Laval has added several pieces for next season, announcing the signings of four players on Monday – forwards Jared Davidson and Jakov Novak, defenceman Tobie Paquette-Bisson, and goaltender Strauss Mann. Each player received a one-way AHL contract.
Davidson was a fifth-round pick by the Habs last year, going 130th overall. While he was eligible to play in Laval last season, they opted to send him back to Seattle of the WHL. That proved to be a good move as he was one of the Thunderbirds’ top players, notching 38 goals and 44 assists in 60 regular season games. The 20-year-old followed that up with 23 points in 19 playoff contests to help Seattle win the WHL title and added six more in five Memorial Cup appearances.
Davidson is a player following the same path as Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Xavier Simoneau before him, ones who were drafted a little older, allowing Montreal to give them a full AHL season before deciding on signing them. He’ll be looking to follow in their footsteps and get an NHL contract by next June.
As for Novak, the 24-year-old was a seventh-round pick by Ottawa back in 2018 and actually is still on their reserve list for another six weeks. The Sens have obviously given him permission to sign elsewhere. Novak had 12 points in 35 games in his fifth and final college season with Northeastern (where he was a teammate of Jayden Struble) before signing an ECHL deal with Allen for the stretch run. He was more productive down there, notching 12 points in 14 games. Novak seems like a candidate to start in Trois-Rivieres of the ECHL and serve as a recall when injuries arise.
Paquette-Bisson is a name that may be familiar to some as he spent two seasons with the Rocket before landing an entry-level deal with Los Angeles last summer. The 26-year-old had 16 points in 61 games with AHL Ontario last season but was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Kings. In 2021-22 (his last with Laval), Paquette-Bisson quickly worked his way into an every-game role. With the depth that they have on the back end, that could be a bit trickier for him but he’s a valuable depth option to have around.
Mann had a dominant college career, posting a 2.14 GAA with a .926 SV% and 11 shutouts in 77 games with Michigan over three seasons but instead of turning pro to play in North America, he went to Sweden in 2021-22. That landed him on the radar of Team USA internationally as he saw playing time at both the Olympics and World Championship in 2022.
San Jose liked what they saw and gave Mann an NHL deal for last season, one that saw him split time between the AHL and ECHL. With the Barracuda (AHL), he posted a 3.32 GAA with a .894 SV% in 20 games. He was much better with ECHL Wichita, putting up a 2.51 GAA and a .932 SV% in 13 appearances. It’s possible that he’s being signed to be the starter in Trois-Rivieres but he could also be deployed as the backup to Jakub Dobes in Laval next season.