After putting up 19 goals and 57 points in 75 games with the Bulldogs in 2014-15 – which also just happened to be his first full season in the pro ranks – the 21-year-old Alma, QC native is among 43 prospects and invitees at Development Camp, which runs through Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.
Having been through this experience a few times before since being selected in the fifth round, 122nd overall by the Canadiens back in 2012, it isn’t surprising that Hudon is taking things in stride as his stock continues to rise.
“I didn’t really pay close attention to what Marc [Bergevin] had to say recently about [me potentially moving up the depth chart]. I don’t watch the sports networks very much on television. I pay closer attention to advice that I get from family members. It’s definitely encouraging, though. It gives me an even bigger boost coming to camp now, and then coming back to Montreal in September. This time around, camp is helping me learn even more. There are always things to learn,” offered Hudon, who was Hamilton’s second-leading point-getter last season, and was named both an AHL All-Star and a member of the league’s All-Rookie Team.
“This really is an opportunity not just for me, but for everybody. Over 40 guys are battling it out for the right to come to training camp in September. We’ll be going at it at Rookie Camp in early September, too,” added Hudon, who also registered 165 shots on goal and 68 penalty minutes while plying his trade for Sylvain Lefebvre’s contingent in Steeltown. “We’re all teammates out there, but at the same time we’re all looking for spots. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but we’re all looking for that opportunity to play.”
Hudon certainly made a strong case for himself in 2014-15, responding brilliantly to the inevitable challenges that come with transitioning to the pro game on a full-time basis. Never appearing to be out of his element playing with and against the likes of older, more experienced players, the former QMJHL standout believes the AHL experience he now has under his belt will only help him in his quest to stand out from the crowd.
“Knowing that I wasn’t necessarily going to get called up and play in Montreal last season really helped me focus and concentrate on what I had to do in Hamilton and where I needed to go. It was more positive than anything. The help that the coaches and players like Gabriel Dumont and Jarred Tinordi provided was very beneficial. I think it bodes well for me now,” stressed Hudon, whose first foray into pro hockey came at the end of the 2012-13 season during a nine-game stint in Hamilton. “Since playing in the Q, my mentality has changed a lot. Dumont really helped me in terms of approaching everything as a professional, at the rink, in the dressing room, away from the rink. That was big for me. It’s easier for me to help other players now, too.”
One of those players Hudon has seemingly taken under his wing on the South Shore is recent draftee, Simon Bourque, whom the Canadiens selected in the sixth round, 177th overall in Sunrise back on June 27.
“When people say that I’m practically a veteran around here, I feel a little bit old,” mentioned Hudon, who is happy to pass along lessons learned to the Rimouski Oceanic rearguard in the veritable infancy of his career. “I think I’m a lot like Simon. I’m a young guy who is still learning every day. We spent time together the first day of camp. He asked questions, and I asked questions, too. It’s my time to help, if I can. Helping young guys along is easier for me. It actually helps me as well.”
That type of maturity is ever-present in Hudon’s on-ice game, too. The 5’10”, 184-pound left-winger admits doing everything conceivably possible this past season to become a more complete and responsible player at both ends of the rink, taking his already impressive work ethic to another level.
“When I left Montreal last year, Marc and Michel Therrien told me where I stood. I worked on that. The mentality of a player doesn’t change from one day to the next. You need to work at it, again and again. It’s about moving your feet every time you’re out there, always being ready, getting back in the D zone and making the easy plays. That process is going well,” confided Hudon, who posted a plus-5 differential in Hamilton in 2014-15. “My primary focus was on improving my defensive game. When I was playing with Daniel [Carr] or Sven [Andrighetto], we were always working on improving in our own end. We scored goals, but we also worked on keeping them out. We were constantly working on that, coming back to defend. It was a good for year for me, but I’m still taking things day by day.”
While that may be the case, there’s no denying what Hudon brings to the table on any given night. Offensively gifted in his own right, Carr knows first-hand what his linemate is capable of when he’s on his game.
“When it comes to Charlie, a lot of people don’t know that he competes deceptively hard. There’s little things on face offs and other aspects of the game that he takes a lot of pride in and it doesn’t necessarily really show. He’s got such great vision. He can shoot the puck. His ability to pass the puck is incredible. He can do so many things so well. He’s such an easy guy to play with because he brings it every night. He competes. It’s just a pleasure to play with a guy like that,” shared Carr, who, like Hudon, enjoyed a standout campaign in 2014-15 in his first full season in the pros. “He just sees things out there that a lot of guys don’t. When you play with him, you just have to keep your stick on the ice. You never know when he’s going to hit you.”
Now, Hudon plans on putting those skills on display all week long, while drawing on a current Habs warrior – and a positive outlook – for some additional inspiration.
“Daniel and I watch Brendan Gallagher a lot when we tune in to Canadiens games. That’s the kind of player I want to be. I want to be like Gally, scoring goals, working hard and being that smaller guy that the other team doesn’t like. I like to talk on the ice like Gally does. We’re pretty similar like that, I think,” concluded Hudon. “Where I’m going to be come late September, I don’t know. I’m just hoping to make a difference. Whether it’s going to be in Montreal or St. John’s, I’ll be happy.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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