BROSSARD -- Traveling 6072 kilometres to attend a development camp tells you a lot about a player’s level of dedication.
That’s the distance that separates prospect Joonas Nattinen
’s hometown of Jamsa in Finland from the Canadiens’ Brossard practice facility where he’s currently attending the Habs’ summer development camp.
After two years worth of visits to North America, the 6-foot-2 Finnish center returned this time around with a freshly signed contract in hand.
“The signing of the contract may have just been a formality, but I think for me it meant a lot more than that. It gave me a boost and the motivation to work even harder over the summer,” admitted Nattinen who inked his three-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens on May 26.
“We discussed it and it looks like I’m going to be coming to play in North America this fall. I’ve been dreaming about this chance my whole life and I’m really excited about it. I want to arrive at training camp as prepared as I can be.”
It’s a certainty that some hard training will be a main priority for the 20-year-old this summer after playing through a tough season in 2010-11.
“It was a really hard year for me. I played about 25 games and had a lot of bad luck. I ended up in the hospital twice with pneumonia. It was tough,” explained Nattinen who, thanks to his pneumonia was only able to get back to working out a week ago. “My cardio’s not at its best right now and it shows when I’m on the ice. Luckily I have all summer to get back to where I need to be.”
In the interim, Nattinen will continue to enjoy his visit with the Canadiens organization.
“It gets easier and easier every time. Now I’m starting to know people by name and my interactions with everyone are a lot better. These are long days, but I’m having fun on ice and getting to focus mostly on stick-handling at the moment,” finished Nattinen, who will be leaving once more for Europe at the end of the week to continue his preparation for training camp over the coming months.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSONattinen photo galleryCanadiens sign centreman Joonas Nattinen to a three-year contract Habby Birthday Cammy!Notebook - June 7, 2011