With Laval in an extended break following the postponement of their final game before the holiday break and their first game after, it’s a good time to assess how things are going about a third of the way through the season. This time, the focus is on their forwards.
Players must have played in at least eight games to receive a grade.
Laurent Dauphin – A: Last season, Dauphin showed some signs of becoming a more dangerous offensive player over just being a serviceable two-way centre. That production has carried over to this season where he quickly became Laval’s top centre even ahead of some more heralded additions. He finally got a recall to the Habs and with how he played, it may be a while before he rejoins the Rocket.
Stats: 18 GP, 11 goals, 5 assists, 16 points, -6 rating, 12 PIMS, 61 shots
Michael Pezzetta – A-: He made the most of his extended training camp with the Canadiens, coming down to Laval and playing himself into a bigger role early on, eventually earning himself a quick recall where he has been since then. Pezzetta’s production was certainly unexpected and while it is a small sample size, he managed to stand out in a positive way in that stretch.
Stats: 8 GP, 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +7 rating, 16 PIMS, 11 shots
Jesse Ylonen – B+: From the games I’ve seen from him in Laval this season, the results have been a mixed bag. But I don’t think the AHL is the best spot for him to show his skills which makes it tough. Ylonen is someone who I think can elevate his game to play with more talented linemates but isn’t the type of player who can carry a line on his own. That said, he was doing a nice job of getting onto the scoresheet before his recall which is exactly what Laval needs from him.
Stats: 17 GP, 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points, -3 rating, 6 PIMS, 43 shots
Brandon Gignac – B+: As someone that was signed to be a depth player after spending most of last season in the ECHL, Gignac has very quickly become an important part of Laval’s bottom six while chipping in with some unexpected offensive production as well. It’s hard to ask for much more than that from a role player on an AHL deal.
Stats: 20 GP, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, +4 rating, 4 PIMS, 26 shots
Cam Hillis – B: Hillis only narrowly makes the cut for this as well but as someone who came up to the Rocket after not playing all that well with Trois-Rivieres, he has looked better in what has largely been fourth line minutes. Depending on what happens with the Habs and their injury/recall situation, Hillis could be poised for a bigger role once he’s sent back down which will be a truer test of his development.
Stats: 8 GP, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, even rating, 4 PIMS, 8 shots
Jean-Christophe Beaudin – B: Injuries have limited him to less than half of Laval’s games this season but Beaudin quickly earned himself an important defensive role while seeing time both at centre and the wing. On top of that, he has been surprisingly productive. He’s in a limited role but has exceeded expectations for someone in that spot, giving him a higher grade.
Stats: 11 GP, 1 goals, 5 assists, 6 points, even rating, 17 PIMS, 14 shots
Rafael Harvey-Pinard – B-: Other than his last few games before the break, Harvey-Pinard got off to somewhat of an underwhelming start. It’s not that he was playing poorly but he wasn’t as noticeable as he was last season either and for someone whose effort level makes him stand out, that’s not ideal. There are always little adjustments to be made and now it’s up to him to find a way to be more impactful in the second half.
Stats: 24 GP, 5 goals, 9 assists, 14 points, +10 rating, 12 PIMS, 38 shots
Alex Belzile – B-: His start with the Habs wasn’t great and after being in a very limited role, he got off to a particularly slow start with Laval when he was sent back. Over the last month or so, Belzile has been more like the front liner we’re used to seeing him be but that slow start puts this grade a little lower than usual for him.
Stats: 16 GP, 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points, -5 rating, 17 PIMS, 30 shots
Lukas Vejdemo – C+: Based on his stats alone, this grade is low. But this is his fourth year in the league; he turns 26 in January. Vejdemo needs to be an impactful player on a nightly basis and there is still a lot of variance in his performances. When he’s on, he’s a more than capable player with the Rocket and you can see why the Habs have kept him around – his ‘A’ game can be NHL-calibre on the fourth line and we’ve seen that in his games since being brought up. But he’s too quiet when he’s not on for my liking and he was quiet a little too much early on.
Stats: 22 GP, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points, even rating, 6 PIMS, 40 shots
Brandon Baddock – C+: Laval’s resident tough guy, Baddock is able to take a regular shift on the fourth line and even kill some penalties without being a liability. That’s nothing to get too excited about but as far as pugilists go, that’s pretty good.
Stats: 23 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, even rating, 35 PIMS, 23 shots
Kevin Roy – C: Brought in late in the offseason, Roy was expected to be a go-to scorer for Laval after leading Arizona’s affiliate in scoring last season. That hasn’t happened. Instead, he struggled to stay in the lineup early on and has spent a lot of time in the bottom six. He has been better lately and they will need him to step up and become more of a consistent contributor with so many players up in Laval.
Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points, +2 rating, 8 PIMS, 37 shots
Jean-Sebastien Dea – C: For several years, I had wanted the Habs to sign Dea. Here’s a proven top centre in the AHL that could really bolster the offence. That was a reasonable expectation for him heading into this season. At least I thought it was. Instead, Dea has looked a step slower than usual, his defensive game remains an issue, and he’s not producing at the level he has in the past. Yes, he’s sixth in scoring among forwards but for someone that’s supposed to be at or near the top, that’s not good enough.
Stats: 24 GP, 8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points, -5 rating, 10 PIMS, 57 shots
Danick Martel – C: Like Roy, he was brought in on a minor league deal to give Laval more firepower. Instead, he has found himself demoted to the bottom line at times and isn’t producing all that much while having some penalty trouble. A few years ago, he was claimed off waivers twice in the NHL but his stock has sharply fallen since then and it’s now evident why he had to settle for an AHL contract.
Stats: 22 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, +3 rating, 18 PIMS, 57 shots
Alexandre Fortin – C-: For someone that was seeing somewhat regular NHL minutes for a stretch three years ago, I was expecting to see more from Fortin. It’s hard to be overly critical of depth players on NHL contracts but he’s not making much of a case for more playing time when everyone is healthy.
Stats: 13 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -3 rating, 0 PIMS, 20 shots
Gabriel Bourque – D+: Granted, a slow start was understandable after he didn’t play at all last season. But Bourque was brought in to be a steadying defensive presence and even that has been a challenge at times while his production up until the last few games wasn’t up to snuff either. He has not provided a good return on a valuable veteran slot.
Stats: 24 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, -11 rating, 27 PIMS, 34 shots
N/A: Peter Abbandonato (4 GP), Cole Caufield (6 GP), Ryan Poehling (7 GP)