BROSSARD - Michael Pezzetta admits he had goosebumps the first time he stepped on Canadiens ice for development camp in 2016. As a veteran among Habs prospects this July, the 19-year-old was able to focus on the task at hand the second time around.
"Last year was more about coming in and getting the experience, get a feeling for what's going on. It was a new experience, and it was a bit surreal to put on a Canadiens sweater for the first time. Those kinds of things were all business this year," noted Pezzetta, the Habs' sixth-round pick (160th overall) in 2016, who participated in his second development camp in Brossard this summer. "I knew what to expect. Coming into the games, I got a feeling for what they were like last year, so this year I knew what to do and it felt good."
The Toronto native may have been awestruck by slipping on the iconic bleu-blanc-rouge jersey, but some of his friends back home felt a little differently about Pezzetta joining the organization located on the other end of the 401.
"Some of my friends loved it, and some of them said they're not going to talk to me anymore," he cracked. "It was a cool experience. I had always been both a Toronto and Habs fan - I have a lot of family in Montreal. They were pretty excited. They came out to watch a bunch of the development camp games and it was nice to see them out here."
Pezzetta, a hard-nosed forward who never shies away from battling in the corners, completed his third season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sudbury Wolves in 2016-17, and helped lead his team to their first playoff appearance since 2014. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound center matched his 10-goal output from the previous season in 10 fewer games, earning hardest-working forward honors on the Wolves for the month of January along the way.
That nod from his organization wasn't the only recognition Pezzetta earned in 2016-17, as the third-year pivot was also one of three Wolves to be handed the team's community service award for the season in light of his contributions to Sudbury's Big Nickel fundraiser tournament, among others.
"I do a lot of stuff for charity: school visits, helping out in the community, doing walks for down syndrome," explained Pezzetta, who got his first glimpse of Sudbury by participating in the Big Nickel tournament as a minor hockey player before becoming a member of the Wolves. "I'm always looking to help out and give back."
The Wolves will be counting on Pezzetta's leadership as he enters his fourth and final year of Junior this fall. The power forward, who was named an alternate captain in 2016-17, contributed a pair of goals in Sudbury's first-round playoff series against Oshawa, earning him third-star honors in two of the five postseason games he played against the Generals.
And while the prospect of mentoring his younger teammates and helping the Wolves to another playoff appearance may certainly be on his radar, Pezzetta is starting to look ahead to the longer term.
"I've been trying to work on my skills in tight, quick hands, making sure everything's firing at the same time. I've always been good in the gym, so I'll always continue working on that," he concluded. "Working on those little skills is what's going to get me to the next level."