There are countless stories of young hockey players leaving home to pursue
their career dreams in other places.
Most of those usually involve leaving one area of their country for
another, but usually in the same general region. The chronicles of those
crossing an ocean and traveling nearly 6,000 kilometres to do so are unique
and certainly rare.
Enter Théo Rochette.
You may not have heard the name, but that’s likely about to change – and
When most 16-year-olds are more worried about which video game to purchase
or passing their driver’s test, Rochette made a much more important life
It involved leaving his home in Switzerland to accelerate his hockey plans
of one day playing in the National Hockey League.
As a dual citizen with a strong lineage to Canada, Rochette made the choice
to leave Switzerland, a place that’s nurtured his hockey path the last five
years for Major Junior this season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“I told my dad I want to go to junior in Canada,” says Rochette, who speaks
three languages: French, English and German. “There are more scouts and the
door is more open to get to the NHL.”
“Here in Canada, it’s the best junior (hockey) in the world. It’s pretty
cool. It’s a great advantage.”
His decision to relocate to Canada to play junior hockey is not exclusive,
as European players have used the Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL, OHL and
WHL) as a potential passage for career advancement for decades.
Where his transfer takes a distinct turn is his further decision to leave
behind his international involvement in Swiss hockey to play for Canada on
the world stage.
Born in Switzerland, Rochette moved to Canada at an early age and lived in
Quebec for four years (six to 10 years old) before the family (including
siblings) moved back to Switzerland.
His father, Stéphane, is a Quebec native, but has spent countless years in
Switzerland refereeing at various levels. His mother, Christine, was born
in France but has a lived most of her life in Switzerland.
Armed with those facts, it’s clear in understanding his connective roots to
both Europe and North America. And as such, he wasn’t far off Hockey
Canada’s scope when it comes to highly-skilled players with a potential to
play for this country.
“We’re aware of dual citizens,” says Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen.
“We actively look to see who they are. We don’t want to take players away
from other programs, but we were open to this. He’s played hockey in Canada
before. And the family approached us (about playing for Canada).”
It wasn’t long before the ask became a fit for both parties; Rochette tugged on a different style of red and white to represent Canada on the
international stage as a member of Canada White at the 2018 World Under-17
“We were looking for a commitment to play for Canada long term,” adds
McEwen. “We didn’t want a springboard for other federations. When that
happened, we were comfortable in pursuing it.”
As one of the 66 players selected to the three-team Canadian contingent,
Rochette was the only one that didn’t attend Canada’s national under-17
development camp last summer, although his absence was not without sound
In what was presumably his last international appearance for Switzerland,
Rochette was competing at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer and
Edmonton, Alta., where he recorded a goal and three points in six games.
That commitment conflicted with the U17 camp, but ultimately it didn’t
diminish his chances of making the final roster.
“Our information was that he was a really good player,” says McEwen. “Then
when we saw him at [the Hlinka Gretzky Cup] it proved to be correct. He was
an underage at that event, and he played really well.”
Through what appears to be a seamless hockey transition in moving from
Switzerland to Canada, what Hockey Canada is getting is a highly skilled
and competitive player who could be a staple for this nation at future
“He has the ability to possess the puck and he can create offence,” says
McEwen. “Our philosophy in the program is to try and foster that skill. He
really fits the mold in how we want to play. He has skill and the ability
to make plays. He skates really well, plays fast and can process the game.
He can make decisions while playing with pace. He fits really well in what
we’re looking for.
“When I watched him in Chicoutimi he plays real good minutes. He didn’t
look intimidated. He played and handled it really well. And they use him in
all offensive situations.”
Should Rochette continue on the trajectory he’s expected, he could follow
along a pathway of an already well established, but also teenaged, Swiss
player in Nico Hischier, a budding superstar with the New Jersey Devils who
was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
“I don’t know him personally,” says Rochette. “There’s a lot of people that
I know that know him pretty well. But I like his style and how he plays. I
watch a lot of players but he’s one of the players I watch a lot.”
Based on his skill and potential, could Rochette provide a similar
attraction to NHL scouts and administrators when he becomes draft eligible
Sure, says McEwen, but there’s still plenty of hockey to be played.
“When you compare him to his peers, there’s a really good chance for him to
be a high draft pick. The success he’s having in the QMJHL; he’s producing.
I think with the notoriety and production so far he has a chance to be a
high draft pick.”
Until then, he’s now Canada’s to nurture.