Normally when players at rookie camp are asked about returning to junior, they give a standard answer. They want to go back and dominate, or be a leader, or something like that. When media asked Nicolas Guay about heading back to junior, his answer was different.
“I’m not concentrating on junior right now,” he said when asked about joining the Saint John Sea Dogs in an offseason trade. “It’s a new challenge, it’s a different team. But my goal is to get a [professional] contract.”
While Guay would have liked to get an invite to Montreal Canadiens main camp like another tryout Liam Hawel, there is a chance he will be invited to Laval Rocket training camp as he tries to secure an AHL deal.
Guay spoke to the media the morning of the game against the Winnipeg Jets, a game for which he sat out. He returned to the lineup against the Quebec University all star team and earned an assist playing with Joe Cox and Hayden Verbeek.
The one thing you notice when Guay is on the ice is that his instincts and anticipation make it so he’s always around the puck. It allows him to earn scoring chances and makes sure he’s always implicated in the play.
He also spoke candidly about his play against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday in Belleville. He was on the ice for Vitaly Abramov’s third goal backchecking on a two-on-one that was not caused by his own doing. Still he was disappointed.
“I was happy with my game but I made a few mental mistakes,” he said. “On the third goal, I could have cut the angle more and eliminate the two-on-one.”
Guay was at his third NHL rookie camp, previously getting invited to camp with the New Jersey Devils, and then the Detroit Red Wings. Like any player from Quebec, it’s a little different to get the call from the Canadiens.
“It’s an honour to play for the Montreal Canadiens, even if it’s just for a rookie camp. It’s a lot different than the other camps I experienced.”
The invite was given by Guay’s former junior coach and current Canadiens assistant, Dominique Ducharme. Ducharme knows Guay well. He traded for him when he was 17 years old and he was captain for Ducharme’s final year in Drummondville before he joined the Canadiens. The call came in the afternoon of the draft’s second day, and Guay didn’t hesitate to accept it.
“I paid attention [to the draft], but not as much as previous years,” Guay said. “My goal was to get an invite to camp, and I was happy to get that.”
Ducharme ran into Guay at development camp and gave him some advice. “He’s a good mentor,” Guay said.
Guay’s road through professional hockey has not been without speed bumps. He played 37 games in 2015-16 with Chicoutimi, the team that drafted him in the second round of the QMJHL draft. A conflict saw him ask for a trade. However, since the trade deadline passed, he ended up going to Austria to play 18 games in the AlpsHL. The men’s league is based in Austria, Italy, and Slovenia.
Later in the 2016-17 season, he got called by Ducharme who asked if he wanted to go back to the QMJHL. It was always his goal, and Drummondville’s coach and general manager completed the trade.
Guay has four siblings, all of which played hockey. He has two older sisters, but it is his younger siblings who are earning all sorts of attention. His sister Alexie is entering her first season at Boston College and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2019 World Under 18 Championship. Nicolas said he had the chance to visit Alexie and see the facilities.
His younger brother Patrick was the fifth overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft and is entering his first year of NHL draft eligibility.
The family’s patriarch, Francois, played professionally and become a player agent.
“It was special,” Guay said about growing up. “It was a hockey family. It’s our passion. All seven of us have been involved in hockey. Every weekend we spent our time in arenas,” he said.
“The backyard was a lot of fun.”