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Go west, young man

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Sunny Southern California has provided Greg Pateryn with the perfect training ground over the last three months.

The 25-year-old defenseman, who is wrapping up his second full summer in the Golden State, headed west shortly after the season to join his fiancée, Stefani, who is based in Laguna Hills, about 30 minutes outside of Anaheim.

After getting engaged last August, Greg Pateryn and his fiancée, Stefani, are scheduled to tie the knot next summer in California.

“At the beginning of the summer, I started working out at a gym in Irvine called STACK Velocity Sports Performance with my trainer, PJ Nestler. There are a handful of guys working out at the facility. I actually do some day-to-day work with [former Habs rearguard] Bryan Allen. He lives in the area, so I see him quite a bit. I’ve really been focusing on improving my foot speed, my quickness, my transition and my lateral movement. That’s something we talked a lot about before we started,” offered Pateryn, who played 17 regular season games with the Canadiens in 2014-15, before getting his first taste of NHL postseason action back in April. “PJ broke down the mechanics behind it all. He made sure my hips were moving the right way. That’s the first thing that needs to be able to work correctly. If your body doesn’t move properly, it’s pretty hard to change direction and respond quickly to things. Building off of that, we’ve also been working on power, explosiveness, endurance and just staying strong, in general.”

Four weeks ago, the University of Michigan grad laced up his skates for the very first time since early May, joining a bevy of NHL veterans and young guns alike for daily workouts at The Rinks Anaheim ICE, the Ducks’ official training facility.

“When you first get out there, the focus is really on your edges, your stickhandling and your shooting. At that point, you’re just trying to get a feel for the ice again. Over the last few weeks, the skates have really picked up, though. More and more guys from the Ducks have been coming back to town and skating with us, so the skates get better and better as the summer goes on,” mentioned Pateryn, whose skating partners include Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Joffrey Lupul and Sami Vatanen, among others. “I’m always picking up tips along the way. Guys are giving you pointers while you’re doing drills. We have a good mix of players. Every little bit of help counts. It all can translate to your game in one way or another down the road.”

Before getting back to the business of on-ice training sessions, though, Pateryn took a little time off to expand his horizons, heading overseas for the very first time with Stefani and her family for a well-deserved vacation.

“Every summer, Stefani’s family takes a trip somewhere. This year, I was able to go. We flew to Barcelona, and it was awesome. Everyone told me that it was the perfect first place to visit in Europe. They told me about all the different things to see and do, and the different cultures I’d get to experience. They were right. I absolutely loved it,” shared Pateryn, who spent a week in Catalonia’s capital city in mid-July. “The architecture and the history behind all of the buildings is really amazing. It was cool to see the way people live and interact with each other on the other side of the world. We might've only been there for a little while, but we managed to get a lot of stuff in. It was a great experience. I would definitely go back there again.”

Even though the trip was planned long before the Sterling Heights, MI native signed a brand new two-year contract extension with the Canadiens on July 1st that will keep him in Montreal through at least the 2017-18 campaign, it proved to be the perfect way to celebrate all of his hard work paying serious dividends in the long run.

During his downtime, Pateryn has been helping Stefani plan their upcoming wedding. The couple went registry shopping in early August.

“Signing the deal definitely made it more of a reason to go over there this year,” offered Pateryn with a laugh. “You go through a lot of ups and downs in the game. Then, I managed to finish the season on a high note. To get that deal done and to know that the Canadiens want me around for the next three years is very gratifying. Now, it’s more about building off of what I did instead of trying to prove that I can play in the NHL and that I belong there. Heading into training camp, it gives me that extra confidence. They also know what they’ll get from me. There’s no more guessing involved for anyone. I know my game and I know what I have to do in order to keep myself there.”

With that in mind, what are Pateryn’s expectations for himself heading into his fourth season in the pros – and what could potentially be his first full season in a Canadiens uniform?

“I really did get more and more comfortable as last season went on. I made better decisions with the puck and better plays, so I think that’s something I want to build off of. I’m not going to try to be more offensive, though. I think with my shot and a better comfort level, that will come on its own,” confided Pateryn, who credits both Tom Gilbert and Mike Weaver as being important mentors in his development last year. “When it comes to physicality, any chance I have to finish my check I’m going to keep doing it. That’s my job. But, if I go out and start looking for guys to hit – and I take myself out of position – I can really get into trouble. I need to find that balance. I’m not necessarily going to try to be a more physical player, but when the opportunity is there, I have to take advantage of my size night in and night out.”

Now that the offseason is winding down, Pateryn is trying to make the most of his last two weeks in Orange County ahead of what he hopes will be a long and productive season with the big club.

“It’s been good to be able to train hard and focus at the rink for a few hours, and then head down to the water and go into the ocean for a swim. It just kind of gets your mind away from things and helps you relax,” concluded Pateryn, who plans on returning to Quebec a few days ahead of the Canadiens’ annual season-opening golf tournament on September 10th. “The summer just flew by. My plan is to still be working out and skating four or five times a week, but at the same time getting my rest, going to the beach as much as possible and getting as much sun as I can before coming back to Montreal.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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