“Montreal was there right from the beginning. They showed a lot of faith in me and seemed to like me a lot,” recalled Trotter. “Everyone knows the history of the team so to be part of something so prestigious with the interest they had, and to be back in Canada, it was a perfect fit.”
These days, it would seem so far, so good. A slow start to the season well behind him, he’s been on a roll in the second half, notching 21 points in 29 games since January 1st. He benefitted from an abundance of injuries and call-ups to earn more ice time. Now, he’s earning those minutes on his own.
“Getting more ice time made his work ethic even stronger. He likes to stickhandle a lot but he’s learning to use his teammates more and he’s shooting more,” noted head coach Don Lever. “He also understands that it’s a two-way game and he’s getting in there and competing.”
While on the right track now, it didn’t start out the way he would have hoped.
Five games into his rookie season at the University of Denver in 2005-06, Trotter severed his Achilles tendon. That left the Brandon, Manitoba native without an NHL home at the Entry Draft the following June. Despite the severity of the injury and his undrafted status, he wasn’t giving up.
“I wasn’t sure how I would rebound but I also knew I wasn’t done for good,” said Trotter, who credits support from his team, coach and doctors for helping him stay positive. “It sucks to miss the season because of injury and it’s disappointing to not be drafted. Every player grows up dreaming of draft day; it’s a big deal.
“Instead, you use it as motivation to get better.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Advised to add some meat to his 5-foot-10 frame, Trotter arrived at camp this year with an extra 14 pounds on the scale.
On skates for as long as he can remember, Trotter had plenty of experience in dealing with older and bigger guys as a kid. The fourth of a family of five boys, he and his brothers played hockey often and, as can be expected with boys, taking it lightly was not an option.
“We were a handful,” he said with a laugh. “We got along well and stuck together but were always pretty competitive.”
Competition was also the name of the game at his first NHL training this past September, with a number of prospects looking to make their mark. Being a part of it was almost surreal.
“Seeing guys you’ve grown up watching, guys like Saku and Alex Kovalev, you’re almost in awe,” explained the rookie. “It was a new experience for me but it was pretty cool.”
His determination to follow the advice of Canadiens brass as well as his own stems from what had been instilled in him growing up: work hard and everything will fall into place. In taking on those words of wisdom, Trotter kept his goals for the season simple.
“I didn’t really set anything; I didn’t want my expectations too high,” he admitted. “Obviously, there was a little more motivation after not making the playoffs last season but this year, I just wanted to see where the chips fell.”
If the past is any indication, those chips will likely fall right where Trotter wants them to.
Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com