Pierre-Antoine Mercier, translated by Matt Cudzinowski | August 6, 2019
It's well documented that the Canadiens' first-round pick in 2019 can score goals, but few people know that he can also predict the future.
MONTREAL - Cole Caufield actually began preparing to play for the NHL's winningest franchise a long time ago.
Even if experts were stunned to see the youngster still available at the No. 15 spot in June's NHL Draft, Caufield wasn't, knowing full well that the selection belonged to Montreal.
Truth be told, the 18-year-old American was ready to don a Canadiens jersey for quite some time. That's why he didn't choose to study Spanish in school like the rest of his friends.
"Our two boys [Cole and his older brother, Brock] chose a French class when they were in Grade 7. They said that if they were drafted by the Canadiens, they'd have to be able to speak the language. They were always joking about it, but they were still preparing themselves in case it happened," explained Cole's mother, Kelly, with a laugh. "They ended up taking four years of French. It's funny because all of their friends chose a Spanish class. You could say that my boys kind of predicted the future."
The Stevens Point, WI native had the opportunity to practice his French skills and meet Canadiens fans for the first time on June 26 when he attended the club's development camp.
According to Kelly, Cole enjoyed the experience. But, he still has to improve his French.
"He told us that he loved his time there. The people he met were really good with him, but he thinks that he still has some work to do on his French," stressed Kelly. "He had a lot of fun and he mentioned that the fans at the Bell Sports Complex were very nice."
Cole's parents kept a close eye on all of the scrimmages on the South Shore. And even if the Canadiens prospect scored 72 goals in just 64 games last season with the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), they relish every single goal like it's his first.
"He still manages to genuinely excite me when he scores a goal. We can see by his reaction that he's so happy," mentioned Kelly. "The smile you saw during development camp is real and authentic. That's his personality."
During his stay with the USNTDP, Caufield took over the top spot in program history with 126 goals in 123 games. An incoming freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Caufield did experience a first at development camp, though, scoring a goal in front of about 100 Habs fans.
Right now, the 5-foot-7, 162-pound right-winger can only imagine the feeling that would come over him down the road when he scores a goal with the Bell Centre faithful looking on.
"I have goosebumps just thinking about it. It's a dream to score a goal in front of Canadiens fans," revealed Caufield. "I'm excited to experience that and see them jump out of their seats to celebrate."
Caufield didn't beat the USNTDP records held by Auston Matthews for most goals in a single season (72 goals) and Phil Kessel for top spot on the program's all-time goals list (126) by chance.
With a devastating shot, Caufield even matched eight-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner, Alex Ovechkin, for the most goals in a single IIHF Under-18 World Hockey Championship.
He scored 14 goals during the most recent tournament in just seven games, accomplishing the feat with one less outing than the Russian superstar.
In other words, the Canadiens hopeful has been a natural goal-scorer from a young age.
"He loves shooting the puck. When he was younger, he had a lot of friends on his team and he would pass the puck a lot. But when he would shoot, he would end up scoring most of the time," recounted Kelly. "It was a real pleasure watching him play when he was younger."
Despite stringing together some phenomenal seasons since he first laced up his skates, Caufield never really paid close attention to his personal stats.
That's a byproduct of lessons learned from his father, Paul.
"My dad always told me to stay humble. He gave me the best advice: Once you're satisfied, it's time to quit," said Caufield. "The most important thing for me is to help my team win hockey games."
But, the first-round pick wouldn't have achieved such remarkable success without dedicating plenty of time to honing his craft.
During their childhood, Cole and Brock spent hours working on their shot in the garage of their Stevens Point home. Cole also took full advantage of his father's workplace to further improve his top asset.
"The fact that my husband was responsible for the local rink was good for Cole and Brock. If they cleaned up the locker rooms, Paul would reward them with some ice time," explained Kelly. "They could work on their shot on the ice and at home. They spent hours just shooting every single day. We never asked them to do it. Cole would always do it on his own. During the Draft, I remembered a story that really speaks to his dedication. We were coming back from a tournament that we'd won. While my husband and I were getting our things out of the car after we arrived home, we could already hear the boys shooting pucks in the basement. They just loved it."
In addition to dedicating hours upon hours to refining his shooting skills, Cole also benefitted from the precious advice of the top goal-scorer in University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point history - his father.
Paul spent four seasons playing for the UWSP Pointers from 1988 to 1992, amassing 126 goals in 148 games.
"His father was a very good hockey player. Sometimes, he'd give Cole and Brock advice, but he never had a lot to say," mentioned Kelly. "He would just give them some tips and the boys put that into practice."
Still to the this day, Cole is looking for new ways to improve his shot - whether on the ice or in the gym.
"I'm still shooting a lot of pucks every day. I'm still trying to improve my shot the best I can. I'm also doing a lot of training to strengthen my wrists and my forearms," said the third-ranked point-getter in USNTDP history. "I want to find new ways to get the puck off my blade even faster. I'm doing a lot of different things to help with that."
A big reveal
Shortly after being selected by the Canadiens, a video dating back to last January surfaced with Caufield playing a starring role. He was surprised to see it go viral so quickly, but he believes it's a positive.
"I do a lot of lip sync, but that was the first time that I was filmed. I found it funny, but I never would have imagined that so many people would have watched that video," joked Caufield. "I picked up many more followers on Instagram because of it, so I'm not complaining."
After seeing the video for herself, Kelly had no problem acknowledging that it was a shining example of Cole's personality.
"He loves music and he loves to sing. That video was very funny. It shows his comical side. He's quite a personality," she concluded.