A new era in Montreal’s prospect development opened up last week as Joel Bouchard’s new-look Rocket squad took to the ice for their first two games. Despite a pair of strong showings, they were only able to claim a victory in one game and headed home with an even record.
The Week That Was
Oct. 6: LAV 3, PRO 2 – It took a while for the Rocket to get going as they were held off the scoresheet through the first two periods and were down 2-0 early in the third. However, their veteran-laden top-six group up front helped equal the game before newcomer Brett Kulak popped home the winner in the final minute of regulation time.
Oct. 7: HFD 3, LAV 1 – This time, Laval opened up the scoring in the first but quickly squandered that lead by allowing three goals in under two minutes. Despite a late push from the Rocket that saw them out-shoot the Wolf Pack 13-2 in the final frame, that wound up being the only scoring in the game as for Montreal netminder Dustin Tokarski shut the door.
Goals: Chaput/Froese/Grenier/Kulak (1)
Assists: Michael McCarron (2)
Points: Froese/McCarron (2)
+/-: Lernout/McCarron/Shinkaruk (+2)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (9)
Shots: Michael Chaput (10)
News And Notes
– Just when it looked like Laval’s roster was set, GM Marc Bergevin made another move, sending Will Bitten to Minnesota for defenceman Gustav Olofsson who had just cleared waivers. As he is just coming back from a shoulder injury and didn’t have a chance to practice with the team, he was not on the road trip with the team.
– One player of note that was on the trip was forward Hayden Verbeek. While he didn’t play, his presence was noteworthy as he missed all of the preseason (both NHL and AHL). Meanwhile, Michael Pezzetta, who was injured at rookie camp, is still not ready to play.
– Byron Froese has once again been named captain of the Rocket and this time, he actually projects to be around long enough for that to actually matter unlike last year where he was recalled and never came back. The team will have four alternates in Kenny Agostino, Michael Chaput, Alexandre Grenier, and Michael McCarron.
Last Game’s Lines:
Agostino – Chaput – Grenier
Shinkaruk – McCarron – Froese
Jevpalovs – Vejdemo – Belzile
Audette – Evans – Alain
Moravcik – Sklenicka
Kulak – Fleury
Plant – Lernout
The Week Ahead
Oct. 12 and 13: BNG vs LAV – The Rocket will open up the home portion of their schedule with a back-to-back set against the Devils. Binghamton won their only game so far this season, a 7-5 barnburner against the Marlies. Former Hab and Hamilton Bulldog Eric Tangradi is on Binghamton’s roster after inking a two-way deal with New Jersey in the summer.
The additions of Kulak and Olofsson give Laval something that they sorely lacked for a good chunk of last season – capable NHL depth. Not only will they strengthen a back end that has a lot of question marks, they’ll also represent better recall options when injuries inevitably hit. Yes, the optics aren’t pretty when trades are made for someone that just cleared waivers but the fact they can go down is what actually makes them a lot more valuable. (Alternatively, one of them could step in if the Habs deal from their current NHL depth at some point.)
Last season, Laval was done in by a defence corps where several of their players were incapable of playing in their own zone. That shouldn’t be the case now. Something tells me that Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven will be much happier with the state of their back end than they were a week ago.