Long before he became the 199th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, two very important people in Cayden Primeau’s life were hesitant about him picking up the pads and standing between the pipes.
“It took a while. My dad did not want me to be a goalie,” Primeau said. “It took some persistence, but he finally caved in.”
He took up the position of goaltender around the age of five or six, but he couldn’t tell you why he did it. He just knew he didn’t want to be a forward. It turns out that path was a good one, as he’s about to start his first year of professional hockey.
A successful stint at Northeastern University ended with him winning the 2019 Hockey East Tournament and the Mike Richter Award for best goaltender in the American collegiate game. He joins the growing list of goaltenders who’ve descended into Laval Rocket training camp that already includes Michael McNiven and Connor Lacouvee. Charlie Lindgren was the starter last year, but he remains with the Montreal Canadiens for now.
Despite getting cut from the Canadiens’ pre-season roster, he was still able to make an impression on his fellow players and Habs fans alike.
“I just tried to take in as much as I could. I hadn’t been around talent like that,” Primeau said. “It was fun to be around all of it. Just tried to soak in as much as I could.
“I was a little torn because I would’ve liked to stay [in Montreal] obviously and be around that kind of play for a couple more days, but I was excited for the opportunity. It’s been great here,” he added.
“We’re very happy to have Cayden with us. He’s been adjusting very well,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said. “Right now we’re just letting him be himself and be comfortable in the environment. He did really well in the game he played.”
Cayden Primeau with a big save, and he gets some love from Max Domi afterwards. pic.twitter.com/v2Eryl5Fl8— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 17, 2019
In the one pre-season game Primeau contested, he made 16 saves on 17 shots in a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Of course, one of the 16 saves was the scintillating stop on Devils forward Blake Coleman, which drew rousing approval from the Canadiens’ faithful and from incumbent starter Carey Price.
Even Carey Price is impressed by that save by Primeau pic.twitter.com/aVUZAtcD9h— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 17, 2019
“That was funny,” Primeau said. “Everyone kept saying, ‘Did you see the video, did you see the video?’ And I hadn’t seen it until after. But yeah, that was funny.”
The 20-year-old has come a long from way from taking up the sport his hockey-playing father, Keith, played. The long-time Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers centre played over 900 NHL games and accumulated over 600 points. He’s also had his fair share of concussions, which ultimately ended his career in 2006. Those didn’t stop Cayden and his brothers from taking up the game — even if they did do so playing different positions.
“I don’t think there was ever a chance of me not playing hockey,” Cayden said.
So why wouldn’t his father want his son playing the position that he begged to play?
“Because of the mental side of things and how crazy it is on the parents as well,” the goaltender revealed. “Probably the fact that he wanted me to just enjoy it.”
After all those arguments when he was first getting started, the netminder ended up with an organization that carries attention and pressure — to meet not only your potential but to measure up to past greats — along with it.
“That’s exactly why I feel goalies should try to stay calm,” Primeau said. “There’s so much added pressure from everyone else. If you try to put pressure on yourself or look at that pressure, or kind of take it on, the mental side of things can go downhill pretty fast.”
He hopes adjustments from his playing days at Northeastern will suit him well.
“I really have tried to focus on the skating side of things,” Primeau said. “I could always use improvement. Not trying to drop too early, just trying to read the play. I like to use my size to my advantage.”
It’s still early at Laval Rocket camp, which means Bouchard can keep his cards close to his chest about what he’ll do with Primeau and the other goaltenders at camp.
“We’re just going one day at a time and just moving along with his development,” Bouchard said. “He’s still a young goalie.”