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A little farther from the tree

Keith Primeau's son may be following his father's footsteps to the NHL, but he opted to stray from the path in one key way

by Joanie Godin, translated by Dan Braverman @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com

BROSSARD - Keith Primeau would've liked for his son, Cayden, to follow in his skate strides. He did suit up for 909 NHL regular season games and register 619 career points, after all.

But lighting the lamp never had much appeal for the younger Primeau.

"I started out as a forward, and I would skate by the bench with my head down and my stick behind me. I wanted no part of it; I just wanted to be in the net," recalled Cayden at the Canadiens' Development Camp in early July. "My dad finally let me, and I've stuck with it ever since."

The former Red Wings and Flyers sniper needed a little convincing to fully get on board with his son's decision to make a career of stopping goals instead of scoring them. 

"He wasn't too happy. It took some persistence," explained the Canadiens' seventh-round selection from the 2017 NHL Draft. "I was six or seven and he finally let me."

Nowadays, Keith and his wife, Lisa, are obviously very proud of their son, but they still sometimes wish he had chosen a position less stressful for a pair of parents to watch. 

"When he watches me, he's a nervous wreck. He's probably regretting [my position change] to this day. They say goalie parents have it the worst," cracked Cayden, who played for the USHL's Lincoln Stars in 2016-17. "He's probably got his eyes closed in the stands every now and then. My mom is just like him. They like when the puck is in the other end and away from me!"

Cayden has certainly attracted a bit more attention than the other late round picks by virtue of his last name, but the 17-year-old puckstopper arrived at camp well-equipped to deal with the scrutiny.

"My dad and I play different positions. He was a forward, and I'm a goalie. It's a completely different game. He gives me tips, basics on how to become a professional - always work hard, don't take any time off - stuff like that," outlined Primeau, whose uncle, Wayne, also enjoyed a long career in the NHL. "As far as goalie stuff, he just leaves that to the goalie coaches."

Growing up in a big league family gave Cayden the unique opportunity to meet his share of NHL netminders over the years, including Brian Boucher, Marty Turco, Martin Biron, and Bernard Parent. Those encounters left their mark.

"Being around guys like that definitely served as motivation," described Primeau, who will be joining the Northeastern University Huskies in the fall and plans to study business. "Being in an environment with those kinds of guys is really neat and special, and not something that many people can say they were fortunate enough to have growing up. I'm really thankful for that."

Not that Primeau is lacking in the motivation department; living up to his pro pedigree is one source, but his draft ranking - 199th overall - is perhaps even bigger.

"Getting drafted - whether it's in the first, second, fourth, or even seventh round - is all the same," he articulated. "You have to get to work; you're part of an organization now, but what you do with it is going to determine how far you go in the game. We all have the same goal, and it's whoever wants it the most."

Looking to make the most of his opportunity, Primeau references netminders like Henrik Lundqvist and Dominik Hasek, who were also chosen late in their respective draft classes, as sources of inspiration.  

And while the Canadiens organization may be well-stocked in the goaltending department, Primeau sees that crease depth as something that can only help his development.

"Many people would probably think it's intimidating. I just see it as motivation. Not only are there a lot of goalies, but they're all really good goalies," said Primeau, the youngest of four siblings. "Being able to take information from the coaching staff and from the other goalies, seeing how they act off the ice and just being in an environment with them is really neat. I'm just fortunate enough to be in an organization that produces great goalies."

Among those great goalies is All-World netminder Carey Price, who is now locked up with the Canadiens until 2026. Here again, Primeau sees only positives.

"Being an up-and-coming goalie in the organization, I'm happy for him and he deserves it. He's played well for the past x-amount of years. It's great for goalies to be recognized as players that deserve money like that. I'm really excited for him," concluded the Habs prospect. "Like everything, it's just more motivation to work hard."

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