Marc-Andre Fleury is the dauphin, next in the regal line of Quebec goaltenders. If the Pittsburgh Penguins are correct in their assessment of his potential—they traded up in June to make the 18-year-old Fleury the No. I pick in the draft—he will be the foundation of their post- Mario Lemieux teams. Fleury's game is a blend of solid technique and quick lateral movement, leavened with poise and a smidgen of attitude. As a 15-year-old rookie with Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Fleury became furious in one game when he was yanked after giving up two goals. When he got to the bench he was told to keep the team's chart of shots allowed, but instead he turned the paper over and composed a note to his coach—"I am not a statistician. I am a goalie"—and signed his name.
"He's a gamer," Phoenix Coyotes goalie coach Beno�t Allaire says of the 6'1", 172-pound Fleury, only the second netminder taken first in the modern draft, following Rick DiPietro's selection in 2000 by the New York Islanders. "You could see in the World Junior Championships that he loves pressure."
Fleury made his reputation at that tournament last winter, at the start not as a butterfly or a stand-up goalie but as a sit-down netminder. That's the position the virus-stricken Fleury was in for the 24 hours before his country needed him. After David LeNeveu allowed a pair of soft goals 74 seconds apart in the second period of a round-robin match against Finland, Canada coach Marc Habscheid lifted him for the wan, weak Fleury. In his first appearance Fleury stopped all 13 shots he faced as Canada won 5-3. Fleury played every minute in the last two games that followed. Not even a 3-2 loss to Russia in the final could taint the performance by Fleury, who had a 1.57 goals-against average and was named the tournament's outstanding goalie.
Fleury was raised in Sorel (pop. 21,800), about an hour north of Montreal, in a house that was built by his father, Andr�, a carpenter. Marc-Andr� and his friends played in the cornfield that abuts his family's property. Seemingly half his relatives live on the next street, and as he walked by the houses with a visitor over the summer, Fleury pointed them out, 'Aunt, aunt, cousin...."
In his first three years of organized hockey, beginning at age seven, Fleury played in rented equipment. He did not own new pads until he was 13 or a new goalie glove until he was 14, but his parents were able to send him to Francois Allaire's goalie school in the summers of 1996 and '97 Fleury learned the butterfly technique but still mixes in stand-up, cobbling together a style that most closely resembles the New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur.
Fleury was impressive in training camp and will get a shot at being the Penguins' No. I goalie. He could be the dauphin that saves Pittsburgh.