Laval wrapped up their second AHL season with a trio of games on the road. While they struggled earlier in the week, they at least were able to end on a positive note.
The Week That Was
Apr. 10: Sound Tigers 2, Rocket 1 – Considering that Bridgeport was still jockeying for position for this game and Laval had nothing to play for, this wasn’t a bad game overall for the Rocket. They out-shot and out-chanced the Tigers but Stephen Gionta’s first goal in nearly four months early in the second period held up as the difference.
Apr. 12: Crunch 5, Rocket 1 – This was a game that Laval was never in. Syracuse was on their game and the road team wasn’t. The lone highlight was Matt Struthers picking up his first professional goal. He spent a lot of time on the second line in this one, a sign that the team wanted to give him a real look to see if he’s worth bringing to development camp this summer.
Apr. 13: Rocket 4, Devils 3 (OT) – It was looking this was also going to be a loss but Nikita Jevpalovs had other plans. He tied it up in the final minute of regulation and then scored the winner on a breakaway in overtime, going through his legs before taking the shot.
Goals: Alex Belzile (19)
Assists: Alex Belzile (35)
Points: Alex Belzile (54)
+/-: Lukas Vejdemo (+5)
PIMS: Alex Belzile (80)
Shots: Alex Belzile (179)
News And Notes
– Cayden Primeau was released from his tryout deal as he returned to school while Laval went on the road trip. Defenceman Ryan Culkin was added as depth for the road trip and got into the final game.
– The AHL’s Transactions page has a couple of interesting notes. Noah Juulsen was recalled to the Habs on Sunday which is interesting considering their season is over. Phillipe Hudon was also added on a regular deal on Saturday. There was no need to do that as his PTO was still valid so perhaps he has signed for next season already.
– Hunter Shinkaruk finished the season on quite the pointless drought. His last point came on December 28th (two goals in that game) which means he finished up the year being held off the scoresheet in 23 straight games. It’s safe to say he won’t be getting a qualifying offer in June.
Last Game’s Lines:
Verbeek – Belzile – Jevpalovs
Struthers – Pezzetta – Alain
Audette – Ebbing – P. Hudon
Shinkaruk – Kile
Sklenicka – Fleury
Ouellet – Brook
Culkin – Lamarche
Closer to the deadline in June, we’ll take a look at some of Montreal’s restricted free agents and whether or not they should be qualified. I’m not sure if that’s in the cards for Laval’s players so I’ll look at Brett Lernout’s situation here. His case is certainly an intriguing one.
While his entry-level deal is coming to an end, he now has four full AHL seasons under his belt (plus a cup of coffee with Hamilton in 2015). His development has also plateaued. At best, he’s a depth defender in terms of being a potential recall option. On the other hand, assuming Noah Juulsen is up with Montreal next year, Lernout would be the only likely Laval defender with a consistent nasty streak to his game and he’d be a lock to play big minutes shorthanded. Is that enough to justify keeping him on an NHL deal though?
Next season, Laval’s back end on the right side will consist of Cale Fleury, Josh Brook, and Maxim Lamarche (who has another year left on his AHL contract). There isn’t necessarily a lot of room for Lernout unless they opted to push Lamarche to his off-side as the left side depth is Karl Alzner (not likely to be bought out) and David Sklenicka; Xavier Ouellet is a free agent (RFA but unlikely to be qualified due to the arbitration factor) but could still be back or replaced as well.
I like Lernout. I think he’s a useful organizational filler, someone that can make it through waivers, help solidify Laval’s back end, and if a bunch of injuries hit, he can muddle his way through a few minutes here and there in Montreal. But given all of the above, it’s hard to see them giving him another NHL deal with so many others under contract (and potentially more if Scott Walford, Jarret Tyszka, or anyone else signs this summer as well). It wasn’t that long ago that Lernout was one of the few actual prospects Montreal had on the back end. Those days may very well now be numbered.