Stefan Chaput is playing in his first game action since last December, when he was derailed by a hip injury that required major surgery and months of rehab. The Traverse City Tournament is a challenging for Chaput under these circumstances, though he has two assists in two games and looks none the worse for wear.
The 6’0" centerman played just 15 games for the AHL Albany River Rats as a rookie last year, posting 11 points (four goals and seven assists). This fall, the 21-year-od Chaput will have to fight for ice time on an improved Albany front line. But the 2006 fifth-rounder is comfortable in any role he’s given, and if he practices a checking role, he would be even more prepared for a call-up in that capacity.
Hockey’s Future spoke to the Montreal native after practice in Traverse City on Tuesday.
HF: How do you feel out there, coming back from surgery?
SC: It’s great, 100 percent. I got it done in February and full rehab for four months.
HF: How did it happen?
SC: It was degeneration in my hip bone. It tore my labrum. I had to get it fixed right away because I couldn’t even walk my groin was hurting so much.
HF: Where did you have the surgery?
SC: I had it in New York City. I did my physio in Montreal, so they were working together with New York. It was great.
HF: So you lived at home when you did your rehab then?
SC: Yes I did. My mom and the rest of my family were there so it made it all easier.
HF: When were you able to start skating again?
SC: End of May? Just slowly. Middle of June I started taking full strides. It took a good four months for me to be able to walk and run again. The summer was long, but short in terms of training. It was a lot of rehab.
HF: Was it hard mentally being off so long?
SC: Oh definitely. I just couldn’t wait to get back to Albany or to Carolina training camp. I haven’t played since December, so it was very hard. But everything was great – the team was great, the physio was great, everything went well. I’m very happy with the surgery.
HF: Since you missed so much time last year, do you feel like you’re kind of off the radar and have to prove yourself again?
SC: Oh for sure. I only played 15 games in the American League last year, so I have to do it all over again and prove myself. The first game here was very fast-paced. It’s really a shock to go right into a game. But everyone helps each other out.
HF: Eleven points in 15 games is really good for a rookie. Were you surprised how well you did?
SC: I was a bit surprised, but the coaches gave me chances. They told me to be comfortable, and kept giving me chances. That’s what hockey’s all about – take advantage of your chances and that’s what I did until my injury, which was a misfortune.
HF: Who were you playing with?
SC: (Jakub) Petruzalek and Michael Ryan, they’re two great players, two veterans. They helped me out a lot and on the power play also. It was great to have those guys on my line.
HF: You guys are off to a great start in the tournament. What do you think is the reason for your success?
SC: I think we just never let up. We have great goaltending, defense and can score some goals. Our motto is pretty much just never let up and always work hard, and that’s what we do. Last night we got outshot, but we never stopped working and we came back.
HF: What do you think about Mike Murphy in particular?
SC: He’s unreal. Last night he had 40 shots and kept us in the game. We put up 5 goals, which is great also, but he was the story of the game last night.
HF: What kind of training do you do in the summer?
SC: I have a gym about five minute’s walk from my house with my personal trainer Yves Ethier. He’s a great guy, we do all kind of stuff, parachutes, squats. I train with Patrick Cusack, one of my buddies from Lewiston and my little brother Michael Chaput, who is in Lewiston also. We have a nice little group. There are a few college players who train there. It’s a competitive group so we push each other. I like that about my training facility.
HF: How long have you been going there?
SC: Four or five years. Yves Ethier is also an osteopath. He works on my hip when it gets stiff. He’s a trainer and my physio guys. His office is together. Whenever I need treatment, I go for treatment, and when I want to work out, I work out.
HF: Do you see yourself as a scorer when you get to the NHL, or do you think you’ll have to take a different role?
SC: I think I might have to take a different role. I can play all-around. I’m a center so I’m used to playing in my d-zone, and penalty kill. I like playing on the power play, don’t get me wrong (laughs), it’s great, but I see myself as a fast, big guy, go in the corners and do my job, do the little things right instead of just thinking about offense. But I can score, that’s for sure. I can control the puck.
HF: Given your good start in Albany last year, maybe you will surprise people?
SC: Maybe, you never know in this game. Once you get on a good line, the right players and you work hard, anything can happen.