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St. Albert's Marc Lajoie signed to amateur tryout with Edmonton Oilers affiliate team

“It's obviously a good opportunity for me to kind of get my feet wet and see what pro hockey is all about,” Lajoie said in an interview from Bakersfield, California.

St. Albert-raised hockey player Marc Lajoie may soon get his first taste of professional action as the 20-year-old defenceman was signed to an amateur tryout (ATO) by the Edmonton Oilers' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate team, the Bakersfield Condors, on April 1.

Lajoie played with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL) this past season in what was his last year of WHL eligibility. The former St. Albert Raider closed-out his junior hockey career with his best offensive season to date, registering 26 goals and 32 assists in 68 regular season games with the Oil Kings.

His 58 total points was enough for second place in team scoring, although his 26 goals did lead the team. Prior to the 2023-2024 season with the Oil Kings Lajoie played for the Tri-City Americans — a WHL team based in Kennewick, Washington, U.S. — for four years, and for whom he scored 26 total regular season goals, which he managed to match in just one season in Edmonton.

Lajoie's offensive leadership this past season might not have been enough to earn the Oil Kings a spot in the WHL playoffs, but his stellar play did catch the eye of the Bakersfield Condors, with whom Lajoie will spend an indefinite amount of time with under the ATO contract.

“It's obviously a good opportunity for me to kind of get my feet wet and see what pro hockey is all about,” Lajoie said in an interview from Bakersfield, California. “The first few days here have been good, it's been nice to meet the guys and get adjusted to the pro pace of it.”

“I'm not too sure what the plan is or how long I'm going to be here for, so I'm just trying to take it day by day, and right now I'm just trying to learn as much as I can in the time that I am here.”

Lajoie said that although he just finished an incredible offensive season, his offense isn't his main priority in Bakersfield.

“I don't know if I really see myself being an offensive guy at the pro level,” he said. “I've always kind of been a more defence-first defenceman that's hard to play against.”

“This year I was able to break out a bit offensively, so I think it is something that now I am able to contribute but I don't see that as being my main priority or focus if I do end up playing pro.”

Besides the St. Albert Raiders, Lajoie also played minor hockey with the Northern Alberta XTreme, a sports academy team based in Devon. During the 2018-2019 season with the XTreme's U18 team, Lajoie played with fellow St. Albertans Matthew Savoie and Zack Ostapchuk, who both made their National Hockey League debuts earlier this year.

Another teammate of Lajoie's from the 2018-2019 season was goaltender Connor Ungar of Calgary, who was also signed to an ATO by the Condors on the same day.

“We're staying together in a hotel right now,” Lajoie said of Ungar. “It's nice to be able to reconnect with him and have a familiar face here.”

Ungar, 22, was actually signed to a two-year entry level contract by the Edmonton Oilers last month, however, since the contract doesn't start until next season, signing an ATO with the Condors will potentially allow him to see some pro-level action before summer.

Ungar appeared between the pipes for four different WHL teams between 2019 and 2023, and he most recently played for the Brock University Badgers in Ontario, where he won 20 of the 26 games he appeared in against U SPORTS competition while holding a save percentage of 0.932 and a goals against average of 2.15.

Besides Ungar, Lajoie joins another past teammate with the Condors in fellow St. Albert product Carter Savoie — Matthew's older brother — who has registered 19 points in nearly 60 regular season games in his second full season in Bakersfield.

“I grew up playing with Carter... and a couple of other guys so there are some familiar faces already, which helped the transition a bit,” Lajoie said.

On April 3, with a 4-1 win over the Tuscon Roadrunners, the Condors punched their ticket to the Calder Cup playoffs. Neither Lajoie or Ungar saw the ice in the team's first game since both were signed, although Ungar did serve as the back-up goalie.

The Condors are set to play back-to-back games against the Calgary Wranglers, the Calgary Flames affiliate team, this weekend on Friday and Saturday, after which they'll have just five more regular season games before playoffs.

As expected, Lajoie said the end goal of playing with Bakersfield is to earn a contract for next season, but “my focus right now is taking it day by day and trying to learn as much as I can.”

“There's some veteran guys here that have played a lot of games in the NHL, so I'll watch them and see how they handle themselves not only on the ice but off the ice, and take in as much of the information that they provide me as I can.”

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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