With a roster that is lacking in high-end prospects, it’s not surprising to see Laval struggling early on. Unfortunately, many of their veterans aren’t pulling their weight which is noted in our first quarter report cards.
Players must have played in at least 5/19 games to receive a grade.
Charlie Lindgren – B-: He has shaven more than a full goal off his GAA from this time last year which is a nice turnaround. Lindgren’s save percentage is still a bit too low for my liking but Laval’s back end has done a good job of lowering their shots allowed which helps explain that a little bit. Making the key late saves and avoiding the untimely goal are going to be critical if Laval is going to turn their season around.
1st Quarter Stats: 15 GP, 6-7-2 record, 2.36 GAA, .894 SV%, 0 SO
Michael McNiven – C-: I get that Lindgren is going to get the bulk of the work since this is his final waiver-exempt year but McNiven is making it a really easy call for head coach Joel Bouchard to make. When things go wrong, they really go wrong and that’s far from an ideal thing for a backup goaltender looking for more playing time. If it wasn’t for the fact that they don’t have a full-fledged ECHL affiliate, I’d be making a case to send him down a level, something they should have done more last year.
1st Quarter Stats: 6 GP, 1-3-0 record, 2.93 GAA, .854 SV%, 0 SO
Brett Kulak – A: Considering he didn’t go through training camp with the Habs, was dealing with the disappointment of being in the minors after being a regular in Calgary last year and hadn’t played in an offensive role in a while, Kulak has done quite well. He has been a legitimate every-situation player and the Habs just haven’t had that on the farm in a while. Considering he’s faring well in Montreal at the moment, it may be a while before they have that again.
1st Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 3-8-11, +2, 4 PIMS, 52 shots
Maxim Lamarche – B+: For someone that was basically brought in to add depth to the back end, Lamarche has quickly emerged as an important piece of this unit. He has been shuffled up and down the pairings and hasn’t missed a beat.
1st Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 1-7-8, +4, 18 PIMS, 13 shots
Cale Fleury – B: As someone who is still eligible to play junior hockey, expectations have to be kept in check. If Fleury can simply hold down a regular spot most nights, that’s a good start. If he can contribute along the way as he has, that’s even better.
Ryan Sproul – C+: For a veteran player that has been an above-average AHL player the last couple of years, he didn’t show that much with Laval. Sproul was a healthy scratch several times since joining the team and was surprisingly released on Thursday.
1st Quarter Stats: 8 GP, 1-3-4, +1, 4 PIMS, 17 shots
Michal Moravcik – C: While there are bound to be some struggles as he adjusts to playing on the smaller ice surface, I expected Moravcik would at least cement himself as a regular by now but that hasn’t happened. Instead, he has been in and out of the lineup which isn’t a great sign for someone that turns 24 next week.
1st Quarter Stats: 14 GP, 0-2-2, +5, 4 PIMS, 15 shots
David Sklenicka – C: Unlike Moravcik, Sklenicka has lived up to my expectations. He has the mobility to make a difference but his decision making can be questionable, to say the least. He has had a bit more rope from Bouchard when it comes to playing time but he has still been scratched a couple of times already which is something that hopefully doesn’t continue.
1st Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 1-0-1, -2, 12 PIMS, 16 shots
Adam Plant – C-: After a cup of coffee with the Rocket last season, a reasonable expectation for Plant would be that he pushes to be a regular in the lineup. That hasn’t happened as he has basically been the low man on the depth chart all season long and hasn’t played well when he has been in.
1st Quarter Stats: 7 GP, 0-1-1, -7, 2 PIMS, 6 shots
Brett Lernout – D: Clearing waivers should have been a wake-up call to say that teams need to see more from Lernout to deem him worthy of an NHL spot. Instead, we’ve seen more of the same – good in his own end but weak when it comes to his offensive skillset. It’s telling that he has still been a depth player for this team at times – for a player in his fourth year, that can’t happen.
1st Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 0-1-1, +2, 21 PIMS, 33 shots
N/A: Gustav Olofsson (2 GP and is now out for the season)
Jake Evans – A: He started out low on the depth chart, a wise idea considering he was working his way back from a concussion. However, Evans didn’t stay there long and has quickly worked his way to the top line. I figured he’d make his way into the top six at some point but certainly not this quickly.
1st Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 6-7-13, even rating, 6 PIMS, 33 shots
Alex Belzile – A-: Through his first six professional seasons (including a cup of coffee with Hamilton), Belzile never showed signs that he could be a top-six player at this level. That has changed in a hurry as he has quickly worked his way from a depth role to a top-six threat on the Rocket and has been battling for the scoring lead all season. Who saw that coming?
1st Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 2-12-14, +2, 14 PIMS, 50 shots
Kenny Agostino – B+: The replacement for Chris Terry, Agostino hasn’t produced quite like Terry did but was the best of the veterans brought in to play key roles before his recall to Montreal. Now that he has to go through waivers again, he may be sticking around with the Habs for a while.
1st Quarter Stats: 12 GP, 4-6-10, -5, 4 PIMS, 48 shots
Alexandre Alain – B+: For a while, it looked like Alain was going to be a fixture in the bottom six and not get too many opportunities to make a mark offensively. However, he was moved up when the line juggling really got going and he made the most of it which should help give Bouchard some more confidence in using him.
1st Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 3-5-8, +2, 8 PIMS, 30 shots
Lukas Vejdemo – B: He hasn’t been as flashy as Evans offensively but that’s to be expected. Like Evans, Vejdemo started in a minor role and has quickly worked his way into more ice time which is what many were hoping to see from him. A solid start to his first AHL season.
1st Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 4-5-9, +1, 8 PIMS, 27 shots
Michael Chaput – B-: The goals were there but he hasn’t had quite the impact that he did with Utica last season. To be fair, Chaput has been moved around the lineup a lot which doesn’t help his cause but he is being counted on to be one of Laval’s more impactful players and he has been hit or miss in that regard so far.
1st Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 7-3-10, -2, 18 PIMS, 43 shots
Byron Froese – B-: Considering how uneventful his time with the Habs was last year, it’s understandable if you forgot that Froese has typically been a scorer in the minors. He hasn’t been that too often so far though like Chaput, he has been moved around a lot in the early going. They need more from him.
1st Quarter Stats: 19 GP, 5-5-10, +1, 11 PIMS, 39 shots
Nikita Jevpalovs – C: The Latvian winger has basically been Laval’s Swiss army knife so far. Jevpalovs has played up and down the lineup and on both wings without staying in the same role for more than a few games. He’s not a scorer but he has emerged as a valuable depth player on this roster.
1st Quarter Stats: 18 GP, 3-1-4, -4, 8 PIMS, 26 shots
Michael McCarron – C: Early on, McCarron was playing pretty well actually and it looked as if he could be restoring some value and showing that there’s still some upside. Since then, he has basically fallen off the cliff and has gone back to being simply a guy who likes to hit people.
1st Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 2-4-6, +1, 20 PIMS, 31 shots
Michael Pezzetta – C-: He was benched a lot early on, briefly went to the ECHL, and hasn’t done much since being recalled. I will give him credit for earning himself close to a regular role since returning but that’s about all he has going for him so far.
1st Quarter Stats: 7 GP, 1-0-1, even rating, 11 PIMS, 2 shots
Hayden Verbeek – C-: See Pezzetta’s comments aside from working himself into a regular spot in the lineup as Verbeek has yet to do so since returning. I’d like to see him get a bit more of a look as his speed should make him a threat.
1st Quarter Stats: 5 GP, 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIMS, 3 shots
Daniel Audette – D+: Over the summer, I had pegged him as a prospect on the hot seat but that there was an opportunity for him to eventually work his way into a key role on this team. Let’s just say that hasn’t happened. In fact, his role has been marginalized compared to his first two seasons to the point where he is getting scratched with some regularity.
1st Quarter Stats: 15 GP, 2-3-5, +2, 12 PIMS, 12 shots
Alexandre Grenier – D: For someone who was supposed to be one of the better goal-scoring threats on this team, he hasn’t scored a whole lot. In fact, the biggest mark Grenier has made has been taking bad penalties at inopportune times. I really liked his addition but he looks a step slow even at the AHL level now which is a concern.
1st Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 3-3-6, -6, 29 PIMS, 28 shots
Hunter Shinkaruk – D: It hasn’t taken long to see why Calgary gave up on him. He’s not scoring and his all-around game isn’t good enough to make him a multi-purpose threat. Shinkaruk is quickly becoming a role player on this team and if that’s all he’s going to be, it wouldn’t be shocking to see GM Marc Bergevin try to flip him for another underperformer before too long.
1st Quarter Stats: 17 GP, 1-4-5, +4, 8 PIMS, 27 shots
Nikita Scherbak – D-: I get that Laval has a new coach and a new system. I get that he was working off the rust. However, talent is supposed to trump a lot of that. Last year, Scherbak looked like he was too good for the league. On his conditioning stint, he looked like he needed to be there on a more permanent basis. And then, to top things off, he got hurt again.
1st Quarter Stats: 5 GP, 0-1-1, even rating, 2 PIMS, 6 shots
N/A: Antoine Waked (3 GP)