Daniel Audette has had some up-and-down moments in his first two professional seasons. With only one year left on his contract and the fact he’s pegged to play an important role in Laval, he finds himself on the hot seat heading into 2018-19.
After a rookie season that saw Audette spent way too much time in the top six, Montreal’s offseason additions for the Rocket had the 22-year-old in more of a depth role to start last season which was better for him. However, as anyone who followed Laval last year knows, the injury/recall bug struck early and often which pushed Audette back into a key spot in the lineup.
As was the case in his rookie year, Audette had some flashes where he not only held his own but helped drive the attack. However, as was also the case in his first season, there were a lot of times where he was simply shut down by opposition defenders.
At this stage, it’s reasonably safe to say that Audette is best served as a complementary player. The good news is that he’s pegged to be in that role to start next season following several signings this summer that are expected to improve Laval’s depth. The bad news is that a third-year complementary scorer doesn’t project to be someone that really makes an NHL impact.
By the time an offensive-minded player hits the third and final year of his entry-level contract, they should be hovering around a point per game or higher. Look at Charles Hudon, Daniel Carr, and Sven Andrighetto in the past or Nikita Scherbak last season. They showed that they were too good for the AHL level and earned their promotion to Montreal.
For Audette to reach that threshold, he basically has to double his point per game output from last season (29 points in 56 games). Even if he’s playing with better offensive players (assuming the team stays healthy and intact for more than a few weeks), that’s going to be a pretty tough ask.
What also may be on the horizon for Audette is a position change. He has spent a lot of time at centre in his first two years but with the potential return of Byron Froese plus the additions of Michael Chaput, Jake Evans, and Lukas Vejdemo, there is actually some depth down the middle. Chaput and Froese should be the top two centres and they’re going to want at least one of Evans or Vejdemo to play there as well. Audette isn’t suited to be a fourth liner so a shift to the wing appears to be all but inevitable.
It’s a contract year and the organization will be expecting a big improvement offensively from Audette. Throw in a likely shift to the wing and he becomes a prospect that is certainly going to be on the hot seat next season.