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Suzuki and Fleury: Earned, not entitled

Twenty-year-olds ecstatic after being told they'll be starting the season in Montreal

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

BROSSARD - It's been a good day for Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury.

How could it not be, after all, after general manager Marc Bergevin pulled each of them aside to let them know they'd be starting the 2019-20 hockey season as full-fledged members of the Montreal Canadiens.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Bienvenue dans le grand club, les gars.Welcome to the show, boys.#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/Tzv7OKpfrn

Not a bad way to start off your Tuesday, wouldn't you say?

"I was definitely nervous a little bit there. It's hard not to be when it's such a big decision early in the year," noted Fleury, the Canadiens' third-round pick (87th overall) in 2017, of his chat with the Habs' GM. "I was nervous going into the office, but I was really happy coming out."

For his part, Suzuki pointed out that while the news was good, it was just step one of a mountainous staircase he'll have to climb in order to have success among the best of the best.

"It's definitely a lot of fun to be here. We've been working for this moment. But at the end of the day, we can be sent down anytime; we're not secure," added Suzuki, the Vegas Golden Knights' first-round pick (13th overall) in 2017 who was acquired last September in the Max Pacioretty trade. "So we have to keep working hard, earn everything we get and it should be a fun ride."

Video: Nick Suzuki on starting the season in Montreal

Before the players spoke, Bergevin addressed the media and told reporters that both Suzuki and Fleury found their names on the Club's NHL roster thanks to strong showings at training camp and were entirely deserving of having made the cut.

"That was definitely great hearing that from Marc. Just saying it wasn't because of injuries or anything else it was just other than it wasn't anything else other than me just earning a spot," expressed Fleury. "That was great to hear from him. It definitely made me proud of my camp I've had so far."

Video: Cale Fleury on making the team

In Suzuki's case, the 20-year-old made a point of familiarizing himself with his surroundings and future teammates ahead of the start of camp in order to better prepare himself for the challenge of convincing Canadiens brass he should start the year in the NHL.

"My mindset was to try to get as comfortable as possible. I came a few days early to skate with these guys, and I think that really helped. Just being comfortable with each player being in this room… it's pretty intimidating for a younger player to come in," admitted Suzuki, who led the Guelph Storm to an OHL title with a team record-breaking 42-points (16G, 26A) in the 2019 playoffs. "But everyone's been great; we're just getting closer each day."

The NHL veterans who are now officially Suzuki's teammates definitely took notice of the youngster's dedication and determination, too.

"We're super happy for him as a team. He's worked very hard to get to this point. He's a heck of a hockey player and a great kid," praised Max Domi, Suzuki's presumed linemate to start the season. "I'm excited for him."

Video: Max Domi on Nick Suzuki

Fleury was a bit more familiar with life as a pro than Suzuki was, having spent the 2018-19 season with the AHL's Laval Rocket. He said skating with Brett Kulak, with whom Fleury played for part of the season with the Habs' minor-league club, in camp made things a bit easier for him.

"It's been good. Like I've said before, just playing with guys I've played with last year in Laval has really helped me out on the ice," shared Fleury, who scored nine goals and 23 points in 60 games in his first year with the Rocket. "Just with being comfortable out there and being confident making plays with the guy you've played with before."

Kulak, who was called up from the minors in late November, has seen first-hand the kind of effort Fleury put in to get to where he is now.

"I'm excited for him. I know he's happy. He's a pretty humble guy, so he's not going to get overly excited; he's just going to carry about his business, keep working hard and being ready to go. We train in the same gym in the offseason so I got to see him pretty much every day. He was putting in the work, that's for sure," described Kulak, who played 57 games for the Habs last season, recording six goals and 17 points. "I know he changed his body a lot this summer; he came in in good shape and ready to go. He's been playing really well; I like playing with him."

Video: Brett Kulak on Cale Fleury

Fleury wasn't the only one who got rewarded after a season of evolution and a summer of training. 

"[Bergevin] said I've grown a lot since last camp and I think so for sure," said Suzuki, who arrived in the Canadiens organization just as training camp was getting underway last season. "Just the confidence coming in, and being comfortable here was huge for me. And I think the work that I put in over the summer… it was a lot of work, but it's definitely paying off right now."

Suzuki said his parents bought a ticket to Raleigh for the first game of the season on Thursday just in case their son made the team, even if Nick's younger brother, Ryan, is not quite ready to crack the Carolina Hurricanes' roster.

Fleury's brother, Haydn, is likely to play, however, and the brothers will also have their parents in the stands to witness the historic event.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Si vous ne voyez pas le num��ro 83 sur la glace, c���est normal. Cale Fleury portera maintenant le num��ro 2������0������ avec les Canadiens.Don't worry about not seeing No. 83 on the ice this morning. Cale Fleury now wears No. 2������0������ with the Canadiens.#GoHabsGo

Cale will try his best not to let the magnitude of the moment overtake him.

"I just try not to be too nervous. Obviously the nerves are going to be there, you've been working for it your whole life," concluded Fleury. "But I think just the same mindset I've had throughout camp is being consistent and playing my game."

The Canadiens practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday before departing for Raleigh. They play their first game of the regular season on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

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