LAVAL - Max Pacioretty has had a great summer. The 28-year-old welcomed his third son into the world in July, and spent the offseason in Montreal for the first time.
"Living here in the summer, I really got a good feel of the city and the buzz from everyone, I met a lot of great people," pronounced Pacioretty, who said he and his wife, Katia, decided they'd be more comfortable taking care of their newborn in town. "Everyone seems really excited about the year."
Count Pacioretty among the most excited for the season to get underway. After all, he did spend the summer hard at work with the Canadiens' prized June acquisition, Jonathan Drouin. The more the two spent time together, the more they hit it off. And that's got them both counting down the days until they step out onto the ice together in matching bleu-blanc-rouge attire.
"He's been great. I talk to Jonathan and see him all day every day. We train together, we hang out together, we eat together, we skate together. From day one, I've really liked what I've seen from him. He's a tremendous talent, one of the best I've been on the ice with," praised Pacioretty, whose 35 goals in 2016-17 marked the fourth straight season he has potted at least 30 tallies. "Even more importantly than that, he's a great kid. He wants to get better and help this team."
Video: Max Pacioretty hosts his golf tournament
An encouraging early review from the captain, one that's sure to stoke the hockey fire for Canadiens fans. Even moreso, perhaps, since Drouin felt the same way about his new teammate.
"It's for sure been a big help, especially since he's the captain. We know Max has scored a lot of goals the last few years and it's been great to be able to skate with him, get some feedback, get some insight on how things work," extolled Drouin, who contributed 21 goals for 53 points last season in Tampa Bay. "It's cool because even though I know the city and I'm from here, I don't know the other players, I don't really know how it works with the team and to be with Max all summer, it's really been a help. It's gone very well with him so far."
Entering his third season with the storied captain's C sewn on his sweater, Pacioretty knows a thing or two about the importance synergy can play in the success of a team, and is happy he and Drouin are off to a good start together.
"Chemistry starts off the ice and him and I have seemed to hit it off really well this summer. That's half the battle," described the 6-foot-2, 215-pound left winger. "I'm just really excited to play with him. Hopefully, we can have the same type of chemistry on the ice."
Some of that chemistry may depend on which part of the ice Drouin finds himself come puck drop. In other words, cue the questions about whether he'll be starting the season at center or on the wing.
While making no commitments, head coach Claude Julien was certainly open to the idea.
"Drouin maybe deserves a chance to make a case for playing center, but training camp will help determine a lot of things," said the Habs bench boss, who will be entering the first full season of his second stint in Montreal this fall. "You have to let the players show their worth, but it's good to know we have options. He played some of his Junior at center but I want to see him. We're going to give (the players) the chance, see how things work. We have some ideas, we just want to take the time to see them in action at camp."
For his part, Drouin is comfortable playing the part of pivot if called upon.
"I played center my last year of Junior, so I don't think I'll be nervous playing there if that's where I end up. There is room at center," recounted the 5-foot-11, 188-pound forward. "Centers are always moving, so if they have speed and good vision, there are more options than on the wing."
Video: Jonathan Drouin on which position he'll play
Wherever Drouin ends up will be just fine with Pacioretty. The veteran of nine NHL seasons says he has already taken a lot from his electrifying new teammate since their budding friendship began several months ago.
"I want to help him, and I want him to help me. That's my mindset. He's such a great, skilled player. There are a lot of things I have learned from him on the ice so far," explained the New Canaan, CT native. "Even picking his brain about the different guys and situations in Tampa, I've learned just as much from him as he has from me. We're just really excited to get started, and hopefully, we can do something special."
Helping Drouin may have been his theme of the summer, but it wasn't the theme of the day. Pacioretty had gathered many of his teammates and a who's-who of Habs alumni for the second edition of his Captain's Tournament at Islemere Golf Club. The event was a fundraiser for the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation and the Max Pacioretty Foundation, which in turn will help the Montreal General Hospital Foundation. As a father to three young children, giving back to the community was a no-brainer for No. 67.
"When you have kids of your own, you can relate to when you see kids in need. When you see you can help, as a father that really hits home a lot more. I just had my third kid, and you always see their face when you see kids who need help," concluded Pacioretty, who said he was humbled by - and thankful for - the support he got from his teammates. "It makes it a lot easier to give back, and a lot more enjoyable as well."