MONTREAL - Athletes might be creatures of habit, but there's one summertime routine Michael Chaput won't be performing this year.
And, the 26-year-old centerman - who hails from Île-Bizard and signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens on July 1 - couldn't be happier about it.
"Every year around this time, I'd probably be leaving in a week or two. I'd pack up, say goodbye to everyone and be ready to go wherever I'm going," said Chaput, whose pro career has included stops in Springfield, Lake Erie and Utica in the AHL ranks, and Columbus and Vancouver at the NHL level. "It's nice that everything's going to be happening in my backyard. My family and friends are here. I've been leaving home since I was 16 years old, so this will be different."
Different in a good way, of course. After spending the bulk of the 2017-18 campaign plying his trade with the Canucks' AHL affiliate, Chaput is setting his sights on earning a roster spot with his hometown team out of training camp.
"My mindset is to try and make this team. I want to play for the Canadiens. That's my main goal. That's what I'm working towards," affirmed Chaput, who was the Comets' second-leading point-getter last season with 42 points (17g - 25a) in 55 games. "I'm going to go out there and try to play my best. That's what I always try to do, work as hard as I can and try to fit my way in."
The Saint-Laurent resident has been preparing to impress the Canadiens' brass with the help of his long-time trainer, Yves Ethier, in nearby Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
"It's been a lot of power-related stuff and Olympic lifting. Then, you work on plyometrics just to get the legs to be able to sustain 45-second to 60-second shifts over three periods and be able to play 15 to 20 minutes per game," explained Chaput, who boasts six goals and 17 points in 135 career NHL outings. "And, once you're in that stage of being tired and exhausted, it's about being able to keep pushing for another 15 to 20 seconds to make sure you can finish the shift. That's what I try to mimic in the gym with my workouts."
Should Chaput achieve his objective come October, he plans on bringing a gritty brand of hockey to the table.
"I play both sides of the ice and I pride myself on working hard every shift, using my body and being physical. I'm not afraid to go in the corners. I play that chippy game," described Chaput, who stands 6-foot-2 and tips the scales at 205 pounds. "I can also see the game and see the play. That's my style. But, if I'm called upon to be a defensive guy, I'm comfortable doing that. In the AHL, I've been playing more on the top two lines, and then when I'd go up to the NHL, I'd be a third or fourth-line guy. I can adjust my game, and hopefully I can bring it to a new level this season."
Doing so with the CH on his chest - and cementing his place in the NHL in the process - would obviously be meaningful after playing 301 AHL games since turning pro in 2012-13.
"It's a really big year, especially the first year in a new organization. I've got to make an impact. Hopefully, I can stay here in the long run," confided Chaput, who played a career-high 68 NHL games with the Canucks two years ago. "There's been a lot of disappointment along the way, especially when you know you can play in the NHL and you've been there. It's tough, but you've just go to be strong mentally and tell yourself to keep going. That's what you've been working on forever, so you've got to keep going and try to get back to it."
And, what better way to "get back at it" than by sticking with the big club and suiting up at the Bell Centre on a regular basis beginning eight weeks from now…
"I grew up going to Canadiens games and watching them play. Then, eventually I turned pro and started playing against them. There's always a little sense, something cool about it," concluded Chaput, who played his first-ever game at the Bell Centre in early January in a 5-2 loss to the Habs. "I watched Saku Koivu a lot and Richard Zednik, too. My grandpa always loved Arron Asham. It was great to watch the games together. Now, I have the chance to play for the team I watched as a kid. That would be pretty special."