It's been a little over a decade since he got his start in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but Wichita Thunder forward Thomas Beauregard still remembers another 13-year-old boy, the best in the province.
"He was bigger than everybody else," Beauregard recalled. "He was faster than everybody else. I just remember him because of how much everybody was talking about him."
Twelve years have passed since Beauregard competed head-to-head with Quebec's next big thing. Now he finds himself not only playing on the same team, but on the same line with Alex Bourret.
After Beauregard exits the rink at Intrust Bank Arena following the Thunder's practice on Thursday, Bourret, who also doubles as Beauregard's roommate, is awaiting him in the locker room. The two share a quick conversation in French, then a laugh before taking off for their downtown apartment.
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"It is kind of a funny coincidence," Beauregard said. "I never thought it would happen, but the world changes. Life changes."
Those changes led to their paths crossing in Wichita, with each deciding it was the right fit. It's been mutually beneficial.
Bourret and Beauregard share the team lead in goals scored at 13, and are the top two point-scorers. As a result, the Thunder is in a tie for the Berry Conference lead with Allen entering tonight's game against the Texas Brahmas.
"They really complement each other well out there," Wichita coach Kevin McClelland said. "They've got a great chemistry together. They are elite players in this league, and they're down here trying to open some eyes at the next level."
Bourret, a first-round pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, has scored in nine straight games and carries a four-game goal-scoring streak, reasons why he was chosen as a reserve for the CHL All-Star team on Thursday.
At 25, Bourret and Beauregard still have a chance to advance.
"Usually the window of opportunity is very small," McClelland said. "I think a lot of the time, organizations give up too soon on these guys. Sometimes it just takes them a little longer to come into their own. I think Alex and Beau have really matured here and have become great ambassadors of the game, as far as I'm concerned.
"I think any team that is looking should take a look at these guys. I know there will be a time where they're going to get the call and they'll be able to immediately help an NHL hockey club."
The two formed a bond through their days of playing against each other in their youth. That common ground helped develop a friendship that has helped both through their experiences in Wichita.
"I've always been better at speaking French, so it's been really good to have him around," Bourret said. "He's from back home, so we talk about stuff from back home. We watch TV shows from back home. It's like I'm home since we've lived together."
Sometimes when their favorite late-night television show goes to commercial, their minds begin to drift. They still have hopes of playing in the NHL.
And just for a second, the two boys from Quebec let themselves be carried away by their dreams.
"If we can keep winning and stay in first place and win a championship, it's going to open a lot of eyes in the hockey world," Beauregard said. "Maybe that will be our big break and give us a chance to move up. That's our goal. That's our dream."