PHILADELPHIA – Donald Audette was in Philadelphia on official team business, but the 2014 NHL Entry Draft was also personal for the former Habs forward.
While he was attending the draft as a member of the Canadiens’ scouting staff where he scours Quebec and the Maritimes looking for teenage talent, Audette wasn’t seated at his usual spot around the team’s table on the second day of the weekend. Instead, he was watching from the stands at Wells Fargo Center, supporting his son, Daniel, who was selected by the Habs with the 147th-overall pick in Round 5.
“My dad spent the draft with me. It was a special day for me so I was really happy he was able to be there,” shared Daniel, who led the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix with 78 points in 2013-14. “He told me to enjoy the moment. He was drafted late in his year, too, and he told me it was still one of the best days of his life. It’s the same for me today.”
Happy to watch the action from the audience instead of the draft floor for his son’s big day, the elder Audette admits it was more difficult sitting through his son’s draft than his own, when he was selected in the ninth round by Buffalo in 1989.
“Since we weren’t picking until 87th today, [director of amateur scouting] Trevor [Timmins] told me to go see Daniel and spend the morning with him,” explained Audette, who had texted his son earlier on Saturday to wish him luck. “I saw him starting to get nervous and I thought it was important to be there to support him. Family is family.”
Despite Audette’s link to the organization, his spot on the Canadiens’ draft list came as a result of his on-ice performance, not his last name. Finishing first on the Phoenix and 15th in the QMJHL’s scoring race, Audette ended the season ranked 75th by NHL Central Scouting.
“Every time we talked about Daniel at draft meetings, I left the room,” mentioned Audette, who played 14 seasons in the NHL, including three with the Canadiens. “Today is his day. Throughout his career, he’s earned accolades on his own merit and this is another one of those cases. He earned this.”
While joining the family business may come with added pressure, growing up in his father’s shadow for the past 18 years has helped the younger Audette learn to carve out his own name in the hockey world.
“He grew up fighting through adversity. He was always ‘Donald Audette’s son’. Now he’s making a name for himself. He moved through the ranks himself and he got himself where he is today,” added the proud papa. “Pressure is nothing new for him. Yesterday he told me, ‘Dad, don’t get involved’ and we’re all professional enough to not let that happen. We’ll see what the future has in store now.”
Just hearing his name called at the draft made it a special afternoon for Daniel, but the fact that the voice at the end of the microphone was coming from the Canadiens’ table made it even more memorable for the Blainville, QC native.
“I’ve lived in Montreal my whole life. The Canadiens have been my favorite team since I was a little kid. This is really special for me,” admitted Audette, who added that he hopes to pattern his game after Colorado’s Matt Duchene. “He’s fast and he can create things offensively. That’s sort of my style, too. I’m a fast skater and I like to take my time with the puck. I’m more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but I can put the puck in the net, too.”
Now that he’s officially part of an NHL organization, Audette is ready to start proving the Canadiens right as soon as possible. He has the skill to take the next step but he also has a solid role model on his speed dial ready to offer up advice whenever he needs it.
“My dad has talked about it with me a lot. He tells me all the time about the sacrifices he had to make to get to the NHL.” explained Audette. “He’s helped me a lot. Now I know what to expect.”