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Willie Corrin and Kevin Dufour representing the Brampton Beast at Canadiens training camp

Two Beast players try to leave their claw marks at the tune-up event.

Robyn Iwaskiw/Brampton Beast

When I was a young lad, in a time before the internet, smartphones, and Pokémon, the smell of the cold, crisp air after the first frost would signify that the hockey season is around the corner. Today, the post-Labour Day traffic through neverending construction reminds us that training camp is about to start.

Weaving through all the congestion, from Brampton all the way to Brossard, two young men are receiving the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of playing not just for an NHL team, but for Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.

Two players signed by the Montreal Canadiens’ ECHL affiliate, the Brampton Beast, were invited to training camp. Forward Kevin Dufour and defenceman Willie Corrin have been performing drills alongside AHL and NHL players in recent days.

Willie Corrin

Born in Minnesota, Corrin came through the NCAA system. He played four years at the University of Minnesota Duluth. At the age of 26, he just completed his first full professional season in 2016-17.

That season started with a brief stint with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and ended with a regular spot in Brampton’s lineup. In 40 games played with the Beast, he scored 10 goals and a total of 26 points. The offensive play helped him claim a role on the top pairing with Jordan Henry, and earned him team rookie of the year honours. Corrin is already signed to return to the Beast for a second season.

Kevin Dufour

Dufour is a 25-year-old left-winger and was born in Quebec City. After signing with the Beast, Dufour said how happy he is to be coming home.

“Staying in Canada is going to be pretty cool for me. I haven’t played in Canada in the last four years. I’m proud to be home. It’s always been a dream to play for the Montreal Canadiens. To be in their organization means a lot but hopefully I can keep improving and go higher.”

In his final season with Bowling Green State University, he led the team with 18 goals in 41 games. He finished the balance of the year in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays, scoring seven points in nine games.

Their chances

While they are considered long shots to make the team, anything can happen during training camp. They will be relishing every moment, and hoping to leave a good impression with management. Illness and injury are part of the game, and a good first impression can put them in mind for a call-up to the Laval Rocket at any time.

While most fans will be pontificating on who should be the first-line centre, or who will play on Shea Weber’s left side, there are other evaluations being made over the short duration of training camp.

In the grand scheme of things, a place in the ECHL is not so far away from one in the NHL. Players like Brandon Davidson and former Hab David Desharnais have graduated from the league.

It is very hard to make it to the best league in the world, but making your mark in the pros, on a team closely linked to a storied NHL club, is a good place to start.