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Primeau’s prospect path went through Bucks


It’s a different path to a similar destination.

Keith Primeau carved out an All-Star NHL career as a center. So did Keith’s brother, Wayne. When Keith’s son, Cayden, decided at an early age to put on goalie pads, he definitely bucked the family trend.

Yet Cayden is on the road to achieve the same things that his Flyer dad and uncle did. After winning the Mike Richter Award as the NCAA’s best goaltender last April, Primeau fils signed with the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

“I felt like I was ready for the next jump,” Cayden described. “By no means did I feel that college hockey was easy. It’s always a challenge every night. Hockey East is a tough, tough league. But I felt like I was ready for the next challenge.”

It’s a challenge that Cayden is handling with aplomb. The South Jersey native suits up for the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket. Cayden has a .910 save percentage through his first 12 games.

Many hockey fans know the name “Primeau.” But far fewer realize that Cayden Primeau spent two seasons honing his skills in Central Bucks County. Cayden played his Midget hockey for the Philadelphia Revolution, and got his first taste of juniors with the Revolution’s EHL team in 2015-2016. He is very familiar with the drive to Revolution Ice Gardens.

“I was a younger goalie playing in U-19 and the EHL,” said Cayden, whose August birthday perennially made him one of the most junior in his class. “It was huge, at an early age, to be able to play against older guys and really experience the Junior lifestyle for the first time.”

The youthful goalie’s dominance in the EHL – he was named Goaltender of the Year – made Cayden a prospect. A 6-foot-3 lefty, Cayden brought size, work ethic and composure between the pipes.

“(My dad and uncle) don’t really say much about the position because they weren’t goalies. It’s kind of funny,” Cayden shared, “because I think everyone thinks we’d be asking them all of the time what it’s like. But we just lived it. My cousins, my brothers and I all watched what they did and that’s how we learned the most from them.

“Both my dad and my uncle are super competitive and have great work ethics. If they put their mind to something, they are going to complete it. That rubbed off on us and I think we all kind of embody those as well,” Cayden concluded.

Keith influenced Cayden’s choice once he left the Revolution: The precocious goalie could either join the professional Ontario Hockey League or keep his college eligibility and play in the USHL. Keith “played in the OHL so he wasn’t biased,” Cayden shared. “He just really felt that college was the right path for me and I started to realize and understand that route. I fell in love with Northeastern so when I was fortunate enough to get an offer from them, I called them the next day. I was super stoked.”

Cayden and his brother, Chayse, both played with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars. Chayse, also a Revolution standout, is a sophomore forward at Division I Nebraska Omaha. Cayden attended Northeastern and rewrote the record books in his two years there: He owns the two best single season goals-against averages in Husky history.

“We had such great teams both years. My coaching staff was great,” Cayden praised. “Jim Madigan, our coach, would say that there is no better team award than a goalie award because it really shows everyone’s dedication and hard work in front of the goalie.

“I’ve definitely tried to improve my skating and my strengths but I think the biggest thing is the mental game. Especially as a goalie, it is a mental game,” Cayden replied as to where he has seen the most personal improvement. “When that’s out of whack, things can go downhill pretty easily so I pride myself on trying to stay even keeled and not get too high or too low.”

Cayden represented the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships. Team USA won a silver medal; Cayden played a huge role with four wins and a 1.61 GAA.

“You grow up watching it. Anytime you can represent your country – and I’ve been fortunate enough to do it a couple of times – it’s an amazing feeling,” he explained. “There really are no words to describe it. We had such a good team. We weren’t rated as one of the top teams there even though we were super skilled. It goes to show how good every other country was.”

The goalies in the NHL are also super skilled but Cayden hopes to take care of business at Laval to show that he belongs there. “I’m trying to get better every day and if my name is called on to play a game, then be ready,” he described. “And if not, then be the number one cheerleader. I don’t try to look too forward ahead or behind. I’m just trying to stay in the present.”

Cayden’s perspective is far more mature than that of an average 20-year-old. But it is tempting to leave his present when his future is so bright.

Note: After this interview was conducted, Cayden Primeau was recalled by the Montreal Canadians on Dec. 2.