BROSSARD – With only a handful of games left to make an impression, one Habs rookie is working hard to carve out a spot on next year’s roster.
To say that Frédéric St-Denis road to the NHL was a hard one would be an understatement. Never drafted into the league and forced to prove himself during stints in the QMJHL, CIS, ECHL and the AHL before finally slipping on a Canadiens jersey on Nov. 16, 2012, the Greenfield Park native is doing everything in his power to keep the bleu-blanc-rouge on his back for a long time to come.
“To be able to play in Montreal, in front of my family, my girlfriend and my friends was an incredible moment for me and a chance to thank everyone who continued to support me throughout the years,” expressed St-Denis, the Wednesday morning after playing his 12th game as a Hab.
Over the course of his three call-ups from Hamilton, the 26 year old’s steady presence on the blue line clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by his coaches who continue to use him in a variety of scenarios. St-Denis logged his highest ice time yet in Tuesday night's tilt against the Panthers, playing a total of 18:15 – including 2:28 on the penalty kill – over three periods of action.
“I think I played a good game. The coach seemed to have confidence in me. I ended up playing on both the power play and the penalty kill and I felt like that really helped my confidence,” shared St-Denis, who also pitched in on the scoresheet, assisting on fellow rookie Louis Leblanc’s second-period marker. “I’ve known both Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur for about two years now. Having known them for a while, it’s always a good feeling to know that they think I’m playing well. There are obviously still a couple of games left in the regular season, so it’s going to be important to keep working hard and keep my game sharp.”
St-Denis need not look far, should he find himself in need of inspiration, knowing a few stars already in the Canadiens’ dressing room took similar paths in reaching their goals – including his personal role model, Josh Gorges.
“That’s a great compliment for me. It makes me want to keep doing my own job even better, knowing that it might help someone else get to where they want to be,” responded Gorges, also an undrafted NHLer, before turning the attention back on the rookie.
“I’ve liked him from the time I first saw him play. He does everything you ask of him and he’s the kind of guy that’s going to come in, work hard, win his puck battles, block shots and he never complains,” continued Gorges on his teammate’s determination to succeed. “He’s a character guy and he’s always going to keep fighting and scratching to get to where he wants to be. It hasn’t been an easy road for him, but he never stopped and I think that’s a great testament to who he is.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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