The road was kind to Laval last week as they were able to get enough scoring to pick up two of three wins while moving up three spots in the North Division in the process.
The Week That Was
Nov. 7: Rocket 4, Comets 3 – This one didn’t start well as Laval was down 2-0 and Michael McNiven got the hook before the midway mark of the game. However, former Comet Michael Chaput – who had been dropping down in the lineup – picked up the winner in the third period.
Nov. 9: Rocket 5, Monsters 1 – Laval’s first visit to Cleveland was a good one as they jumped on them early and often. Nikita Scherbak picked up his first goal and point on his conditioning stint while Jake Evans had his first career multi-goal game at the professional level.
Nov. 10: Monsters 4, Rocket 2 – Discipline has been an issue at times for Laval this season and it came back to bite them here. After tying the game early in the third, they immediately handed Cleveland a power play and while the Rocket have a strong penalty kill, they weren’t able to kill this one off which proved to be the difference (they added a late empty-netter).
Goals: Jake Evans (5)
Assists: Alex Belzile (10)
Points: Alex Belzile (11)
+/-: Michal Moravcik (+4)
PIMS: Alexandre Grenier (27)
Shots: Kenny Agostino (48)
News And Notes
– While Scherbak picked up his first point on his conditioning stint on Friday, he also suffered a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. It’s safe to say that his time in Laval isn’t going anywhere near as well as expected.
– Nikita Jevpalovs left Saturday’s game after a knee-on-knee collision and did not return. In a corresponding move, Laval has recalled Hayden Verbeek from Maine (ECHL).
– Maxim Lamarche has already matched his point total from last season in 37 fewer games played. He quickly sits second on the team in points by a defenceman behind only Brett Kulak.
Lines from last game:
Chaput – Evans – Belzile
Jevpalovs – Vejdemo – Grenier
Audette – McCarron – Alain
Shinkaruk – Froese – Waked
Kulak – Fleury
Lamarche – Sproul
Sklenicka – Lernout
The Week Ahead
Nov. 13: vs Toronto – The Marlies have had no issues scoring as of late, tallying 20 times over the past three games. (They also happened to lose two of those.) Toronto leads the conference in goals scored per game while the Rocket allow the fewest goals per game. That should make for an interesting matchup.
Nov. 16: vs Bridgeport – While Toronto leads the East in goals scored per game, the Sound Tigers lead the league in total goals scored and have five players with more points than Laval’s best. Josh Ho-Sang leads the way with 15 points despite voicing his frustration over his usage in the minors and a lack of an NHL opportunity.
Nov. 17: at Syracuse – This game kicks off a four-game road trip and the Crunch are surprisingly at the bottom of the conference in terms of points despite collecting seven points out of their last four games. Like Laval, they’re a team that struggles to score but has done a decent job at keeping the puck out of their own net. The first two games this week figure to be high-scoring but this one may be closer to the tight games we’ve seen from the Rocket this season.
After a quiet start to the season, Jake Evans has really picked up his play in recent weeks and has earned himself a promotion to the top line in the process. With the recent release of Tomas Plekanec, the Habs are an injury down the middle away from having to call a centre up from the minors. While there’s a case to be made that Evans should be first in line for a recall, I would argue against doing so.
For starters, whoever gets the nod will likely be slotted in on the fourth line with Matthew Peca moving up a spot on the depth chart. Evans can win faceoffs but he isn’t a typical fourth line option and probably wouldn’t be counted on to kill penalties. With that in mind, it would make more sense for one of their more veteran options to get the nod instead (Byron Froese, Michael Chaput, or Michael McCarron), even if the rookie is outperforming them.
I’m a firm believer in letting prospects spend considerable uninterrupted time in the minors. Getting called up here and there gives a player a taste of the NHL but can often derail their progress from a development perspective. (Look at what happened with Jacob de la Rose.) If Evans is going to be the top centre in Laval for a while, that’s great but they should leave him there. Let him work through the ups and downs of getting that type of responsibility in a rookie season without the added pressure of jumping into an NHL lineup.
Evans’ time in the NHL will come but even though he’s on a nice little run with Laval (seven points in his last seven games), that time should still be a while from now.