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Caufield: 'I'll do anything it takes to win'

In Cole Caufield, the Canadiens drafted a youngster with a penchant for scoring goals and a real passion for the game

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

VANCOUVER - The Canadiens added an elite scoring machine to their fold with the 15th overall pick on Friday night.

Eighteen-year-old American right-winger Cole Caufield is coming off a monster season with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program's Under-18 squad, scoring 72 goals and finishing with 100 points in just 64 games.

And his performance at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 World Championship was just as impressive, lighting the lamp a tournament-leading 14 times in seven outings en route to earning top forward and tournament MVP honors as well.

Caufield couldn't contain his excitement after being plucked from the crowd midway through the opening round.

"It's a perfect fit. They've got a great young team right now. I'm really looking forward to being a part of something like that," stated the Stevens Point, WI native shortly after hearing his name called by captain Shea Weber at Rogers Arena. "Every kid growing up, that's the team you hear about first. All their success and history, and the heritage that they have is unbelievable. And watching them growing up at the Bell Centre and seeing them on TV, it's so cool. I'm so happy to be a part of such a great organization."

Video: Canadiens draft F Cole Caufield No. 15

For those unfamiliar with Caufield's playing style, he likens his game to that of Chicago Blackhawks young gun Alex DeBrincat.

That's a good thing, considering DeBrincat just scored 41 goals in his sophomore campaign for the Original Six franchise and is similar in stature to the Habs' newest young gun.

Both check in at 5-foot-7 and tip the scales at just over 160 pounds.

"I'm a guy that plays like Alex DeBrincat. I think what I bring to the table is offense, and my shot is probably the best part of my game," explained Caufield, the eighth-ranked North American skater according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's final rankings. "There are a lot of things I do other than score goals, too. I'm a big competitor and I hate to lose. I'll do anything it takes to win."

In other words, Caufield was never going to let his lack of size stand in the way of realizing his hockey dreams.

"I'm just going to have to continue to prove people wrong because I've been dealing with that my whole life. At this point, it doesn't really matter to me. It's not really a risk factor in my game and in how I play, so I'm not too worried about it," shared Caufield. "I don't think I'd be the player I am today without my size. I think I've used it to my advantage my whole life and I'm just going to continue to do that. It hasn't slowed me down yet, so I don't think it will moving forward."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Le kid est d��j�� une star. 🤩This kid's already a star.#NHLDraft #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/C3QJsDoGew

With an attitude like that, it most definitely won't. And paying close attention to assistant captain Brendan Gallagher's relentlessness in recent years has only inspired him further.

"Watching him in the playoffs growing up was really unbelievable. And the things he does," noted Caufield. "We're kind of similar in size. I can't wait to learn a lot from him and see what he has to say. I'm just I'm so excited right now."

Video: Cole Caufield on being drafted by the Canadiens

What's next?

As it stands, Caufield will be joining the NCAA ranks next season as a member of the University of Wisconsin Badgers alongside his brother, Brock, and fellow Canadiens draftee, Jack Gorniak.

True to form, though, he plans on making a serious bid for a roster spot in Montreal immediately.

"I want to go into Development Camp with the mentality that I want to make the team as soon as possible. Obviously, things happen. But, that's my mentality," affirmed Caufield. "My goal is to play in the NHL as soon as possible. That's the dream of every kid, and that's the biggest goal of mine. As fast as I could get into the NHL and make an impact there is my goal for now."

When he does finally make the big club, he plans on being a serious contributor.

"I want to be the guy that they rely on to score goals. I want to be the consistent forward that produces for them," mentioned Caufield. "To have that, I want to set that high expectation for myself and set goals like that. If there's any way I can do that and produce for them at a consistent rate, I'd love to."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: On peut tout vous dire sur le tir de @colecaufield, mais c'est mieux si vous voyez par vous-m��me. 😱We can tell you all about Cole's shot, but it's better if you see for yourself.#GoHabsGo #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/BFkJrLg74y

There's no denying Caufield's passion for the sport, which was on full display during his post-Draft press conference.

He was a veritable rink rat as a kid, which will only serve him well going forward.

"I'm just a kid that loves to shoot pucks. Growing up, I was always around a rink, I always had a stick in my hand, so whenever I could shoot the puck and have a puck on my stick was probably the best feeling for me. I think it's paid off," said Caufield. "It's only going to get harder from here, but I'm excited to continue to work at it and keep getting better. My parents always told me I was watching my brother skate one time and I started crying because I wanted to be out there. That's just how I am. My passion for the game is so, so much. I love it and would do anything for it."

Video: Kelly Caufield on son being drafted by Canadiens

Why Caufield?

General manager Marc Bergevin was thrilled that Caufield was still up for grabs when the Canadiens were on the clock.

His ability to tickle the twine was far too good to pass up.

"He definitely brings an element that every team could use. Goal scoring is at a premium in this League. It's hard to get. It's hard to score goals. Every level he was, he's been able to do that," explained Bergevin, on the rationale behind choosing Caufield. "We don't see why he wouldn't be able to do that at the next level."

As for Caufield being small in stature, it certainly wasn't a red flag.

"He's done it everywhere. It's not like he was 6-foot-4 and then woke up one morning and he's smaller," cracked Bergevin. "He's been scoring with that size everywhere he's been."

After meeting with Caufield at the NHL Combine in Buffalo, Bergevin was sold on his mental make-up, too.

"His personality. His swagger. He isn't arrogant or cocky, but just a confident kid. Hockey is what it's all about for him. Nothing else matters. I just like his personality," praised Bergevin. "His best interview happened on the ice, but when you add that, it makes you feel good. We were more than a little surprised that he was still there."

Fortunately, he was, and Bergevin believes Caufield is a perfect addition up front capable of complementing a host of youngsters already in the system.

"The way we've been able to draft the last few years, our middle with [Jesperi] Kotkaniemi, [Ryan] Poehling coming up, with [Nick] Suzuki playing in the middle in Guelph down the stretch, I think we're finding that the Canadiens are stronger down the middle than they were in the past. If we could add a goal-scorer on the wing, I think it could be a nice fit," mentioned Bergevin. "We've got [Josh] Brook turning pro, we've got [Noah] Juulsen, we've got [Alexander] Romanov probably going to be a year away and [Jesse] Ylonen, to name a few. I think the Montreal Canadiens, the group of young players they have coming, I think we could be set for a long time."

So when does Bergevin envision Caufield plying his trade in Montreal?

"It's way too early to say. I think most kids want to play in the NHL, so he isn't different than anybody else. We'll probably see him next week at Development Camp, and we'll see where he's at. Most likely, he'll be in college next year. But, you never know," concluded Bergevin. "It's a big step. It's a huge step, but again he's a driven kid so we'll see."

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