MONTREAL - Charles Hudon lived through some uncertain days at the start of the summer when he was left exposed in the Expansion Draft welcoming the Vegas Golden Knights into the League. But when Vegas ended up plucking defenseman Alexei Emelin away from Montreal, the Quebec-born player was able to breathe a sigh of relief at the confirmation he'd be staying put with the Canadiens.
A few days later, the forward signed a two-year contract, with the second year being a one-way agreement. The deal was certainly a vote of confidence for the 23-year-old, but Hudon doesn't plan on waiting until 2018-19 to earn his spot with the big club.
"My goal is to make the team right away, in the first year. I'm ready and I'm training even harder than I have in the past," he prescribed. "It's my chance and I want to take advantage of it."
Hudon's summer training regimen hasn't changed - he affirms he's always given 100% - but there was another facet of his game that looked a little different this time around.
"This year, I'd say it was the mental side of things, between the ears. I told myself, 'This is your time, so it's time to do it,'" explained Hudon, who scored 27 goals for 49 points in 56 games with the Saint John's IceCaps in 2016-17. "The last few years, everyone said there wasn't a spot for me and now, I've just told myself that even if there isn't one, I have to do even more than in the past to make it happen."
It's safe to say that Hudon is feeling some pressure, first and foremost from within. That pressure is also coming from fans and even the organization too, with both general manager Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson recently invoking his name when listing young players they feel may make the big jump this season.
"I have to keep doing what I was doing in the AHL - giving the team some stable offense, but also contributing defensively," he recounted. "I have to try to do the same things with the Canadiens, but it's a step higher in the NHL."
Obviously, Hudon hopes that a bit more luck will be on his side this year after he was hampered by a pair of injuries last campaign. One of those injuries was of a more serious nature and came at a rather inconvenient time, while he was up in Montreal.
"It was tough on my morale, it was really hard. At the end of the year, I thought that would stick with me, but I told myself I'd help lead the IceCaps to the playoffs. The veterans got together and we made it our goal to make the playoffs, and we did it," Hudon recalled. "We fought right up until the last game of the season and we played well against Syracuse."
Indeed, the IceCaps did put up a good fight against the Crunch - who went on to win the championship - despite being on their last legs, and with a big move on the horizon.
"It was hard, we saw that the fans weren't coming as much," remembered Hudon, who is happy that whether playing for the Laval Rocket or the Habs, he'll be closer to his family. "It wasn't sad, just a little quiet in the rink, but that's hockey."
All the better that Hudon is back in the Greater Montreal area, given that he and his girlfriend are proud parents to a little girl entering the prime of her "terrible two's."
"She's been so easy these first two years, so we're due for some catching up," cracked Hudon.
On a more serious note, the young forward is happy he can provide his family with a sense of stability, even if he knows the two women in his life would follow him to the ends of the earth if that's what it took.
For the moment, the Hudon clan doesn't need to go very far, and the hope is that it'll stay that way for many years to come.