Miguël Tourigny wanted to progress, mature and learn to play with professionals more quickly. For all these reasons, he decided in October to play in Slovakia rather than play a final season with the juniors. Eight months later, he considers that his objectives have been achieved.

Tourigny is preparing for his training at the Bell Complex in Brossard when he answers the call from La Presse last Thursday. After enjoying vacations and working on the family farm for the past few weeks, he started training at the Canadiens’ facilities last Tuesday.

“It’s really fun,” he exclaims on the phone. The resort here is great. The gym is super nice. The hot bath, the ice bath, those little things that not everyone has while working out at home, I’m lucky to have them. I’m very happy ! »

Tourigny’s decision to play in Slovakia surprised some early in the season, considering he was eligible for a fifth and final season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

The defender had already been thinking about it for a while. When he was cut from Laval Rocket training camp in October, he spoke with his agent, but the conversation didn’t last long; the next day he signed his contract with Dukla Trenčín. And two days later he flew to Slovakia.

In the event of a return to the QMJHL, Tourigny would have played with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, to which he was traded in December 2021. Before leaving for Slovakia, the young man spoke with the coach of the New Brunswick team. , who told him of the possibility of exchanging him to a city where he would have a chance to win the Gilles-Courteau trophy. But Tourigny had made up his mind.

As for the organization of the Canadian, it shared his mentality, he says.

“They told me junior wouldn’t work for me and it wouldn’t make me a better player going back. They told me that going to play in Europe would be the best decision. »

In Slovakia, Tourigny experienced all kinds of firsts: first time in an apartment, first time in Europe, first time in the professionals.

“At first, it was still a shock,” he admits. […] The guys helped me a lot to acclimatize to life there. »

On the hockey side, the young man quickly explained to his coaches what he hoped to work on during the season.

Tourigny has amassed 5 goals and 19 assists in 39 games, a harvest that attests to his ever-present offensive side. Whether he has matured as he wanted, the defender does not hesitate.

“Extremely,” he replies. When you are a junior, you play a lot. You can’t really train. There, you play twice a week, so you have more training. At first, I had to adapt to that too. »

“I still had the junior mentality, but the coaches said to me, ‘If you want to go higher, you’ll have to train more, make lots of little sacrifices.’ Over time, I added that to my everyday life. Now I’m just keeping that momentum going and it’s going great. »

Upon his return to Quebec in April, Tourigny signed his first one-year, one-way contract with the Laval Rocket. A nice surprise for those who “expected zero to sign right away”.

“At first I thought I was going to get to training camp again and they were going to evaluate me there. When I came back and got the call, I said, ‘Well there, OK, thanks!’ »

The Victoriavillois is well aware that the Canadiens organization is well endowed with talented young defenders. However, he refuses to put pressure on himself for the future. The first step is to make his place with the Rocket next season.

First and foremost, he needs to have a good summer of training. By his own admission, rubbing shoulders with Kaiden Guhle, David Savard, Nick Suzuki, and Jake Allen, among others, in training over the summer will help him “even more” acclimate professionally.

And then, if all goes well, who knows, these players may be his teammates soon.

“If I eventually re-sign with the Canadiens, I’ll already have a bit of a friendship base,” he says in what we guess is a smile on the phone.

Another Tourigny is expected to be drafted into the National League soon: Jordan, Miguël’s three-year-younger brother, appears No. 123 on the NHL Central Scouting’s latest list of the best North American skaters. Miguël, who wouldn’t miss the draft in Nashville for the world, has watched his brother’s every game this season. “We talked to each other every day, so I was trying to help him a lot with his game,” he says. The two brothers, both defensemen, faced each other in the QMJHL; perhaps they will find themselves this time within the same organization. “The team that is going to draft him is going to have a nice surprise. […] To be drafted in the same place, it would be great fun. But at this point, I wish him nothing but happiness, no matter where he goes. »