MONTREAL - After spending the 2017-18 season plying his trade overseas, Simon Després has his sights set on returning to the NHL ranks with the Canadiens this year.
On Thursday morning, the Habs announced that they'd invited the 26-year-old defenseman to training camp on a professional tryout.
It was precisely the opportunity the Laval native and former QMJHL standout and Memorial Cup champion was looking for.
"I was hoping to have a chance with the Montreal Canadiens. I asked myself - 'Which team do I want to win the Stanley Cup with?' For me, it was the Montreal Canadiens," affirmed Després, who met with members of the media at Sherbatov MMA, his training headquarters for the last three-and-a-half months. "I'm going to do everything I can to make the best of this opportunity with them."
Després' training partner is former Montreal Junior (QMJHL) forward, Eliezer Sherbatov, who was a teammate of his last season with Bratislava Slovan in the KHL.
The pair are even living together, so Després' focus is entirely on training and being in the best possible shape when camp opens in September.
"I'm devoting all of my time and energy with the goal of making the Canadiens' roster in mind," mentioned Després, the 30th overall selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. "I'm preparing myself to the best of my ability. I'm making all the right choices. I'm getting plenty of sleep. I'm eating right. I'm training with elite trainers and athletes. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in."
That being said, Després is still hoping to improve his speed and mobility over the next eight weeks.
"Eli is one of the fastest skaters in the world. I told myself that if I train with him, my skating will definitely get better," explained Després. "That's what's happening."
Should the blueliner impress the Canadiens' brass enough to earn a roster spot, he's hoping to bring several assets to the table.
"I'm a heavyweight. I also have a lot of experience. I played many years with some of the best players in the world, including [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry. I learned a lot from them," said Després, who last saw NHL action on October 13, 2016 with Anaheim, before concussion-related symptoms cost him the remainder of the year and eventually led to a contract buyout in June 2017. "I'm hoping to bring consistency, a good first pass and a physical game where I can move players in front of the net."
Video: Simon Desprès on being invited to Habs training camp
Right now, though, Després is just enjoying the preparation process and looking forward to proving his worth at the Bell Sports Complex.
"I'm taking things one day at a time. I appreciate every moment I'm training. I love it, training every day and getting better on the ice," concluded Després. "I love being challenged. I'm setting big goals. I've set the goal of making the Canadiens' roster and then the next step would be to win the Stanley Cup."