BROSSARD - There's no denying Cale Fleury's ability to hit with authority.
Since making his NHL debut just last month, the 21-year-old defenseman hasn't shied away from throwing his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame around.
Fleury currently ranks third on the Canadiens' roster with 51 hits in 17 games, trailing only Jeff Petry (58 hits in 22 games) and Joel Armia (53 hits in 20 games).
Fleury's hit total is also tops amongst all NHL rookies.
The Carlyle, SK native's teammates have certainly taken notice of his checking ability, and his punishing hit on Senators forward Vladislav Namestnikov on Wednesday night caught their attention.
"It was a good step-up. For us, it was a big hit," praised fellow blueliner Victor Mete, referencing Fleury's first-period check when things were still scoreless at the Bell Centre. "He's pretty strong. You've kind of seen him reverse-hit guys at times, so he can definitely hold his own."
No stranger to playing a physical brand of hockey himself, Ben Chiarot has quickly become a fan of the youngster's penchant for making opponents pay the price.
Chiarot, who distributed a career-high 171 hits last season with Winnipeg, believes Fleury is opening eyes aplenty with his willingness to engage those who cross his path.
"He's sneaky really heavy and he catches guys off guard because he just looks like a fresh-faced kid. But when he throws his body into guys, they bounce off him pretty good," praised Chiarot, the Habs' fourth-ranked checker with 49 hits on the year. "He's a thick kid. His body's dense. He's a big kid and he's strong, and he's only 21 years old. As he matures and gets even stronger, he'll be a force out there."
Interestingly enough, Fleury hasn't gone a single outing without chipping in with at least one hit.
He registered a season-high 10 hits in a 4-1 win over the Coyotes in Arizona on October 30, and boasts eight appearances with at least three hits as well.
No doubt former hard-hitting Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin would be proud of Fleury's work in the physicality department.