Tessa (Churchill-Morehouse), the Mariners trainer, once a week on agility,” he says, while also getting on the ice as often as he could.
The Mariners’ training camp wasn’t the only camp Boudreau attended this summer. During the QMJHL draft in June he was drafted in Round 12 by the Victoriaville Tigres, in addition to being the Mariners’ territorial pick. He attended the Tigres camp in August.
“The skill level is high. It’s fast, intense. It was a great experience for me to play with them guys,” he says.
Back on the ice in Yarmouth, Boudreau didn’t let his young age stand in the way.
“I was ready for whatever was ahead and just worked for it,” he says.
Mariners head coach Laurie Barron describes Boudreau as a skilled defenseman who “sees the ice well and has a very good hockey IQ.”
“We started to notice Kaleb in bantam but it was at Newbridge Academy when our scout Matt Anthony contacted Kaleb. That's when we knew he could advance to the next step,” says Barron.
Boudreau is one of three local players on the team – Matt Barron of Yarmouth and Chris Gorham of Clark’s Harbour being the others. Laurie Barron says it’s meaningful to have local players on the roster who have grown up playing in the Yarmouth minor hockey system.
“It's great to have local kids playing in our program. We want local players to aspire to be Mariners. We also want to put a winning program that moves all of our guys to the next level, whether that's NCAA, major junior, CIS, minor pro,” he says. “It’s amazing seeing young kids around the rink, then before you know it they are drafted and trying out. I’ve seen it first hand coaching Chris and Matt in atom, peewee – then bang, they are in your lineup.”
Having played rep hockey out of Yarmouth, Boudreau is familiar with long road trips and the Mariners certainly see their share of long hauls, travelling to rinks in Edmundston, Miramichi, Woodstock, Campbellton and Summerside. Then again, the Newbridge team spent a lot of long hours on the road too.
“We played a lot in the States and in Toronto so our longest bus ride was 26 hours,” Boudreau says.
Boudreau says his family and friends are happy to have him back home. He gives a shout out to his parents Scotty and Deborah for their support.
“They’ve done a lot. They drive me everywhere. They’ve given me everything I’ve needed to get to this level and I’m sure they’ll keep on doing it to get to the next level. I owe so much thanks to them,” he says.
And what is the next level he’s eventually hoping for? Boudreau says he hopes one day to play NCAA at a school in the States.
But that's a goal for another day. For now he’s looking forward to the season ahead and playing hard. He expects it to be a good year for the Mariners, which started out its season winning all four pre-season exhibition games and its two regular season weekend home-openers.
“We’ve got a really good team,” he says. “I think we’ll have a really good season on top of what they did last year.”