MONTREAL – Having suited up for a few games with the Hamilton Bulldogs late in the year on an amateur tryout contract, Charles Hudon has already had a taste of what professional hockey is all about.
After wrapping up his season in junior with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, the Canadiens fifth-round selection in 2012 was invited to join the Habs’ affiliate in the American Hockey League.
"It’s a lot different than junior. The whole mentality of hockey at that level is very different, especially off the ice. It doesn’t even compare," confessed Hudon, who registered one goal and two assists in nine games with head coach Sylvain Lefebvre’s squad. "I joined the team on the road. I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t know many people. But, right when I arrived, the guys made me feel welcome. I was able to fit in with the team and the team’s philosophy really quickly."
Looking back at his season in the junior ranks, Hudon openly admits that it didn’t play out the way he ultimately would have hoped it would.
"It wasn’t the season I was looking to have. I had some tough times with ankle and back injuries, especially when I had to come back from the World Junior Hockey Championships," explained Hudon, who had to leave Team Canada before even setting foot in Ufa, Russia where the tournament was behind staged. "But, I’m happy with the way the team has progressed [in Chicoutimi]. Personally, I’m still happy even if I missed a lot of games. We entered the playoffs with a ton of confidence and it went well."
And, when Hudon says the playoffs went well, he certainly produced the offensive numbers to back that statement up. Despite the Sagueneens opening-round exit in six games at the hands of the Quebec Remparts, the 18-year-old left-winger collected five goals and 10 points in the best-of-seven series.
Now that his season has come to a close, both in junior and with the Bulldogs, Hudon will get back to work perfecting various aspects of his game that will allow him to eventually make the jump to the big leagues.
"Skating has always been my main weakness since I was young. I work on it every summer. I work on it every day. It’s headed in the right direction. I just have to continue working on it, and it will improve," said Hudon, who also has a few other notable assets in his repertoire. "My main strengths are puck handling and how I see the ice. I’d say that how I see the ice is my primary strength. The games in junior and in the American Hockey League are so different. I surprised myself by making plays that I didn’t think I had the ability to make. The players are so different between the two leagues. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with the Bulldogs."
After a few weeks of well-earned rest, Hudon will be back in the gym and on the ice taking all the necessary steps to overcome his injuries and continue on the road towards his goal of one day playing in the NHL. Hudon, who will turn 19 on June 23, should participate in his first professional training camp this fall.
"I’d like to earn my spot as Charles Hudon, with my own unique playing style. I think the player I resemble the most is myself," mentioned Hudon.
It will be exciting to see what the upstart prospect can bring to the table.
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
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