BROSSARD – With a couple of spots up for grabs on the blue line, a trio of Habs young guns is out to prove they’re ready for a full-time NHL gig.
Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn arrived at training camp on Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex with a common objective – show the Canadiens’ brass that they’re primed to take their respective games to the next level in 2014-15. While each one of them is confident in their abilities and believes they’ve got the skillset Michel Therrien & Co. is looking for, none of the three is taking anything for granted.
“Even if I ended the season in Montreal, I’m not going to look at it like [I have the inside track]. It’s a new year. There are new guys, and there are guys we lost. So, I’ve got to play my game. I know I’m ready. I’ve just got to fill the role that they expect me to,” offered Beaulieu, who made his NHL playoff debut in 2013-14, suiting up for seven postseason games, including five tilts in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.
“There’s a different feel coming to camp this year, though. The time is now, and it’s time to step up,” added the 21-year-old Strathroy, ON native, who racked up seven goals and 27 points in 57 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs last season. “They’re going to give me every opportunity like they did last year. I’ve got to show them that I’m ready to do my part. They did their part by giving me an opportunity last season to showcase what I’m capable of doing. Now, it’s my turn to reward them.”
After making the team out of training camp last year before being shipped to Hamilton following a six-game stint in Montreal, Tinordi is also chomping at the bit to prove that he’s made important strides over the summer months and learned from past experiences.
“My approach to every training camp has always been the same. I want to come here in the best shape I can be, and I want to show management the things I’ve been working on while learning as much as possible along the way,” confided Tinordi, who spent the better part of the 2013-14 campaign in the Steel City, but also donned the bleu-blanc-rouge for 22 games. “I have pretty high expectations for myself. I want to make the team out of training camp. I want to show that I’m ready to play in this league. That’s my goal. That’s all I can do.”
Despite being the lone defenseman among the three not to be featured in Therrien’s lineup at any point last season, Pateryn insists he’s arrived at training camp with a mindset similar to his two counterparts.
“The way I see it is we’re all here. We know what we need to do. We’re going to be competitive and it’s going be professional. I’m going to go out there and play my game, and so will everybody else. Management will take care of the rest,” stressed Pateryn, who led all Bulldogs defensemen with 15 goals and 34 points in 68 games last season. “You can look at [spending the season in Hamilton] as a disappointment, but it’s also a learning experience. You see what it takes to be there every day. I think it’s good for me to have a full season under my belt in Hamilton. It’s a plus.
“I just want to show that I’m comfortable playing with these guys, and I can skate and shoot and battle with all these guys. I’m at the point in my career where you’re not nervous. You know where you belong, and we all know where we belong,” added the 24-year-old rearguard, who played three games with the Canadiens in 2012-13, but hasn’t played with the big club since. “The competition will be good. It will push us to see what we can take.”
While the fight for spots on the Habs’ defense corps might be friendly in nature, it’s likely to be fierce, too. That’s something Beaulieu made perfectly clear on Thursday.
“We all bring something different to the table, and we all have the same assets at the same time. We’re all young. We’re hungry, but it’s going to be about who wants it more,” explained Beaulieu, who believes his first postseason experience offered up invaluable lessons that will serve him well at training camp this time around. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy. I’m close with both of those guys, but we’re fighting for a job now. I want to play in the NHL, and I want to prove I want the job. Tinner and I are really tight and we go way back, but it’s a job, and we both want it. Sometimes, you’ve got to put friendship aside and you’ve just got to go to war.”
That being said, let the battle begin.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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