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2015 Rookie Tournament - Day 2

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- After coming up just short against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2015 Rookie Tournament opener on Friday night, the Canadiens’ young guns will be back in action against the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospects on Saturday at Budweiser Gardens in London, ON.

- Head coach Sylvain Lefebvre and his staff ran players through a 45 minute workout in preparation for their second game in as many nights.

“It definitely seems like we’re a different team than the one that was out there on Friday. We came out confident this morning. We were looking to execute the drills well and make tape-to-tape passes every time we moved the puck. It went well,” offered Charles Hudon, who says the rookie group is slowly beginning to gel with every passing day. “We’re having more and more fun every time we hit the ice together. We’re starting to build some good chemistry.”

- Forwards Sam Studnicka and Jamal Watson will see action on Saturday evening, as will defensemen Travis Brown and Josiah Didier. For their part, forwards Brandon McNally and Dryden Hunt, and rearguards Mac Bennett and Simon Bourque, will be scratched from Lefebvre’s lineup.

- Eighteen-year-old Michael McNiven will get the start in goal for the Canadiens. The Georgetown, ON native, who posted a 15-8-0 record and a 2.79 goals-against average in 24 games for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack last season, is eagerly anticipating his debut between the pipes.

“It’s definitely an eye-opener. Not everyone gets this chance. There’s a select few goalies here from different teams, and it’s a great opportunity. I’m sure the guys will play great in front of me and make it that much easier,” offered McNiven, who is one of five rookie camp invitees on site this weekend in the Forest City. “It’s going to be my first start ever in this kind of situation, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been pretty pumped up for the last couple of weeks leading up to rookie camp.”

McNiven, who spent the bulk of the summer training in Guelph, ON, also sought out the assistance of renowned strength and conditioning coach, Ben Prentiss, in Connecticut, to ready himself for the rookie camp experience.

“This summer was definitely the biggest one yet, especially with me coming to development camp a little overweight and everything [back in early July]. I took most of my summer to get my nutrition down pat, and it looks pretty good right now. I’ve lost almost 11 pounds since then, and I’m looking to lose about five more,” shared McNiven, who watched Zachary Fucale ply his trade in goal on Friday afternoon against Pittsburgh. “It would be nice to be more agile and quicker on my feet. My weight has been my focus this summer, though, and so far it’s been going good.”

The young netminder will have plenty of fan support in the stands against Toronto, as family members aplenty will be in town to watch him strut his stuff and take another important step forward in his career. That should only to add to his excitement leading up to puck drop at 7:35 p.m. EST.

“Honestly, we didn’t have too many Leafs fans in my family growing up. They weren’t Habs fans, either. But, they’re all be coming out tonight. I’ve got a couple of aunts and uncles from around here, too,” mentioned McNiven. “It’s going to be a fun game for them to watch and for me to be involved in also. I’m sure they’re all looking forward to it.”

- Tim Bozon is coming off a strong performance in Friday night’s loss to Mike Sullivan’s squad in which he scored the game-tying goal with just 69 seconds remaining in regulation time. It was a good way for the 21-year-old to kick-start his rookie camp experience this time around, as he enters the pro ranks on a full-time basis come the start of the 2015-16 campaign.

“The objective is always to last with the team as long as possible. I’d definitely like to play some exhibition games with the big club, but I have to earn that. It’s up to me to work hard and to earn my spot. I’m taking things day by day and trying to get even better with every shift in every game. I’m committed to that day-by-day approach,” explained Bozon, who registered 35 goals and 63 points in 57 games with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice last season. “It’s my first year as a pro and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m confident that I’ve put in the right amount of work for it. We’ll see what happens.”

Assigned to Kootenay last October after taking part in both rookie camp and main camp with the Canadiens, Bozon believes the move ultimately paid serious dividends for his career.

“I would have said the opposite before [returning to Kootenay], but now I’d say it was a positive experience. At the end of the season, I realized that it was a good idea and that it paid off. I wasn’t happy about the decision last summer, but I realized it did me some good. It helped me come back 100 percent healthy,” offered Bozon, who battled meningitis in March 2014. “When I was at training camp last year, I thought I was 100 percent, but that wasn’t the case. I needed a good year to come back. I had a lot of ice time in a lot of situations in Kootenay, and I had a lot of workout time off-ice, too.”

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