At only eight years old, Boris Katchouk made an immediate impression on his lacrosse coach Steve MacGregor. It was the summer of 2006 and MacGregor had driven his Kitchener-Waterloo Braves tyke team to Owen Sound, Ont., for the opening game of the rep season.
Katchouk, now a key player on Canada's world junior hockey team, was playing at the rep level for the first time. Most tyke lacrosse games are low-scoring affairs, but Katchouk had seven goals to lead Kitchener-Waterloo past Owen Sound 11-10.
More than a decade later, MacGregor still can't believe the feat.
"He was an amazing athlete. A terrific athlete," MacGregor said from Kitchener, Ont. "If I can recall correctly, he scored 102 goals that year. He was just one of those kinds of athletes that was very, very special. You knew right from then."
Katchouk was a dual sport athlete at the time, splitting his time between lacrosse and hockey. A few years later, he had to choose a sport to focus on and hockey won out.
He went on to reach the Ontario Hockey League level and has 86 goals and 76 assists in 171 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Katchouk, from Waterloo, Ont., was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
He also has four points (2-2) at the world junior hockey championship in Buffalo, N.Y., and was one of the anchors for the Canadian offence in the preliminary round. Canada will face Switzerland on Tuesday in quarter-final play.
Although he hasn't played competitive lacrosse in years, Katchouk insists that it has been an important influence on his hockey career.
"It's all the hard work that lacrosse has brought into my game, always having a nose for finding those small areas," said Katchouk. "It's a creative game and I think I've brought that into hockey too. Some of the hockey sense I've got is from lacrosse, making some of those plays you don't usually see."
MacGregor has been watching the world junior tournament over the last week and sees the lacrosse influence in Katchouk's game too.
The 55-year-old coach pointed to a goal Katchouk scored Friday against the United States on a mid-air deflection of a Jake Bean point shot. That kind of hand-eye co-ordination is invaluable in hockey but an absolute necessity in lacrosse.
Katchouk's determination to drive to the net and score were skills he developed in his lacrosse days. MacGregor remembers one game when Katchouk carried the ball through a team's entire defence and scored on a behind-the-back shot before the referee called it back on a crease violation.
"Same shift, the ball goes all the way back to our end, he picks it up, he runs through the whole team again, throws another backhand into the top corner," said MacGregor, chuckling at the memory. "Just as you would write it in a textbook on how to throw a backhand.
"And you've got to remember, he was only eight years old."
Katchouk's other major athletic influence is his mother Elena Toumanova, who competed in speedskating for the Soviet Union at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. She raised Boris and his two brothers alone after his father died when he was one.
To this day she keeps him focused on and off the ice.
"My mom always motivates me and tries to give me some tips," said Katchouk. "It's cool because she was fast, she could sprint for long distances and for a long time. Her cardio was just excellent, so I've tried to embrace that."
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