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Catching up with... Xavier Ouellet

After spending the last half decade in Michigan, the 24-year-old defenseman is eager to begin a new challenge back on home turf

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - Fresh off signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens, we caught up with defenseman Xavier Ouellet, who is set to relocate to Montreal in the next few weeks.

This has to be a really special time in the Ouellet household. Between signing with the Canadiens and celebrating your daughter's first birthday on Sunday, there's a lot going on.

XAVIER OUELLET: It's really exciting. I have a lot of support back home. To have this opportunity, I feel like it's a perfect fit for what I needed personally and also for my professional career. It just seemed to make sense to me and I'm extremely excited about that challenge.

Before l talk about how excited l am about signing with the @canadiensmtl , I want to take a second to thank the @detroitredwings organization and the city of Detroit for giving me an opportunity to make my debut in the NHL-it was an amazing experience! The cities of Detroit and Grand Rapids brought me so much. It was an honor to wear the Redwings jersey and I'm sad to leave Michigan behind as I move back home to Montreal. Thanks again to all my teammates, all the fans, and the organization. #detroit #RedWings Maintenant c'est le temps de dire a quel point ma famille et moi sommes excité pour ce nouveau depart à Montreal, la ville ou j'ai grandi, devant le support de ma famille et mes amies. Now l want to say how truly excited my family and l are about this new opportunity in Montreal. A fresh start in my hometown in front of my family and friends is going to be amazing. #montreal @canadiensmtl

A post shared by Xavier Ouellet (@the_xman16) on

How did you celebrate Thea Marie's big day?

XO: We celebrated it with my wife's family. We're back in Detroit as of right now, packing everything up before we move back to Montreal. We went down to Spring Lake, close to Grand Haven. We had a couple of friends from Grand Rapids come down and we had a little party. It was really cool and really fun. It's just crazy to experience it with your first child.

How much are you looking forward to moving back home?

XO: I keep saying that we're going to have a lot of babysitters, so it's good for us, too. (Laughs) I have my mom, my little sister and a couple of friends who we can call. Everyone is so excited to have us a little closer and they can be a part of our daughter's childhood. I think it's going to be good for my family. I feel like things happen for a reason. Things didn't go the way we hoped in Detroit. Now, a new opportunity opened up. The main criteria in my decision [to sign with Montreal] was the opportunity I'm being given hockey-wise and what I can bring to this team.

With that in mind, what are you hoping to bring to the Canadiens?

XO: I just want to show up at camp and be that little surprise. Right now, people know me as the guy who played in the QMJHL and things didn't go that well in Detroit. I just want to come back and surprise people. I want to bring a little bit more to the table than I did in Detroit. I look at this as a challenge. It's an opportunity to come back and help my childhood team.

Tell us about your training so far this summer.

XO: As of right now, I'm working out in the Detroit area at a place called 2SP Sports Performance. My trainer, Joe Neal, has a couple of guys from the Red Wings - Danny DeKeyser, Luke Witkowski, Jonathan Ericsson and Gustav Nyqvist. I train there most of the summer. I usually come back to Montreal for a month or two every summer and train there, too. Now that I signed the contract with the Canadiens, though, we're trying to move back right now. We started looking at places, so I'm probably going to finish my training in Montreal. By August 1st, I'd like to be back in the city getting ready for camp and getting comfortable.

Is there one aspect of your game that you've really been focusing on improving this offseason?

XO: I keep working on my skating. I've been doing quite a bit of power skating so far. It's something I'll always have to do. I need to find a way to play some good hockey, get some rhythm and get a couple of games in a row. Last year was kind of rough being in the stands for a long period of time, playing one, two or three games in a row, and then being back in the stands. I want to get some rhythm and feel good about my game. I'm looking for that. It's about coming into camp, playing some really good hockey off the start and finding a way to be on the ice and gain the coaches' trust.

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