MONTREAL - Phillip Danault's offseason training regimen includes some serious "home" work this year.
When the 24-year-old forward isn't training at the PEPS on the University of Laval campus in Quebec City or skating at a local rink, you might just find him in his garage. Car repair isn't on the menu, though.
"I bought a big synthetic ice surface at the beginning of the summer, so I try to work on my skills as much as I can. I want to get better there. I always wanted to be better offensively," said Danault, who notched 13 goals and 40 points in his first full NHL campaign last season. "I can't skate on it, so it's really just for my hands. I've got a goalie figure in there. I can shoot real pucks and I can shoot as hard as I can. I also have a passer. But I probably stickhandle way more than I shoot."
The purchase has already paid dividends, according to the Victoriaville native.
"I've definitely noticed a difference on the ice," said Danault, who incorporates synthetic ice work into his routine on days when he isn't skating. "I've just got to keep doing it, but I felt more comfortable right away."
Danault's offseason training group includes the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Antoine Vermette, Alex Chiasson, Steve Bernier, and former Habs David Desharnais and Mark Barberio, with sessions conducted under the supervision of renowned strength and conditioning coach Raymond Veillette.
"We train every day. It's fun trying to push yourself more than everybody else. It's always a little competition internally. But it's fun because everyone is pushing each other. We always want to go further and further," said Danault, on the group dynamic so far this summer, his second with Veillette and company. "Raymond is amazing. I was lucky to be accepted into his program."
While on- and off-ice workouts typically ramp up come August and become more of a grind, Danault seems to genuinely enjoy the process. His productivity last year only fueled his fire to have as strong a summer as possible before embarking on what he hopes will be another big year.
Video: MTL@OTT: Danault cashes in on Lehkonen's blocked shot
"I don't think I'll ever be satisfied with my season, unless we win the Cup. Even there, you always want to be better both personally and as a team. The synthetic ice was a must for me to get better. I love hockey. It's my passion. Nothing is better than performing. It's the best thing. I don't want to have a career that goes up and down. I just want to go up and get better and better every year," explained Danault, adding that he's eager to push himself even further come October. "I don't want to finish my career saying, 'I should have done this, I should have done that.' I want to do it right now and not waste any time."
With that in mind, Danault has zeroed in on a few key areas of his game that needed improvement.
"I want to be more poised and confident with the puck. I want to play on the power play, so I have to be better there. You need to earn that trust," said Danault, the Canadiens' eighth most-utilized forward with the man advantage in 2016-17. "I also want to get better defensively. Last year, we scored a lot of goals, but we also got scored on. I want to be like Patrice Bergeron. He's a big role model for me. He's probably the best two-way guy in the league. I'm lucky to be able to train with him."
While the reigning Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy winner still has work to do, he has every reason to feel good himself heading into the fall.
"My confidence is way higher. The coaching staff gave me confidence the whole year. I was a fourth-line winger at the beginning of last season, fighting for a spot. I was ready to fight for it. Then there was a coaching change and I had to fight again," said Danault, who steadily worked his way up the lineup to become a relied-upon pivot. "It was a stressful moment at first [centering the top line], but it was fun. I liked the pressure. I definitely got better."
Right now, though, Danault is enjoying some stress-free downtime at his lake house in the provincial capital with his fiancée, Marie-Pierre, before getting back to the business of lighting the lamp and putting up points in the fall.
"It's all trees around there. You get there and it's peaceful right away. You see all the stars that you don't see downtown. It's awesome," said Danault, on his lakefront property. "The moon on the lake is beautiful. We're right by where the sun goes down. It's a good place to rest in the summer and relax ahead of the season."