MONTREAL - Jacob De La Rose had every reason to feel good about his game heading into the summer.
During the final two months of the 2016-17 campaign, the 22-year-old forward lit the lamp 11 times in 24 games for the AHL's St. John's IceCaps en route to finishing third on the roster in that department with 14 goals, and tying for fourth with 31 points in 62 outings. He also chipped in with one goal and three points in four postseason games during a first-round playoff matchup against the Syracuse Crunch.
That was enough to earn the Arvika, Sweden native a brand new, one-year, one-way contract with the Canadiens on June 28, and De La Rose couldn't have been happier to ink the deal.
"Honestly, you feel better and you have more confidence when you play well. I knew if I kept doing the right things on and off the ice, it would come. I also knew it was my contract year, so I had to have a good finish. I'm super excited about the new contract," said De La Rose, who was selected in the second round - 34th overall - by the Canadiens in 2010. "I want to prove to myself, the coaching staff and the organization that I'm good enough to play in the NHL and be a regular NHLer."
With that goal in mind, De La Rose has been hard at work with his personal trainer in his hometown and regularly making the 250-kilometre trek to Leksand to work out and skate with good buddy, Nashville Predators standout Filip Forsberg.
"It's good to have another player to train with. I think he's one of the best players in the league, so trying to keep up with him is good for me. It's a good motivator," said De La Rose, on grinding it out alongside his former Leksands IF teammate. "I'm working on stabilizing my core and my legs so I can be stronger on the puck. It's really the whole package that still needs to improve. I know I need to get stronger and faster in everything to take the next step."
De La Rose is pleased with his offseason efforts to date, sticking to just about the same routine as always.
"I feel great. I like the way I've been going into training camp fitness-wise over the years, so I don't have any excuses. I think I've been in good shape every year, so I try to do the same thing. I'm just trying to have the same mindset and maybe do a little bit more skating this summer," said De La Rose, who also takes advantage of his surroundings in Sweden for some additional dryland training work. "I live like two minutes away from the forest and the hills. It's easy to go there and do runs and bike rides."
While De La Rose has enjoyed being back on Swedish soil with family and friends, he's ready to head back to his second home to kick off training camp.
"I just want to get going. I can't wait for camp to start and for the season to get going. I've been dreaming about earning a spot in Montreal for three years, and I still feel I can earn a regular spot in the lineup," said De La Rose, who plans on doing everything in his power to earn his permanent residency in the Canadiens' dressing room. "I know it's a big year. I'm on a one-year contract. I need to have a good year to get another contract."