MONTREAL – Sometimes, a hard-fought journey can make arriving at your destination all that much sweeter.
A lot has happen over the course of the voyage that took defenseman Frederic St-Denis from playing junior hockey in Drummondville to cracking the NHL for 17 games with the Canadiens in 2011-12.
Passed over at the draft, St-Denis diligently climbed the hockey ladder one rung at a time, steadily working his way to the top. After jaunts through the university ranks and the ECHL, St-Denis eventually made the leap to join the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL, where he spent the last three seasons of his career.
“When I show up at the arena to play, I make sure I’m always living in that moment. Of course, when I’m spending time at home, or I’m out at a restaurant, away from a hockey environment, I often think about everything that went into getting me where I am,” shared St-Denis, a native of Greenfield Park, who like many Montrealers grew up with the singular goal of one day playing for the Canadiens.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t believe in me,” continued St-Denis, who proved to be one of the Canadiens’ most versatile players, used in multiple situations during his time with the team, and hitting more than 16 minutes of ice-time per game in March and April. “I’m definitely not the biggest guy, I have some offensive skills, but I don’t think I have the greatest hands. It’s an incredible feeling to show people what I’ve accomplished. At the same time, I’d like to hope it might inspire others to accomplish things that they themselves might have thought were impossible at one time.”
An eternal optimist, St-Denis got many words of encouragement when he joined the Canadiens roster, not just from those close to him, but from the team’s coaching staff as well.
“Hearing things like that is always a huge boost. It really gives you confidence. On top of it all, I’m lucky enough to be able to play in Montreal and see all my friends and family. It’s a huge plus of getting to be here,” continued the young defenseman, who will become a restricted free agent on July 1.
While most players have to wait a while to experience scoring their first NHL goal, St-Denis managed the feat in his first game in the league, against the Canucks at the Bell Centre on Dec. 8, 2011 in front of many friends and family members.
Despite posting a plus-3 differential and scoring a goal and an assist during his time in the NHL, St-Denis’ 2011-12 resume wouldn’t be complete without a look at the work he did with the Bulldogs. In 58 games, the defenseman picked up 28 points and earned himself an invitation to the American League’s All-Star game in the process.
“I had a pretty surprising season. I had the feeling that I was going to do well. I showed up to camp with a lot of confidence, still riding the positives from the year before. Honestly, I told myself that I wanted to play in the NHL this year, whether it was right after training camp, or later in the season,” explained St-Denis who was called up for the first time on Nov. 15 to play an eight game stint with the Habs.
“Everything happened so fast. You work so hard for it all year long and then when you finally make it, you don’t have the time to really think about it. When you get called up for the second time, it’s still awesome, but nothing compares to the feeling of that first time,” concluded St-Denis, who with any luck, won’t have to wait for another call-up to get the chance to don the bleu-blanc-rouge again next season.
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.
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