After Wrapping Up Career for PU Men’s Hockey, Veronneau Comes Home to Play for Ottawa Senators
HOMECOMING: Max Veronneau skating for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League this past winter. Former Princeton University star Veronneau ’19 tallied two goals and two assists in 12 games for the Senators, joining the team in late March days after the end of the Princeton season. Next month, Veronneau, an Ottawa native, will be heading to his first NHL training camp, looking to earn a spot with his hometown club. (Photo provided courtesy of the Ottawa Senators)
By Bill Alden
Max Veronneau grew up rooting for his hometown Ottawa Senators of the NHL.
“I was always a big Sens fan,” said Veronneau “I cheer for the Sens, I went to a lot of their games.”
After finishing a stellar career for the Princeton University men’s hockey team in March, Veronneau went through a whirlwind process in joining the NHL along with classmates and fellow Tigers stars Josh Teves and Ryan Kuffner and ended up by making a homecoming as he inked a deal with Ottawa.
“I just talked with my agent and saw the opportunity,” said Veronneau.
“I know Josh and Ryan were going through the same thing, and I was doing it with them too. It was just talking with a couple of teams and seeing the best fit and Ottawa just seemed like the best fit.”
Getting to put on a Senators uniform was a dream come true for Veronneau.
“It was pretty awesome to be on the other side of it,” said Veronneau, 23, a 6’0, 190-pound forward whose classmates Kuffner and Teves also ended up in the NHL, joining the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.
“I can’t tell you the emotions, there was just so much happening. I was pretty glad to be able to do that.”
Emotions were running high for Veronneau when he got his first taste of NHL action as Ottawa hosted St. Louis on March 14.
“It was surreal, especially when I got here to Ottawa for the first game, all of my family and friends were all pretty excited so it was a pretty cool experience,” said Veronneau. “It was like a blur, it was very exciting. The first shift was just awesome. I was just trying to play hockey; it was a lot of fun.”
Reflecting on his Princeton career, Veronneau had a lot of fun, highlighted by helping the Tigers win the ECAC Hockey Championship in his junior year.
“Looking back to go from a four- or five-win team to be able win the ECAC is just such a good accomplishment,” said Veronneau, who ended up as the program’s fourth leading scorer with 143 points on 51 goals and 92 assists, earning All-America honors along the way. “Being part of that was surreal. The individual accomplishments don’t really match up to winning the ECAC.”
Experiencing individual development off the ice helped Veronneau gain maturity as he headed to the NHL.
“Going to Princeton, it is learning time management and understanding what has to be done and how to balance school and hockey,” said Veronneau, the recipient of The George J. Mueller Award, given by the School of Engineering and Applied Science to the graduating senior who has combined achievement in the study of engineering with quality performance in intercollegiate athletics.
“I think it has made me a lot smarter about how I approach things and how I do stuff because I had to manage so much. It is do the best you can in both school and athletically. It was a pretty good challenge and I have learned a lot from it.”
Getting on the ice for the Senators, Veronneau acknowledged that he faced some big challenges in the NHL.
“You see why it is the best league in the world; every player is so good,” said Veronneau.
“Even the guys on the fourth line are still very good hockey players. It is almost hard to play because everyone can play very, very well.”
It didn’t take long for Veronneau to show that he could play with those guys as he got an assist in his second game and a goal in his third appearance.
“You get a few bounces here or there and luckily they scored off of one of my passes,” said Veronneau, who ended up with two goals and two assists in 12 games.
“I was in the right spot in the next game on the goal. I just kept working hard, I went into a little slump after that.”
Going through the ups and downs of his 12-game stint gave Veronneau a better idea of how to get in the right spot.
“It is just understanding how the NHL game is played, it is very systematic,” said Veronneau.
“You just have to able to stay within the system and play a good team game. Just learning how to play NHL hockey gives me a phenomenal experience and a way to grow. Hopefully, I can make the team and keep learning and growing.”
Over the summer, Veronneau has spent a lot of time on developing more strength and speed.
“I am really just trying to get stronger and faster because everybody is just so strong and fast,” said Veronneau.
“If I could be at the same level as them physically that would help me out. As I learn to play mentally and understanding the game, the mental part can come with it.”
Participating in the Senators Development Camp in late June, Veronneau was more in synch with the organization in the wake of his game experience.
“I felt a little more comfortable, there were a lot of good players there too, even the younger guys are still very, very good,” said Veronneau. “It is always fun to go and and compare yourself against other players.”
With training camp starting next month, Veronneau is hoping to prove that he belongs as an NHL player.
“It is just keep working hard essentially because everybody wants hard workers, so it is just play your game and work hard,” said Veronneau.
“I am doing that all summer and I am going to try to do that in camp as well. The first goal is to make the main team so hopefully I can do that and I will create some more goals after that.”