Since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 National Hockey League draft, Cole Fonstad has been getting a crash course as to what life is like in the pros.
After the 18-year-old from Estevan attended the Montreal Canadiens development camp in July, the Prince Albert Raiders forward made his way to Laval, Que. this past week to participate in the team’s rookie camp.
“There’s some similarities between the two camps, but there’s quite a lot of differences as well,” Fonstad said.
“Obviously when you go there you are trying to develop your game and learn as much as you can, but the lessons are quite different. At the development camp, we focused a lot on individual skills and the habits that go into being a pro, but at the rookie camp it’s a lot more about the little details that goes into being a complete player.”
During the camp, Fonstad played in two games for the Canadiens during a rookie showcase tournament, where he got to go up against some familiar faces.
“’Stally’ (Jordy Stallard) and (Parker) Kelly were both playing for Ottawa and I was pretty sure that Parker would give me a couple of spears, but that didn’t happen,” Fonstad said. “I didn’t get to go up against ‘Scotty’ (Ian Scott) when we played Toronto, but I’m sure he would have stopped me.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling to look down and see that you are wearing a real NHL jersey when you go out on the ice to face the other prospects.”
In addition to on-ice action, Fonstad got a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes with the Canadiens.
“We had a pretty busy schedule with the practices and the games, but we had a chance to go to the Bell Centre in Montreal to get a tour and have a team dinner,” Fonstad said. “The facilities that the team has there and at the practice rink are unreal.”
While the rookie camp was going on, the Canadiens made a major trade as they dealt their captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I don’t think any of us knew that was going to happen until it did,” Fonstad said. “There were some older guys around the rink that we would get to talk to, but the staff at the rookie camp made sure that we were focused on our work and kept us away from a lot of the stuff that was going on with the main camp.”
Now that he’s back in Prince Albert, Fonstad is looking to continue the improvements in his game as he begins his third season with the Raiders.
“There’s a confidence boost when you return from an experience like I had with the Canadiens, but that confidence can go away fast if you don’t keep up a strong work ethic both on and off the ice,” Fonstad said.
“You always know that it’s going to a be a different experience playing against men at a NHL camp, but you really don’t know what that’s like until it actually happens. Now I know what I have to work on this year, which is getting stronger and faster.”
In addition to that, Fonstad also realizes that he’ll need to improve on his French if he reaches his goal of signing an entry-level contract with the Canadiens.
“It’s not good at all right now,” Fonstad said. “They tried to help us out with our French when we were there in the summer, but it’s pretty tough to learn.”
Meanwhile, three of Fonstad’s teammates are still at NHL camps.
Kelly and Scott are headed to the main camps for the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs respectively, while captain Brayden Pachal is currently taking part in the Calgary Flames’ rookie camp.
Noah Gregor, who the Raiders acquired the rights to from the Victoria Royals this summer, is attending the San Jose Sharks training camp at the moment.
In other news, the Raiders cut down their pre-season roster to 26 players earlier this week as Cohner Saleski and Braydon Clark were both reassigned.
Saleski, a 16-year-old forward from Saskatoon, will be playing for the Prince Albert Mintos in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this season.
The 17th overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, Saleski had 15 points in 25 games for the Saskatoon Contacts last year.
A third round pick in the 2017 Draft, Clark will be returning to the Valley West Hawks of the British Columbia Major Midget League.
The 16-year-old defenceman from Langley, B.C. had five points in 21 games for the Hawks during the 2017-18 campaign.
Heading into a pre-season game in Regina Friday against the Pats, the Raiders have four goaltenders, eight blueliners and 14 forwards on their roster.