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Fresh start

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Zack Kassian is looking to make the most of a fresh start in Montreal.

After struggling to find his spot in the Canucks lineup during his time in Vancouver, Dale Weise arrived in Montreal in February 2014 ready for a new beginning. The change of scenery helped the then-25-year-old forward rekindle his offensive spark, helping him post career-highs across the board in his first full season as a Hab a year later. Zack Kassian is hoping for the same.

Traded to the Canadiens along with a 2016 fifth round pick in exchange for Brandon Prust on July 1, Kassian joins his third NHL team since being drafted 13th overall by the Sabres in 2009. It wasn’t a call he was expecting to field while celebrating Canada Day in cottage country, but the 24-year-old winger is looking forward to finally carving out a niche in his third NHL home.

Kassian already looks comfortable in a Habs jersey.

“I couldn’t be happier. Original 6 team, best fans in the league. Coming in playing in front of that home crowd was always a pleasure,” shared Kassian via conference call from Muskoka, ON. “It was an emotional day. My mom was very excited and Montreal is my dad’s favorite team. It was a pretty special feeling. I consider myself lucky to be a Canadien.”

Hampered by a back injury and broken finger last season, Kassian took part in just 42 games with the Canucks in 2014-15, but still managed to hit double digits in goals. While he hasn’t been able to find the offensive touch that saw him finish as a near-point-per-game player in Junior as an NHLer, the Windsor, ON native knows he can bring other elements to the lineup that don’t always appear on a scoresheet.

“I can play physical, I can grind it, and I like the cycle game, but at the same time, I like to make plays and I like to score goals. When I’m at my best, I can do both,” described Kassian, who confirmed he’s now injury-free. “When you’re young and you come into the league, you have to kind of find your role and find what you can do. There were a lot of bumps in the road, but I think over the years, I gained a lot of maturity. I’m excited to be part of the Canadiens and I’m excited to have a fresh start and become the player I can be.”

At 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, Kassian arrives in Montreal as the biggest player on the Habs roster. Having spent time lining up alongside Daniel and Henrik Sedin in Vancouver, the imposing winger is no stranger to digging pucks out for sharpshooting linemates. He knows he could earn a spot on one of the Canadiens’ top two lines by using his body to his advantage, but he’s ready to contribute no matter where he finds himself on the team’s depth chart come September.

“Montreal is a good, deep team. Anywhere I can fit in and help the team win, I’m more than happy to do so,” said the 2010 Memorial Cup champion, who has 25 goals and 66 points in 198 career NHL games. “I don’t look at it as Top 6 or Bottom 6; if you look at the teams that are winning nowadays, they have four lines that all play. Anywhere the coach wants me, I’ll thrive in that role and try to make the team better.

“I never asked for a trade, but obviously I was open that if a team wanted me, I was more than welcome to going somewhere I was wanted. I really feel like Montreal is a great fit for me. I’m ready to do everything to help the team win,” he underlined. “No one wants to get traded two times, but it’s a learning curve. I’m excited to be a Montreal Canadien and I really want to make this home.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

SEE ALSO:
Kassian conference call audio
Canadiens acquire Zack Kassian and a fifth round pick from the Canucks for Brandon Prust
Canadiens agree to terms on a one-year contract with forward Christian Thomas
One-year, two-way contract for George “Bud” Holloway 
One-year, two-way contract for free agent defenseman Mark Barberio
One-year, two-way contract for Joel Hanley

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