BROSSARD - Nate Thompson genuinely enjoyed mentoring the Canadiens' youngsters during his stay with Montreal.
The 35-year-old centerman made that perfectly clear shortly after being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers ahead of Monday's trade deadline.
In addition to winning key faceoffs, killing penalties, and putting up points from time to time, serving as someone kids could learn from and talk to was always a top priority.
For Thompson, it was the perfect way of paying it forward for being the beneficiary of some excellent guidance himself early on in his NHL career.
"When I was a young guy, I had Billy Guerin, Doug Weight and Martin St. Louis, and they were the same way with me. I think that just stuck with me, knowing how they treated me as a young guy. That's important," said Thompson, who will bring 760 games of regular-season NHL experience along with him to the City of Brotherly Love, in addition to 62 games of playoff experience as well. "These guys are the future of our game and we want our game to be in a good place. Why not pull them in, help them out, and let them know that they're part of the team? No one's worried about if they're taking my job or whatever. You want to help them realize that they're part of everything and they're going to help you win. I think that's the biggest thing. At the same time, all the kids here are great kids and they have a very bright future."
Video: Nate Thompson on playing in the Montreal market
One of those prospects is forward Jake Evans.
Thompson had high praise for the 23-year-old Toronto native, who was recalled from the AHL's Laval Rocket on Monday afternoon.
Evans boasts a team-leading 38 points (14g, 24a) with the Rocket so far this season.
"I had a good first impression of him at training camp. I told the guys on the team, and I thought this kid was going to be a really good player. You could see it then. He should be up here, in my opinion. It was fun playing with him. I think he's going to be a heck of a player," explained Thompson. "I wouldn't even limit him to a fourth-line center. He could be higher than that, just from what I've seen. He's going to do a good job."
Evans recently played six games with the Canadiens, making his NHL debut and scoring his first career goal.
There's no denying that Thompson is already a fan of the former seventh-round selection (207th overall) in 2014.
"He did remind me of myself a little bit because it's the same thing. I was a late, late pick," mentioned Thompson, a sixth-round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2003. "We probably didn't have the expectations that some players do coming up, but I think he's come on the scene even quicker than I did. He skates well, he makes great plays, he's smart, and he's very mature. He's a lot more mature than I was at his age."
With respect to prospects Ryan Poehling and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Thompson sees good things ahead for the pair, too.
He believes time spent under head coach Joel Bouchard's tutelage with Laval will pay serious dividends down the road.
"Sky's the limit for both of them. I think you have to be patient for guys like that. I think they're both natural centers, and it's tough to play center in this League. Sometimes it takes time," explained Thompson. "When I came up, I had to play wing. The best thing for me was playing in the minors for a few years. Sometimes it takes longer for others to make that jump, but the biggest thing is just be patient. I think both of them need that extra time down there [in the AHL] and I think in time, once they do come up here, they're going to take advantage of that opportunity and they're going to be very good. You can see it already."
Thompson's impact on Nick Suzuki, meanwhile, is well-documented, and the results speak for themselves.
He's enjoying a tremendous freshman campaign in the NHL ranks, and the best is yet to come.
There's no denying that "Uncle Nate" certainly lived up to his nickname.