It hasn’t been a great season for Laval to put things lightly despite not having their roster raided by recalls from the Habs. But that day will eventually come as injuries occur or trades happen so here’s an overview of the most deserving recalls from the Rocket based on their performance so far.
1) Anthony Richard – Management got a good look at him in the playoffs when he was one of Syracuse’s most effective players against the Rocket. But he hasn’t been a scorer in the past and wasn’t really expected to be one with Laval this season. However, he enters tonight’s action tied for the league lead in scoring while being one of their more energetic players. From a development standpoint, recalling the 25-year-old might not seem like the right pick but in terms of who deserves it, it’s most definitely Richard.
2) Rem Pitlick – He hasn’t played much since clearing waivers and was briefly up last week but Pitlick has been impactful in limited action so far. They’ve been giving him some reps down the middle as well and with the struggles of some of their other centres, that’s notable in case a middleman gets hurt with the Habs. I’d like to see Pitlick have an extended stay and really try to get some sustained success in but at the same time, he’s probably the most likely to be recalled if something happened.
3) Jesse Ylonen – No, he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up but few have in Laval this season. Ylonen continues to be a capable secondary scorer with the Rocket but he’s someone that needs more skilled players to bring out the best in him. At some point, the Habs need to see if he’s going to be part of their plans for next season and beyond so one way or another, they need to give him a look.
4) Lucas Condotta – This might seem like a stretch but I think he has done basically everything that has been asked of him so far in a limited role and this is more of a gut call on my end. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and he’s a safe player that can play in his own end and kill penalties. With Michael Pezzetta’s spot in the lineup looking iffy at best right now, Condotta might be the best fit to take that spot if they want to make a change as he plays a heavy game without the dumb penalties. For spots higher up on the depth chart, the others (along with Rafael Harvey-Pinard) would make more sense, but realistically, a spot on the fourth line is the likeliest to be made available which Condotta might fit better than the others.
Xavier Simoneau has certainly played well this season but he’s on an AHL contract this year which makes him ineligible for that list. To bring him up, Montreal would have to burn the first year of his entry-level deal this season which they might not want to do.
1) Justin Barron – Expectations were high heading into this season for him. Probably too high in retrospect when you consider that he’s 21 years old and a defenceman. Generally speaking, that combo screams patience. Barron has been hot and cold early on but he has also been the most impactful, scoring as many goals as the rest of Laval’s back end combined. He’s someone that management will want to look at anyway but in terms of merit, he has earned the right to be brought up when an opportunity presents itself.
2) Corey Schueneman – One of the things I liked about Schueneman last year was that he was largely stable on the ice. He didn’t do a lot but he didn’t make too many mistakes either. That hasn’t been the case this year as he’s clearly trying to be more active and the results have been mixed. If Montreal wants to call someone up to be a seventh defender and take Chris Wideman’s spot as the designated sitter that draws in once in a while, Schueneman should be the one for that role.
3) Otto Leskinen – I can basically take the opposite of Schueneman and put it here. Leskinen is typically more of a gambler type that jumps up into the play but this season, I’ve noticed a greater willingness to try to make the smart play. Again, the results have been mixed. I think this is a smart approach by Leskinen as it’s his in-zone play that will make or break his NHL chances. Focusing on that more makes sense and he could be rewarded for those efforts at some point, especially if Montreal moves a blueliner or two closer to the trade deadline.
Heading into the season, the thought would have been that several of their veteran offseason signings would be on this list. Mitchell Stephens should be their top centre and a key cog of Laval’s attack but he has struggled. Alex Belzile hasn’t been able to stay healthy while Madison Bowey, the one veteran defender Laval has, is having a season to forget. If they can turn things around, they’ll find their way onto this list later on in the season and the Rocket just might be able to pick up a few extra victories along the way.