BROSSARD - Liam Hawel opened plenty of eyes during rookie camp.
In doing so, the 20-year-old centerman was the lone invitee to secure a spot at the Canadiens' training camp.
The former fourth-round selection of the Dallas Stars in 2017 scored once during the Rookie Showcase last weekend in Belleville, in addition to registering four shots on goal.
A day after learning that he'd be sticking around to pursue his audition in front of the Habs' brass, Hawel was still soaking in the magnitude of the accomplishment.
"It's obviously really cool. I wasn't sure if I was going to be invited after rookie camp was over. But, I was still optimistic," mentioned the Arnprior, ON native. "It's really cool to be the only invitee and to know that they liked my game."
Following the contest against the Quebec University All-Stars at the Bell Sports Complex on Tuesday, Hawel received a special phone call from one key member of the Canadiens' management group.
And the news couldn't have been better.
"Trevor Timmins called to congratulate me. He told me to keep on going in the exact same way. He also talked to me about a few things I could work on," explained the 6-foot-5, 183-pound forward. "It was really a call to congratulate me and to encourage me to continue working hard during training camp."
Hawel's cellphone was rather busy on Tuesday evening, of course.
But, he realizes that he still has a lot of work to do in the days to come and has to maintain his focus.
"I received a lot of text messages from my friends and family members congratulating me. Everyone was excited," said Hawel, who claimed an OHL title as a member of the Guelph Storm last season. "It's a big thing, but I want to capitalize on the opportunity to earn a contract."
An important factor
One element that likely played an important role in Hawel receiving a rookie camp invitation was that the Canadiens' brass had an opportunity to see him play on multiple occasions during Guelph's postseason run.
Management was often on site to watch his teammate, prospect Nick Suzuki, ply his trade, and they clearly took a liking to Hawel's skill set as well.
"I know that the organization was at our playoff games a lot. I know I made the most of the chance to capture their attention," said Hawel.
Not only was Hawel reunited with Suzuki at rookie camp, but also with Cam Hillis, who will captain the storm during the 2019-20 campaign.
Delivering the goods
The 2018-19 season was a phenomenal one for Hawel.
In addition to claiming the OHL's top prize, he enjoyed the best year of his career with 37 goals, 41 assists and 78 points in just 66 games.
By comparison, his first three OHL seasons resulted in a combined 27 goals, 57 assists and 84 points in 193 contests.
According to Hawel, the increase in production is a direct result of a boost in confidence.
"I'd say it really was a question of confidence. When I started out in the OHL, I didn't have a lot of self-confidence. I wasn't really aggressive and I wasn't really trying to make plays. I saw a big improvement last season," explained Hawel. "I played with a lot of confidence, especially when I was scoring goals and picking up points. My confidence only grew. I really took off."
And for fans who've never seen Hawel play, he compares his style to that of Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets.
"I'm a big forward who can skate and make plays. I can be good at both ends of the ice and use my size," he mentioned. "I like making plays and feeding my teammates."
Hawel and the 56 other players taking part in the Canadiens' training camp will hit the ice for their first practice at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday.