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Strong start in a winning cause

Daniel Audette turned some heads with his stellar play at both ends of the rink on Friday night in Toronto

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl /

TORONTO - Daniel Audette clearly feels right at home playing at Ricoh Coliseum.

Last season, the 21-year-old centerman suited up for six games at the historic arena as a member of the AHL's St. John's IceCaps during his first year in the pros.

On Friday night, Audette was back at work in the rather familiar barn, capping the scoring in a 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs' young guns in the 2017 Rookie Tournament opener.

Audette's tally was one of four goals the Canadiens' prospects managed to register in a span of 9:37 during the third period, blitzing goaltender Ian Scott.

"I really focused on the details. We had scoring chances and we finally capitalized on them in the end. It might just be rookie camp, but it's fun to still come away with a win," said Audette, who converted a one-time feed from linemate Martin Reway for his power play marker at the 11:02 mark of the final frame. "It was an incredible pass. I didn't have a lot to do except score."

Video: Audette scores the Canadiens' fifth goal of the night

Thomas Ebbing also found the back of the net on two occasions during the contest - and William Bitten and Alexandre Alain scored, too - but acting head coach Martin Lapointe was adamant that Audette's overall effort really stole the show up front.

"Daniel definitely stood out from the pack. He's playing with more confidence in this tournament. He trained in Montreal all summer and lost some of his baby fat. He's faster on the ice. He made good plays," praised Lapointe. "He didn't register his name on the scoresheet until the third period, but when he came back to the bench, I told him: 'The way you're playing, you'll get rewarded for it.' That happened in the third."

In addition to Audette's work on offense, Lapointe was a big fan of his output on the defensive side of things as well.

"You saw it on the backcheck. He didn't quit. That's playing the 200-foot game. For him, it's about maturity and he's learned a lot through the summer," explained Lapointe. "He's quicker out there. It's just a matter of time for him. He's still young. He's got good talent. We're hopeful…It's all good signs for Daniel."

A fifth-round pick of the Canadiens in 2014, Audette insists the experience he gained during his freshman campaign in the AHL is really paying dividends right now.

Video: Daniel Audette on the play of his line

"After a season in the AHL, you're more used to the rhythm of the game, you have a better idea of what to expect," said Audette, who is keen on helping fellow youngsters navigate rookie camp life this year. "I really wanted to focus on my game and help the other guys who were here for the first time. Many guys helped me during my first camp, and I'm trying to do the same."

So far, so good for Audette - and he'll have another chance to impress the Canadiens' brass come Saturday night when Lapointe's squad wraps up Rookie Tournament play against the top youngsters in the Ottawa Senators organization.

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