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. We begin, at always, with the goalies and defencemen.
Players must have played in at least eight games to receive a grade.
Cayden Primeau – B-: Over the past few weeks, Primeau has been stellar most nights, stealing some victories for the depleted Rocket along the way. But the beginning of the season didn’t go so well; through November, he posted a save percentage of .900 or better just three times in 10 appearances. I know save percentages are typically a little lower in the AHL but that’s not a high bar to clear so that balances out his grade somewhat.
Stats: 16 GP, 8-6-1 record, 2.77 GAA, .912 SV%, 2 SO
Michael McNiven – D: I know McNiven is frustrated with his situation and understandably so; the organization hasn’t treated him all that well. But he’s not helping to showcase himself for other teams with the season he’s having as most nights, his performance has been subpar. If the COVID situation around the league settles down in the next few months, he’s the type of player that could be in a change of scenery type of trade.
Stats: 9 GP, 3-3-1 record, 3.95 GAA, .867 SV%, 1 SO
N/A: Kevin Poulin (2 GP)
Tobie Paquette-Bisson – A: There are two types of players on AHL deals – strong veterans and depth pieces. Paquette-Bisson was signed to fill the latter role but he has very quickly become an integral part of their back end. He has played on the third pairing at times and thrived and has moved into the top four and more than held his own. The 24-year-old has been one of the bright spots so far this season.
Stats: 24 GP, 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points, +4 rating, 6 PIMS, 39 shots
Terrance Amorosa – A-: Another player on an AHL deal that was signed for a depth role, Amorosa has been anything but that as of late. Injuries and recalls finally gave him a chance to play a regular role the last few weeks and he has done well, playing his way into a spot on the top pairing and has stayed there even as others have returned. He’s 27 and not really an NHL prospect and frankly, expecting this type of performance to continue wouldn’t be wise. But so far, Amorosa has done quite well in limited action.
Stats: 9 GP, 1 goals, 5 assists, 6 points, +5 rating, 2 PIMS, 8 shots
Xavier Ouellet – B: Someone in Ouellet’s situation is always hard to grade in these. Has he been Laval’s top defenceman when healthy? Yes. But he’s supposed to be that. For him to get an ‘A’ grade, he needs to be doing something to exceed expectations which would be taking a step forward in his overall game. That hasn’t happened. He has the offensive instincts to succeed in the minors but his defensive game still isn’t good enough to push for NHL action.
Stats: 17 GP, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, -4 rating, 22 PIMS, 54 shots
Gianni Fairbrother – B-: His first full professional season has been a bit of a roller coaster. He has been burned a few too many times for defensive lapses which isn’t typical for him but isn’t atypical of rookies in this league either. But in many other facets of the game, he has acquitted himself well while even spending a bit of time on his off-side (I suspect to assess his readiness for a recall if needed). Fairbrother came into the season profiling as a prospect that had a shot at being a third pairing piece for the Habs one day. He hasn’t done anything to get off that trajectory yet but considerably more time in Laval is needed.
Stats: 16 GP, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, -9 rating, 29 PIMS, 12 shots
Louie Belpedio – B-: Of Laval’s many newcomers this season, Belpedio was one of the ones that excited me the most. Finally, here was a right-shot defenceman that could play on the top pairing and provide a boost in the defensive end. He has been decent but not to the level I was expecting. Belpedio should be pushing for an NHL spot, fighting to be that first recall. I don’t think his play was warranted that yet but if the Habs need someone to play 12-15 minutes on the third pairing without being too much of a defensive liability, he’s probably the best fit.
Stats: 24 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, +1 rating, 47 PIMS, 45 shots
Corey Schueneman – C: While he certainly earned his NHL contract with how he played in the first half of last season, I was worried with how his play tapered off down the stretch. That has carried over to this year. There are nights where Schueneman is a capable top-four blueliner with the Rocket and others where he’s more of the role piece he was signed to be last season. He’s 26 and the clock is ticking fast; he needs a big final few months to get another NHL deal.
Stats: 19 GP, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, -1 rating, 10 PIMS, 39 shots
Tory Dello – C: There isn’t a whole lot to cover here. Unlike Paquette-Bisson and recently Amorosa, Dello is someone who was signed to be a depth piece and has basically been exactly that. He has seen spot duty in the top four but he mostly has had a limited role when he has been in the lineup. His play has been adequate most nights which is fine for someone on a minor league deal but his performance isn’t going to earn him a high grade either.
Stats: 17 GP, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, +2 rating, 22 PIMS, 17 shots
Carl Neill – C-: After a decent showing in the Danish league, Neill returned to North America this season and isn’t in a great situation. Laval has needed him as an insurance policy which has stopped him from seeing action with Trois-Rivieres but they haven’t needed him all that often as he has been scratched more than he has played. Dello has been better when both have been in the lineup so Neill drops down a rung on his grade as a result.
Stats: 10 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -1 rating, 4 PIMS, 9 shots
N/A: Charles David-Beaudoin (2 GP), Mattias Norlinder (6 GP)