The 21-year-old forward, who was called up from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on December 5, wasted little time demonstrating his readiness to compete at the big-league level. After lighting the lamp in his first career NHL game on December 6 in Dallas, the Zurich native registered the primary assist on linemate Tomas Plekanec’s game-winning goal on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s a dream that’s become reality for me to have the chance to play in the NHL, specifically here in Montreal. We all know just how important hockey is here,” offered Andrighetto, who became the first Habs player since Max Pacioretty back in January 2009 to score his first career goal in his first NHL outing. “I saw that especially when I had the privilege to attend Mr. Béliveau’s funeral, and participate in the game in his honor. I saw just how incredible the fans are in Montreal. I’ll always remember that game. Those were special moments, and they were packed with emotion.”
While the transition to the NHL ranks is never easy, Andrighetto’s teammates are making certain that the former QMJHL standout is feeling right at home in his surroundings.
“It’s an incredible group of guys. They helped and supported me a lot. I came here without any NHL experience. I was nervous at the start, which is pretty normal. I got help, though, especially from the older guys,” mentioned Andrighetto, who racked up 172 points in 115 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies over two seasons between 2011 and 2013. “I also know a few guys from Hamilton that came in last year and this year. They’ve also been a big help.”
One of Michel Therrien’s troops Andrighetto has been able to turn to early on is Plekanec, who is currently centering the speedy winger’s line along with another talented young gun in Jiri Sekac.
“It’s cool to play with Plekanec,” confided Andrighetto, who amassed nine goals and 18 points in 21 games with the Bulldogs this season prior to joining the Canadiens on their most recent swing. “I had the chance to play with him at training camp. It’s working well right now. He’s a guy I can learn a lot from and imitate.”
While Plekanec has only lined up alongside Andrighetto for one NHL game, the veteran pivot is adamant that the Canadiens’ No. 58 boasts the intangibles to succeed in his new role.
“He’s a skilled guy. He can make plays. He can pass the puck. He’s also really good with the puck on his stick. His hockey sense is there, too. All of those things are at a really good level already and he’s still so young,” praised Plekanec, who also admits to being impressed by Andrighetto’s demeanor in the veritable infancy of his NHL career. “He’s a fairly quiet guy, but he’s asked a few times about plays here and there. He seems like a really nice kid who wants to learn. He’s just looking for answers. I’m happy to help him out and give him some tips.”
Fortunately, Andrighetto already has a good head on his shoulders and his approach to his first foray into the NHL has paid immediate dividends as a result.
“I don’t really focus on goals and points. It’s my job to help the team win games. That’s my primary role on the second line with Plekanec. But, I’m also taking the time to appreciate things,” explained Andrighetto, who was drafted 86th overall by the Canadiens in 2013. “I’m having fun. I’m working hard. I want to be responsible and do the little things like they should be done. I’m an offensive guy. I don’t have to worry about anything else. It just comes naturally in the offensive zone.”
That statement alone would likely be music to the Canadiens bench boss’ ears, especially at a time of year when the CH is struggling to score goals on a consistent basis. One of only 21 players from the 2013 draft class to have suited up for NHL action, Andrighetto is committed to doing everything possible to ensure his stay in La Belle Province isn’t short-lived.
“That just shows that it doesn’t matter where you get drafted, whether it’s in the first or the seventh round. Even if you aren’t drafted, it’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of free agents out there. The real work begins after all of that,” offered Andrighetto, who logged nearly 15 minutes of ice time against the Canucks earlier in the week. “I can use my speed to my advantage all the time out there. I’m fast and I think the speed of play at the NHL level suits me well.”
Plekanec certainly agrees with that evaluation.
“It’s hard to compare him with all of the guys I’ve played with or seen that young on the team, but he’s definitely up there,” mentioned Plekanec. “He’s off to a really, really impressive start in the NHL.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words From The Room - December 11
The ultimate farewell
In his honor