MONTREAL - Xavier Ouellet is coming back to La Belle Province for another year.
The 25-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Canadiens for 2019-20, and is looking forward to getting another shot with the big club.
"It was a pretty crazy season for me. Lots of emotion, it was a really emotional season," shared Ouellet, who lost his mother to cancer in February. "I'm really happy with the time I had in Montreal. That's something I want to capitalize on and take my chance next season.That's what I see for the future."
Ouellet suited up for 19 games for the Canadiens in October and November before being sent down to the Laval Rocket where he was subsequently named captain of the Habs' AHL affiliate, a nomination that did a lot of good for the native of Bayonne, France.
"It meant a lot. It's a big confidence boost. I think it says a lot about the person and the player that I am. I took that job with a lot of pride," beamed Ouellet, who finished as the Rocket's top-scoring defenseman with 28 points (7G, 21A) in just 48 games. "And I'll use that to build for next year. To build through the offseason, train, and get ready for next year and come into camp with a lot of confidence and ready to go."
Despite the honor, Ouellet made no bones about where he'd like to spend the 2019-20 season patrolling the blue line.
"I'm trying to make it clear to everyone that my goal is to get back in the NHL. So [the team] knows that's the mindset I have," explained Ouellet, who boasts 160 games of NHL experience with the Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. "It's just going to be about the way I play. If I can make an impact and make the team in Montreal, they'll do what they have to do but my part is just to be ready."
Video: MTL@TOR: Ouellet scores from point through traffic
In terms of his preparation, Ouellet is already back at work training for next season. He'll spend part of the offseason in the Montreal area, but he was in Michigan working out with former Red Wings teammate Justin Abdelkader when we caught up with him.
The 6-foot, 196-pound blue-liner is prioritizing improving on his speed and skating this summer.
"[My offseason regimen] changes every year. I want to get a little quicker, I want to get a little faster," described Ouellet, whose wife's family is from the same town as Abdelkader. "So that's the whole emphasis and challenge for the summer. I'll be skating a little more and I have access to the ice rink, so I can just skate as much as I want."
Video: MTL@TOR: Ouellet hammers home his second goal
As he looks to next season, Ouellet, who grew up in Terrebonne, is thrilled at the prospect of getting to work in his home province for another turn around the sun.
"I had a great experience last year. I mean, I had a pretty good season. I see an opportunity in Montreal. My goal is the same, it's to be in the NHL. So I just feel like I can help this team and help this organization be better," he concluded. "And that's what I want to do."