Lukas Vejdemo (Photo by TVA Sports)

by Chris G, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

LAVAL, QC. —The Laval Rocket are off a stretch of playing three games in three days. In that stretch, they collected three of the possible six points as they lost 6-4 against the Belleville Senators on Thursday and followed up with a 4-2 win and a 5-4 OT loss against the Charlotte Checkers over the weekend.

The Rocket play three more games at home this week before they head on the road. The Belleville Senators are at Place Bell on Wednesday night, and the Rochester Americans will visit Laval for a pair of weekend matchups on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Here are my top 5 takes of the week:

      1. Potential – Rocket assistant coach Alex Burrows told Journal de Montreal’s Marc DeFoy in an article published on December 23rd, that he sees potential in four players: Cale Fleury, Jake Evans, Lukas Vejdemo, and Michael McCarron. I think that’s a good list provided by Burrows. Fleury is listed 6-foot-1-inch, 211 pounds and plays a physical game. Fleury is used on the second power play unit, which is significant considering Laval uses one defenceman on each unit, and has put up three points in his last five games. Evans had gone through a period of where he collected 12 points in a 12 game stretch, but then followed that up with three points in his next 11 games. It can be that his first experience with a professional schedule is catching up to him, but the Christmas break looks like it helped him as he got four points last week. Vejdemo has consistently obtained scoring chances throughout the season but hasn’t been consistent in finishing. It’s his first season in North America and is in the process of adapting to the play in the AHL. After going 14 games without scoring, Vejdemo has scored in each of his last two games. In my opinion, the next forward call up for Canadiens should be McCarron.  This is the best that I have seen him play. He has been physical and has put up points on the board. In his last 14 games, McCarron has 15 points.
      2. Defence call up – Karl Alzner was recalled by Montreal when David Schlemko was placed on injured reserve. Alzner seemed surprised of the team’s decision. With Noah Juulsen being injured, I think it was an easy and the right choice. The only other defenceman that is currently NHL-ready is Xavier Ouellet, but between both those players, Alzner has been the better defenceman.
      3. Player development – Joel Bouchard came with the reputation of being good at developing junior-aged players. I think he has done a good job with the organization so far. “He’s a great coach, he keeps everyone honest. No one has priority over anybody. You’re as equal as every guy there. He just wants you to work hard. If you work hard and give it your all, he’s happy,” said Victor Mete on December 18th in Denver after being recalled by Montreal. Mete has looked better in Montreal since returning from Laval, which briefly landed him a spot with Shea Weber on the top pairing. Kenny Agostino, Michael Chaput and Brett Kulak have earned regular spots in Montreal after their short time with the Rocket. I think Bouchard deserves credit for McCarron’s improved play. With several good prospects in the pipeline, a good coaching staff in the AHL is critical for the organization’s long term success.
      4. Goaltending depth – It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In the last edition of Take 5, I wrote about the Canadiens depth in goal and since then they had to sign a goalie from the ECHL to play over the weekend. With Carey Price and Charlie Lindgren both being injured Michael McNiven was recalled to Montreal to back up Antti Niemi. Etienne Marcoux allowed five goals in each of his two starts since being the team’s number one goalie. “I allowed five goals again,” said Marcoux following Saturday’s game. I think that Marcoux had a good game against Charlotte even if the stats would seem to show otherwise. Connor LaCouvee played his first game with the Rocket and earned himself a second star and made a highlight worthy glove save. In the few moments that I spent with him in the dressing room after the game, I was able to tell how happy he was there and how his enthusiasm spread in the dressing room. You can hear his comments by clicking here.
      5. Rocket schedule – Last week, the Rocket played three games in 48 hours between Thursday night 7 pm. and Saturday’s 3 pm. start time. Playing three games in three days is something that happens regularly in the AHL, but it’s the only time that it has happened this season for Laval. On the weekend home games, the Rocket play at 3 pm. on Saturdays following the Friday night game, which is a quick turnaround. The 3 pm. start time on Saturdays in Laval is to avoid conflict with the Canadiens games that start at 7 pm. It may be a good business decision but not a good hockey decision. The Rocket have won two of the seven early Saturday home games. That being said, in six of those seven games, Laval did face the same team they played on the previous night. Bouchard and his staff will need to figure out how to improve their winning percentage in those situations. These are circumstances that are common to the AHL and that every team must learn to deal with.

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