MONTREAL - Jeremy Gregoire didn't wait for the Habs' new farm club, the Laval Rocket, to officially come into existence before moving to the area. In order to help get acquainted with his new surroundings, the Sherbrooke native decided to conduct his summer training on the North Shore.
Gregoire is heading into his third season as a pro. After a debut campaign that he himself described as "difficult", Gregoire made some changes to his game and enjoyed a strong sophomore season with the Saint John's IceCaps in 2016-17, registering nine goals and 12 points in 56 games.
"It went well. I was more aware of the role the coaches wanted me to play and of what I needed to do to reach my goals. I had spent the previous summer trying to attain those objectives and I would say I accomplished what I wanted to," outlined the centerman, who turns 22 on September 5. But now it's my third season, and I would like to be one of the most reliable players on the team."
In keeping with that, Gregoire chose to work out in a Crossfit gym in Laval this summer, putting in extra time to build a more powerful lower body.
"The way hockey is today, you need to be always getting faster and more explosive, so that means doing more work on your legs. Staying focused in summertime has never been an issue for me," he affirmed. "It's part of what it means to be a professional. It may sound like a bit of a cliche, but I feel I'm in top shape."
Video: Jeremy Gregoire's offseason regimen
Although he stayed dedicated to the task at hand over the summer, Gregoire also set aside plenty of time to rest and decompress - just one more way the young pivot has prepared himself for an intense season ahead.
"I'm the kind of person who likes to take care of myself all year round, so in summer, it's good to get home and relax. Nutrition and training are important, but so is rest. It's a combination of all of those things," he explained. "I went to Punta Cana on vacation for a week, and that did a lot of good. It was nice to disconnect, to read, and to just enjoy being by the water. It's a must after the long seasons we have.
"I don't work out on the weekends, I leave that time to see friends I don't get to see during the season, and especially to spend time with my family. That's important for me. So I'm in shape, but I'm also mentally well-rested."
Gregoire won't be attending the rookie tournament in Toronto on September 8 and 9, instead joining the team for the big camp in Brossard.
"I liked going to the rookie tournament the last two years, but this way, I'll have an extra week to prepare," recounted the 6-foot-3, 193-pound forward. "I see it as a good thing. I realize I'm no longer a rookie, and I need to leave my mark."
Making an impression in Montreal has certainly become his primary objective heading into the season.
"It's just about having an impact, since the Canadiens have a new head coach. I really want to be improving every year. As you become more experienced, you definitely have to show you're making progress if you want to remain a part of the team's plans," admitted the Canadiens' sixth-round selection (176th overall) from 2013. "I've played some exhibition games over the last two years and I really want to try to do even better and to stay in Montreal as long as I can, but if not, I won't be very far."
If he does indeed end up with the Rocket, Gregoire will be entering his third AHL season as a young veteran. But for him, age is just a number when it comes to being a leader in the room.
"I don't think you can come to a team and say, 'Ok, this year, I want to be a leader.' Leadership should come naturally and I had a letter on my jersey pretty often when I was in Junior," he shared. "I started to contribute in that way last year, too, but it'll come naturally this season."
Last year, Gregoire felt he benefitted from teammate Bobby Farnham's leadership and considered him a good role model for his own leadership progression, on and off the ice.
"He's intense, good at both ends of the ice. This year, they decided not to make him an offer at this point so I'm going to try to fill his shoes a little bit," he said. "I'm sure the coaches will help me succeed in the role, because I think that's what could get me to another level."
Whether he ends up in the AHL or NHL this season, Gregoire knows he'll be hitting the ice under the watchful eye of family and friends, and he hopes he and his team can live up to expectations. Even if, in Gregoire's case, those expectations may be a little higher this time around.
"As a team, the expectations should be pretty high. Last year, we made the playoffs for the first time in six years and this year, we want to make the playoffs and take it a step further. If the expectations aren't there, we won't get anywhere," he reasoned. "We want to perform well in front of the Quebec crowd so that they'll want to come see us play."
On a personal level, Gregoire also has his goals set for 2017-18.
"My primary objective is to be dominant in the role my coaches give me: be strong on the penalty kill, play intensely, be tough to play against," he concluded. "Last year, I did that well, but now it's really about being one of the most dominant players on the team and be someone who's noticed around the league."