Laval kicked off a two-week road trip with a pair of games in Texas last week. While the Stars are among the weaker teams in the AHL, they were bolstered by the return of Anton Khudobin. In the end, the Rocket picked up a split by eking out a win in the second game.
The Week That Was
Jan. 28: Stars 6, Rocket 1 – Despite the lopsided score, things were looking up for a bit for Laval in this one. Tory Dello had his first career AHL goal, Laval was leading after 20 minutes, and had gotten off to a good start. Things went completely off the rails after that. Kevin Poulin then proceeded to allow six goals in a 22-minute stretch and they quickly threw in the towel aside from a couple of late scuffles, one of which caused Texas blueliner Alex Petrovic to be suspended for the rematch.
Jan. 29: Rocket 3, Stars 2 – Laval’s first goal in this one came in the second period on the power play and it was a weird one. Not because they scored on the man advantage (that’s specific to Montreal) but rather what came after it as Texas took two penalties after the goal. The Rocket couldn’t score on the ensuing advantage but picked up another power play marker soon after. A late goal from Peter Abbandonato restored the two-goal lead late in the middle stanza and it held up as the winner with Louis-Philip Guindon picking up his first career AHL victory in his first career start.
Goals: Dauphin/Dea (11)
Assists: Jesse Ylonen (12)
Points: Jesse Ylonen (18)
+/-: Rafael Harvey-Pinard (+11)
PIMS: Brandon Baddock (56)
Shots: Danick Martel (73)
News And Notes
– Laval experimented with playing Alex Belzile at centre, a position he hasn’t played too often. With Ryan Poehling, Laurent Dauphin, and Lukas Vejdemo all up with Montreal though, their depth down the middle at the moment isn’t great.
– Vejdemo and Sami Niku were both sent down from the taxi squad after the second game against Texas.
– Peter Abbandonato has a knack for scoring some timely goals. Both of his tallies for Laval this season have been game-winners and if you go back to his time in Tampa Bay’s system, six of his 13 career AHL goals have held as the winning marker.
Last Game’s Lines
Bourque – Dea – Ylonen
Harvey-Pinard – Belzile – Teasdale
Martel – Beaudin – Roy
Baddock – Abbandonato – Smith-Pelly
Ouellet – Belpedio
Schueneman – Dello
Fairbrother – Paquette-Bisson
The Week Ahead
Feb. 2/4: at Utica – While Laval was able to win in their last matchup, the Comets have given the Rocket some challenges this season. In fact, they’ve given everyone some challenges this year as they’re the top team in the AHL and the stingiest defensive squad in the conference. Six players have more points than Laval’s leading scorer with Chase De Leo sitting tied for tenth in AHL scoring leading the way. Even with some additions from the Habs, this could be a tough couple of games.
Feb. 5: at Belleville – There are some parallels with the Senators as both NHL teams have taken away a lot of the top talent on each AHL squad at times this season and the end result is Belleville sitting near the bottom of the division. Jake Lucchini continues to lead the team in scoring, allowing me to once again point out that Laval gave him away at the start of the season for free for reasons that still don’t make much sense. Michael Del Zotto has been productive since clearing waivers, averaging over a point per game from Belleville’s back end.
I was curious to see how Corey Schueneman was going to be used after being sent down from Montreal. Would he get a bigger role after impressing with the Canadiens? It turns out the answer there was no, he’s still a supporting cast type of player. It got me thinking a little bit back to someone else who went through a similar path with the Habs – Joel Hanley. He didn’t look out of place in his first NHL opportunity but was still somewhat sheltered upon being sent back to St. John’s at the time.
If you don’t remember him, he’s the player who’s best remembered for getting six assists in his first four NHL games but outside of a handful of games with Montreal, he basically played exclusively in the minors during his time with the organization. If you look at the offensive numbers, the two are pretty close. Both were undrafted college players who started on AHL contracts. Both even play a similar style.
Now, you may be thinking, what’s the point in this comparison? A minor leaguer being compared to a minor leaguer. But here’s the thing. Hanley has actually become a regular on the roster in Dallas over the last couple of seasons, basically being a low-cost seventh defender who fills in when needed. It took him until he turned 29 to get to that point; he’s a late bloomer. It’s not crazy to think that Schueneman could follow a similar path which would be a pretty good outcome for an undrafted player.
With that in mind, I’m hoping to see Schueneman get tested a bit more in the second half of the season with Laval, even as the defence gets stronger. At 26, he’s old for a prospect but it’s fair to wonder if there’s still a little bit of upside in him. And that’s all it might take for Schueneman to be on Hanley’s path as a mobile seventh defender at a time where mobility is critical. If I’m Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton, I want to get a closer look at him to see if he could yet turn into that type of defender. We’ve seen this season that quality depth is needed at all positions.
Is the pending free agent worth keeping around? I’d only say yes if they think he can get to a Hanley-like level. In order for that to happen, he needs to get more minutes, even if that means moving Xavier Ouellet down the depth chart who, let’s face it, isn’t going to be part of any solution with the Canadiens. Here’s hoping Schueneman gets that chance.