The forward depth of the Montreal Canadiens suffered during the offseason following the departures of Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Corey Perry, Eric Staal and Tomas Tatar. General manager Marc Bergevin has done his best to replace these missing pieces, including signing 13-year NHL veteran Mathieu Perreault during free agency.
Here are some interesting things to know about the latest player who gets to suit up for his hometown team.
He’s Defied the Odds Throughout His Career
Perreault, a native of Drummondville, Quebec, is a tenacious, versatile forward with quick hands and enviable playmaking skills. His size, however, has made him an underdog his whole career.
He was drafted following his rookie season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan by the Washington Capitals in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He returned to Acadie-Bathurst the following year and was named League MVP after putting up 41 goals and 78 assists in 67 games. Still, an undersized sixth-rounder isn’t projected to make the big leagues all that often.
Upon turning pro, Perreault won back-to-back Calder Cup titles with the Hershey Bears during his first two years in the American Hockey League. He made his NHL debut with the Capitals on November 4, 2009, and scored his first NHL goal just three days later.
Since then, he has appeared in 683 NHL games with three teams: Washington, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Winnipeg Jets where he spent the last seven seasons before signing with Montreal. He also spent the 2012 lockout playing in Finland with HIFK Helsinki where he was teammates with former Hab Stéphane Robidas.
After enjoying four consecutive seasons of 40 points or more from 2013-17, the 33-year-old signed a lucrative four-year, $16.5 million contract extension with the Jets.
He’s Living Out a Childhood Dream
It goes without saying that Perreault is excited about the opportunity to play for the team he grew up cheering for. Not to mention that the Bell Centre is his favourite arena in the league, and he’s always had success there as the opposition.
“When I became a free agent and Montreal showed interest, there was a small flame that lit up inside of me. I wouldn’t experience that with any other team. I’ve realized a childhood dream. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump on the ice at the Bell Centre wearing a Canadiens jersey. I was so happy when everything came together. It was an incredible feeling,” said Perreault.
He made his Habs debut in preseason action on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He’s a Big Fan of Saku Koivu
During his first press conference with the Montreal media this summer, Perreault shared some memories of rooting for the Habs as a kid and described his admiration for a former beloved captain, Saku Koivu.
“The last time they won the Cup (in 1993) I was too young to remember,” Perreault explained. “But growing up, Saku Koivu was definitely my favourite Canadiens player. I just loved the way he played. He was a smaller centreman, just like I was growing up, so I kind of moulded my game around what he was doing. I always loved him.”
In 1999, Koivu became the first European-born captain in history and spent the next ten seasons in Montreal with the ‘C’ on his jersey, inspiring fans with both his play on the ice and off the ice thanks to his courageous battle with cancer and contributions to the community through his foundation.
Like Koivu, Perreault also provides financial support to the pediatrics department of St. Croix Hospital in his hometown of Drummondville.
He Loves Golf
Perreault must have been an attentive viewer during this weekend’s Ryder Cup considering his passion for golf and the fact that two of his favourite players were competing in the event: Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
Meanwhile, his superior hockey skills run in the family. His uncle, Daniel Marois, also had a long career in the NHL playing for the Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and New York Islanders during the 1980s and 1990s.
Perreault and his wife Jennilie have three kids, including a set of twins. They also have matching wristband tattoos to go with his ink of the Tasmanian Devil.
While he may be, to use a golf expression in honour of his other favourite sport, on the back-nine of his career, Perreault still has a lot to offer to the Canadiens this season beyond the obvious thrill of being a member of the franchise. His experience, versatility, and ability to play up and down the lineup in multiple situations should prove to be incredibly valuable, especially during the grind of an 82-game schedule.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.