MONTREAL - When Cayden Primeau arrives at Canadiens development camp in late June, he'll be a much different man and player for his third go-round.
Lots has happened to the 19-year-old backstop since he joined Habs prospects at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard last summer. Primeau won the NCAA's Hockey East championship with the Northeastern University Huskies, he was handed the Mike Richter Award as the top goalie in NCAA hockey for 2018-19, and he signed his first professional contract with the Canadiens - a three-year, entry-level deal - in March.
More recently, however, Primeau also got the chance to learn more about his not-too-distant future life as a pro when he was named to Team USA's roster for the 2019 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Slovakia. And though the Voorhees, NJ native grew up around NHL players thanks to his dad Keith, who played for four teams over a 15-year career, he confirmed that being at the Worlds was still an educational experience for him - even if he didn't see any game action.
"It was awesome. Being around that kind of talent and that caliber of play was huge," described Primeau, who posted a 25-10-1-4 record, 2.09 goals-against average, .933 save percentage, and four shutouts in 36 games with the Huskies this season. "I learned so much in the short time I had with Cory [Schneider] and Thatcher [Demko].
"I was just trying to take in as much as possible from watching them - how they carry themselves on and off the ice. I had always been around hockey and NHL players, but I've never really been around NHL goalies. So I tried to take in as much as I could from them."
Not only did the pro atmosphere rub off on Primeau, but the goaltender was also able to pick up on some technical tactics he's likely to incorporate into his own training and practice regimen.
"The biggest thing I took from them was skating and how important it was," shared Primeau, the Canadiens' seventh-round pick (199th overall) in 2017. "They didn't really say it to me, that 'This was the biggest thing that I worked on over the course of my career' or 'This is what I noticed need to be worked on going into my career', but it's what I picked up just from watching them."
The elder Primeau (i.e. Keith) - who won gold at the Worlds in 1997 and captained the Canadian contingent the following spring - didn't hop across the pond while his son was in Slovakia for the annual tournament, but did offer up some words of wisdom to his prodigy before he left.
"He told me to go out and experience it to its fullest, and opportunities like this don't come along all the time," recounted Cayden. "So have fun and enjoy it, but get to work as well."
The tournament ended a little earlier than members of Team USA would've liked, as they bowed out to Russia in the quarterfinal round with a 4-3 loss, but Primeau says he enjoyed the ride nonetheless.
"We had a good team and even though Russia was No. 1 on that side, we still believed that we could beat them and it was a close game," he recalled. "It was a good game, but they just had so much momentum coming out of the round robin and ultimately, they ended up defeating us. But it was a good game and it was a lot of fun to watch."
After the tournament, Primeau took the opportunity to explore other parts of the continent, visiting Greece, Malta, and Italy after his stay in Slovakia, and felt fulfilled for having soaked so much in - both hockey-wise, and also culturally.
"I always love traveling, seeing new places, and experiencing new cultures. I'd have to say the biggest surprise was Malta. I hadn't really heard of it before. The views were unbelievable, and it was one of the best places to walk around," he concluded. "That would probably be my number one."