Chiarot: Making his presence felt early
New Habs defenseman's physical game was on full display on Day 2 of training camp in Brossardby Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com
BROSSARD - They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and it seems Ben Chiarot decided to make the most of his.
Taking part in his first official on-ice session as a member of the Canadiens, the 28-year-old rearguard made his presence felt with his new coaches and teammates at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday at the second day of training camp.
The feeling might not have been so pleasant, however, as Chiarot stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 225 pounds and put every inch of his frame to good use in Brossard.
For Paul Byron, however, it was a question of no pain, no gain.
"He's very physical and imposing. He's good in the corners and he's tough to play against," described Paul Byron of the Habs' new No. 8. "The first one-on-ones are always hard at the start of the season, but I like it a lot. It prepares me for the first game. I'm ready to battle against anyone, and I know it's the same for Ben."
Video: Paul Byron on Ben Chiarot
With Chiarot having joined the NHL in 2013-14, it's given Brendan Gallagher a chance to see what he's made of from the other side and the two-time 30-goal scorer always liked what the Hamilton native brought to the table.
"I know from playing against him, he's a very good player," described Gallagher of Chiarot. "A lot of the things he does go under the radar. Add it to our group and we're very happy to have him. He's going to fill a role we needed."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on the addition of Ben Chiarot
For his part, Chiarot - who scored five goals for 20 points and finished with a plus-6 differential in 78 games with the Jets last season - said he really enjoyed his first practice in bleu-blanc-rouge and was glad the anticipation was finally behind him.
"It was a lot of fun. First day of real hockey; enough of the summer skates," outlined Chiarot, a veteran of 305 NHL games, all of them with the Winnipeg Jets. "It's good to get your shoulder into someone and get some real hockey going out there.
"I've been looking forward to it for awhile now. Especially coming to a new team, you want to get out there, get in your new colors and get your nose dirty at the beginning."
Chiarot skated on a pairing with Jeff Petry on Friday, but head coach Claude Julien told reporters he hasn't firmed up any combinations just yet.
"This is just the first day. We kind of looked at things and we think that might be ideal. It allows Jeff to carry the puck up the ice and know he has a good defensive defenseman with him," Julien said of Chiarot, the Atlanta Thrashers' fourth-round pick (119th overall) in 2009. "But he also brings the physicality and toughness, and allows Jeff Petry to be comfortable in doing his job. Just like today, you see [Victor] Mete with [Shea] Weber. Victor has improved every year and I thought he had a good finish last year. His mobility gives him the confidence to do that because he knows he has a pretty reliable guy he's playing with. We're trying to balance things out. It doesn't mean that if you play a team like Washington where you have the Ovechkins, some big guys, then maybe you do move Chiarot with Weber to shut them down that game. It's not set in stone; we're looking at different things right now we want to explore as training camp progresses."
Chiarot would be very happy playing with Petry, but is firm in his belief he'll connect well with whichever player he ends up sharing the blue line with.
"Being more defensive and with a more physical style myself, I've always meshed well with a good offensive defenseman. I can be a reliable guy defensively back there for him," he said. "Whoever it is, whether it's a young guy, Jeff, or someone more defensive as a shutdown pair, I can play with anybody and I feel confident enough playing with whomever. If it's Jeff that works great, but if not, I'm open to playing with anyone."
Video: Ben Chiarot on his first practice in Montreal
Alzner will get his shot
Speaking of defensemen, Julien was asked about Karl Alzner's chances of playing in Montreal after he spent the majority of the 2018-19 season with the AHL's Laval Rocket. The Habs bench boss affirmed that Alzner would be given the opportunity to fight for a spot.
"There's no reason why we wouldn't give him his chance. He's already made a lot of progress. He's lighter and faster," explained the coach. "He wants to adapt to the new NHL. He did all that work and it's on us to give him a chance. We'd like him to shuffle the cards and win a spot. If that happens, that means he'd be making our team better."
A veteran of 682 games with the Habs and Washington Capitals, Alzner is determined to make the most of his opportunity and make an impact.
"Every time I step out onto the ice, I want to do something. I don't want to just be satisfied with being on the ice and playing my shift. We'll see in the next few days if I can play that kind of game at the highest level," shared the 6-foot-3, 213-pound rearguard. "I'm going to give it my all to play the best hockey I've ever played in a training camp and hopefully, it will be enough for me to stay in Montreal."
Video: Karl Alzner on his expectations this season
Training camp resumes on Saturday with practices at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. at the Bell Sports Complex.