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Training camp isn't over for Xavier Ouellet

The 25-year-old defenseman is preparing to play his first home game in a Canadiens uniform after experiencing a season of uncertainty

by Olivier Beauregard. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski. @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

BROSSARD - Xavier Ouellet has been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in recent months.

First, because the Red Wings elected to buy out his contract and part ways with the 25-year-old defenseman instead of keeping him in the fold.

Ouellet is hoping to put that chapter of his career behind him - permanently.

"As a player, you don't really want to look behind you too much. Things didn't work out and I was bought out by the Red Wings. It was disappointing, and it's something that you never want to happen," he explained. "But, it comes with the job. That's the way things go in hockey."

Come July 1, though, Ouellet signed a one-year, two-way contract with the team he grew up cheering for. 

"I'd just experienced some disappointment and then a new opportunity came my way," mentioned Ouellet, who was born in Bayonne, France. "I was so happy."

Ouellet and his family and friends embraced that opportunity with open arms.

"After I signed, they were all kind of freaking out a bit," said Ouellet. "It was fun to experience those moments."

Video: Xavier Ouellet on assistant coach Luke Richardson

After being shuffled between the NHL and the AHL for almost five years, the former Blainville-Boisbriand Armada blueliner still looks upon his time in the Red Wings organization as a positive experience.

"My first season in Grand Rapids, I wasn't playing on the power play and I didn't get to play on the penalty kill, either. My second year was a lot better. I played around 25 games in Detroit with Mike Babcock as head coach. He really wanted me to bring the same game I was playing in Junior. I had opportunities to play on the power play and I was playing 17 to 18 minutes per game," explained Ouellet. "Finally, in my third season, I went back to Grand Rapids and it was just like being in Junior again. I played on the power play, and I was logging 20 minutes of ice time every night. I had a great season."

A summer spent preparing 

Shortly after putting pen to paper and inking his contract with the Canadiens, Ouellet was hard at work again preparing for training camp as he looked to secure a roster spot.

"It was a new kind of motivation. Focusing on my training and my nutrition were very important during the offseason," indicated Ouellet. "I wanted to be at my best for camp."

His work ethic and commitment paid serious dividends, with Ouellet currently being a regular on the Canadiens' back end playing alongside Jordie Benn.

Benn is a big fan of his new teammate.

"We're very comfortable playing together. He's an excellent defenseman and we communicate a lot on the ice," said Benn. "We're developing some chemistry right now and we're hoping to keep it going."

Video: Jordie Benn on assistant coach Luke Richardson

Taking nothing for granted

Even if things are going well for Ouellet, he knows all too well that nothing is guaranteed in the NHL ranks.

"I still feel like I'm in training camp and I have to continue proving myself night after night. I was talking with my father recently and I mentioned to him that I felt like the whole season was going to be like camp - and maybe even my entire career. There's always competition in this League," he explained. "Every year, young guys are coming to take your spot. You can't take anything for granted, so that's the mentality I'm trying to bring every day."

Ouellet will soon have the chance to experience his first regular-season home game in Canadiens colors on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre.

"I'm really looking forward to it. My immediate family will be there, so it'll be a great night," concluded Ouellet. "But, it's just one game and we have work to do."

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