BUFFALO -- Cayden Primeau got his first taste of life as a professional hockey player. Now he's ready for more.
After signing a three-year, entry-level contract on March 31 with the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him in the seventh round (No. 199) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Primeau spent a week with the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League on a professional tryout contract.
"It was good to get in there and see what it's all about," the 19-year-old said after capping his college career Friday by winning the Mike Richter Award, which honors the most outstanding goalie in NCAA Division I hockey. "I didn't play but I was able to practice with the guys a couple of times. [It was good] just being able to experience that level and what it's like to be in that kind of environment."
Primeau was 25-10-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in his sophomore season at Northeastern. The save percentage is the best in school history, and the GAA was only slightly higher than the school-record 1.92 he had as a freshman. Primeau helped Northeastern tie for second place in Hockey East and qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. He was named MVP of the Beanpot and the Hockey East tournaments.
He's quickly risen up Montreal's depth chart. in goal and next season, he'll embark on his professional hockey career with a chance to learn from Carey Price, who became the Canadiens' all-time leader in wins (315) on March 12.
"It's huge any time you can gain experience from someone like that, and obviously he's been an idol of mine since I was young," Primeau said. "Anything you can take from an organization where there's a goalie like that and great goalie minds, you just try to soak everything up that you can."
Primeau, whose father, Keith, was a forward who played 909 games during 15 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, and Philadelphia Flyers, always knew he wanted to be a goalie. But getting his father to agree wasn't so easy.
"I started out as a player, but I would skate with my head down and my stick behind me because I wanted no part of it," he said. "It took some persistence. My dad didn't want me to be a goalie at first, but he finally caved. I never turned back once I put on the pads.
"I think he just got tired of me asking and watching me just skate back and forth with my head down."
Making the decision to take the next step in his career was tough. But after putting it upon himself to take on more responsibility this past season and the experiences in his college career overall, he felt ready to make the jump.
"There were a lot of ups and downs, so I think that adversity and the adventure that we went through as a team was huge," Primeau said. "At first, [I was] trying to battle because I didn't have the net at the beginning of my freshman year, so battling a veteran goalie to try to get the net was huge, and I can take that going forward."
A criminal justice and psychology major, Primeau will finish up some exams in the weeks ahead before beginning work on the next chapter of his hockey career.
"I just need to have a good summer. I know the things I need to improve on," he said. "I'm just trying to take it day by day and just get better every day. I'm not setting any expectations or anything like that."