BROSSARD - After earning their respective spots on the Canadiens' opening night roster, youngsters Victor Mete and Charles Hudon are primed to get things started for real.
The pair will get that opportunity on Thursday night, when Claude Julien's troops open the 2017-18 campaign against the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center.
In Mete's case, it will mark his NHL debut following a standout showing at training camp and during the preseason that afforded him the chance to stick around with the big club to begin the year.
"I'm really excited. I know I have a lot of people coming to the game. It'll be a special night," said the 19-year-old defenseman, who hails from Woodbridge, ON, located just 160 km north of Buffalo. "It's not far. That's why everyone is making the trip."
Video: Victor Mete on making the Canadiens' roster
That includes Mete's parents, Mary and Joe, and his older sister, Julia, of course, all of whom will proudly be jumping aboard the Canadiens' bandwagon while paying close attention to every move No. 53 makes.
"They said they'll only become Canadiens fans when I start playing," cracked Mete, referencing the fact that his family's allegiance to their hometown Toronto Maple Leafs is about to expire for good. "I guess right now they are Canadiens fans."
As for kicking off his NHL career away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre, it doesn't bother Mete in the least. In his mind, playing three road games in quick succession is the perfect way to get his feet wet at hockey's highest level.
"It's three quick games. It's not like playing and then you're waiting another few days," said Mete, with respect to stops in Washington, DC on Saturday and Manhattan on Sunday following the tilt in Western New York. "It's like back-to-back-to-back almost, so it'll be good to just kind of get in there and get started. I think it's a good thing."
Julien's advice to his new charge under these circumstances is rather simple.
"We're telling him just to play his game and not to worry about anything. I've always told players who are playing their first game or joining the team from the minors - 'Go out there and have fun. Play your game.' That's why they're here. The reason is that we like what we see, so this isn't the time to change your good habits. It's the time to keep them going," explained Julien, on his approach with Mete at this point in time.
Video: Claude Julien on his roster
"Those guys, even if they make errors, it isn't the end of the world," he added. "They're going to grow from those mistakes and we think that guys like that are capable of succeeding."
Hudon, meanwhile, already boasts six games of NHL experience under his belt, but finding out that he'd achieved his goal of starting the season with the Canadiens was still somewhat overwhelming.
"It's definitely a very emotional moment for my family and for everyone around me. We're just enjoying it and we'll see what happens next," mentioned the 23-year-old left-winger, who is still looking for his first career NHL goal to add to his tally of four assists.
"It was amazing to talk to my dad after I got the news. It was like he didn't even react. He didn't express any emotion. But, I know he just didn't really want to show it," he continued. "I called my trainer, Steph Dube, and we screamed on the phone. Those were strong emotions. It's a childhood dream to be here."
Video: Charles Hudon on securing a roster spot
Now, it's up to Mete and Hudon alike to keep on strutting their stuff and prove they belong - and Julien has faith they can do just that after evaluating their body of work in recent weeks.
"When we made our final decisions, those two players definitely deserved to be here. We're starting the season with that group, and it's up to the players to hold onto their spots. Those two young guys really earned their spots," praised Julien. "They were good in our preseason games. We see the potential in both of them."