LAVAL - For his Laval Rocket teammates, there was no doubt that Byron Froese was a deserving candidate to get the "C" sewn onto his jersey.
Froese, who signed a two-year deal with the Canadiens this summer, became the first-ever captain in Laval Rocket history last Friday following a player vote.
"I haven't known Byron very long, but he's a leader who's really stood out," outlined Jeremy Gregoire, now in his third year as a pro. "Not necessarily by what he says in the room, but by what he does on the ice, by his actions and by how he prepares for each game.
"When you look at the route he's taken, you see he's had some highs and lows. He's been in the ECHL, the AHL, the NHL a little bit, he's been around. He's had more experience than most of the players here. He's a guy who's easy to talk to."
A fourth-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, Froese played his first NHL game six years later - in 2015 - in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform, after five different stops in both the AHL (three teams) and the ECHL (two teams).
"He's a role model for someone like me, who's at the start of his career. Just like Gabriel Dumont was in my first year and then Max Friberg," added the Sherbrooke native, who said he follows the lead from all the veterans on the team. "They were all good mentors.
"We have a lot of leaders, guys like Chris Terry, Matt Taormina [Froese's two assistants] and Nick Deslauriers, guys with experience, who have played a lot of games. They want to help us get better."
Center Peter Holland knew Froese before he, too, joined the Canadiens organization in the summer. The two played together for a good chunk of the 2015-16 campaign with the Maple Leafs - with Froese suiting up for 56 games that season to Holland's 65.
"He's always been a funny guy, always smiling. Some guys call him 'Dad,'" cracked Holland. "He shows up for work every day, he works hard, he works well. He sets the example for us all and that'll help us get to the next level."
In Froese's case, it only took him a month to reach that "next level." Less than a week after his peers named him captain, the 26-year-old got another vote of confidence, this time from team management when he was called up to the big club on Tuesday night.
The Winkler, MB native suited up for his first game in a Habs uniform on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild, skating for 7:55 of ice time on a line with Jacob de la Rose and Charles Hudon.
"He's been one of our best players this season. He's very consistent," Holland described of his new leader, who has amassed 11 points (3G, 8A) in 13 games with the Rocket this year. "His name may not appear on the scoresheet all the time, but you always notice him in other areas of the game, like on the penalty kill or on faceoffs. I think it really helps."
"It's very well deserved," added Gregoire. "I was at the game [Tuesday, after which the Habs announced his recall]. When I saw that, I texted him right away to congratulate him. It's quite the honor for him and I think he's going to do a good job."