It's a good time to be Cole Caufield.
World Junior Champion. Hobey Baker winner. And now, before even putting himself in the running for the Calder Trophy, he's helping the Montreal Canadiens compete for the Stanley Cup.
And it's not like he's just along for the ride, either. With 12 points in 19 games - after sitting the first two against Toronto - Caufield sits third in team scoring with 12 points, two behind Tyler Toffoli and four behind Nick Suzuki.
Caufield turned pro in the spring after an early exit for the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA playoffs. It was a disappointing result for one of the better teams in the league, but Caufield didn't leave without winning gold at the World Junior Championship with USA back in January.
But the real test will be trying to avoid elimination at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canadiens currently sit down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final, but Caufield is loving every second of it.
"This is the best hockey I've ever had," Caufield told reporters on Wednesday. "It's so much fun. Everybody has been telling me to enjoy it. You're playing hockey, the best game in the world. You can't take it for granted. You've got to enjoy every moment you can."
Caufield has been an immediate danger to everyone he faces off against since his playoff arrival in Toronto. Even against Tampa Bay - a skilled unit chasing its second Cup in a row - Caufield hasn't had an issue when matching up against some of the world's top talent. And for Habs fans focused on the future, the chemistry Caufield has had with Suzuki has to get them pumped up for what's to come - especially if they can fight back to win the Stanley Cup this season.
"I think (Suzuki and I) know where to find each other. I think we're clicking right now, playing fast, playing the right way, doing the right things so when we do get in the O-zone, it can be successful."
It's an added bonus that Caufield gets to skate with one of his hockey idols, too.
"(Corey Perry) is a guy that I really look up to," Caufield said. "The other day, Nick and I were talking that he was our favorite player to watch (growing up)."
It's crazy to think Caufield is playing as well as he is without even starting his official rookie season. Caufield had a 10-game stint with the Canadiens and two in the AHL with Laval, finishing with five and four points in each league, respectively. It's hard to argue against him being the Calder Trophy favorite for 2021-22, especially with the expectation that very few, if any, players from the 2021 draft will make the jump to the pro game next year.
And it could be an especially interesting moment if Caufield does indeed hoist the hardware. The last Hab to do so was Ken Dryden back in 1972 - a year after his incredible playoff run proved to be the difference en route to Montreal's 1971 Stanley Cup championship. It's still too early to tell if that'll happen, but his incredible run as a 20-year-old in the playoffs hasn't gone unnoticed.
"He's been a great addition to our team, giving us some life offensively," defenseman Ben Chiarot said. "Obviously, he's naturally so gifted offensively, creates so much with his hands and vision. He's been a good player for us."
Caufield was essentially thrown to the wolves from the get-go. The Canadiens were trying to avoid missing out on the playoffs, while Caufield was just trying to adjust to life in the big leagues. He didn't get the call to play until Game 3 against Montreal, and ever since, he's been one of the most important players for the Habs on a nightly basis.
It's an experience he doesn't take lightly, even if he doesn't have any prior big-game experience to base it on.
"I think it's awesome," Caufield said. "The more games you get to play, the better. It means you're winning and you're going far in the playoffs."