Montreal Canadiens prospect Zachary Fucale aims to build on storybook season in Halifax

Mike Sanderson
Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons (28) moves in close to Canadiens netminder Zachary Fucale (70) in second period NHL pre-season action at the Bell Centre on Saturday, September 15, 2013. [CP - Graham Hughes]
Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons (28) moves in close to Canadiens netminder Zachary Fucale (70) in second period NHL pre-season action at the Bell Centre on Saturday, September 15, 2013. [CP - Graham Hughes]

Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Zachary Fucale plans on keeping the picture of his dad at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft around for a while.

“That’s classic. It went around the world I think and it’ll stick forever,” Fucale said Friday after earning a 5-2 win over the Moncton Wildcats in his first game this season in the QMJHL.

Jack Fucale, the elder Fucale, is a huge Canadiens fan and he and Zachary would go to Habs games frequently before hockey prevented father and son from enjoying the national winter sport.

Zachary had to wait through one round before he was picked in the second, 36th overall, by his hometown Montreal Canadiens.

Jack was very happy his son was picked by the bleu-blanc-rouge.

“We were all discussing [if he had to switch to cheering for Zachary’s team]. I said: ‘How are we going to do this?’” The elder Fucale told the Montreal Gazette.

“It’s only automatic that we’re going to become fans of whatever team he goes to,” he said. “[But] it makes everything so much easier, right?

Jack Fucale's reaction, right, to son Zachary getting picked was priceless. [Youtube.com - NHL Network]
Jack Fucale's reaction, right, to son Zachary getting picked was priceless. [Youtube.com - NHL Network]

“How can a Canadiens fan become a Toronto Maple Leafs fan or a Boston Bruins fan? How do you do that? You just can’t,” he concluded.

Jack travelled a familiar path to see his son play for the Habs in a pre-season game at the Bell Centre against the Buffalo Sabres. He said it was “heart-warming and overwhelming at the same time” to see his son on the Bell Centre ice with the CH crest on his chest.

Zachary, a native of Rosemère, Que., said that it was a dream come true to play in a Habs sweater.

“It was pretty cool. It’s a dream. Every single one of us dream about it when we’re young and I got that chance, I’m really grateful and happy, especially [since the game was played] at the Bell Centre.

“It’s a great crowd and great building. Hopefully it will help me in my junior year this year.”

Fucale is looking to build on a dream season in the QMJHL and on the national stage. He went 45-8-0-0 in 55 games in the regular season, with a .909 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average. He then went 16-1 in the playoffs, with a 2.02 GAA and a .918 save percentage.

He capped the year off with a Memorial Cup win and a QMJHL First All Star team nod. He was invited to Team Canada’s national world junior summer camp and picked by the Habs.

He attended rookie camp and was invited to the main camp, where he impressed enough to sign his entry-level three-year deal and get in some NHL game action in a Habs exhibition game against the Sabres.

He felt his biggest help was being able to practice with goaltenders Carey Price, Peter Budaj and the rest of the veterans of les glorieux.

“It was extremely cool; very special,” he said. “I [brought] as many things as I could back here and learned a lot from them. I picked their brains a little bit.

“There are plenty of things [that are different in the NHL]. The timing is different. How the game is played is a bit different. The shots are harder and it’s a much quicker game. For me, all I can do is work hard, and try to improve. The game will come with that.

“I want to keep it simple, work hard and push my limits. I want to keep working at every little aspect of my game. If I have that mindset, and treat everything as a weakness, it’s going to help me move forward and develop.”

He’s back in Halifax and ready to build on his recent success, though it will be with a much less talented team to work with.

The Mooseheads are set to lose high-profile prospects Nathan MacKinnon to the Colorado Avalanche, Jonathan Drouin to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Martin Frk to the Detroit Red Wings. They also have to replace overagers Konrad Abeltshauser, Stefan Fournier and Stephen MacAulay, who graduated the junior ranks.

They traded forwards Matthew Boudreau and Dominic Beauchemin. The team was almost gutted from the one that won the 2013 Memorial Cup last May. Fucale is looking forward to the challenge.

“I want to keep it going through the season so that next year I arrive and we can keep working slowly but surely.”