Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: Karl Alzner’s Professionalism, Xavier Ouellet’s Impact, Mentor for Habs Defencemen
ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — It can be said that the Laval Rocket lacked veteran forwards this season. In my opinion, this was the main reason that the team missed the playoffs. The same can’t be said about the team’s defensive roster as several veterans played the majority of the season in Laval.
While everyone was ecstatic on November 27th that Shea Weber was making his season debut with the Canadiens, Karl Alzner was on his way to join his new teammates.
With 746 NHL games under his belt, Alzner played his first American Hockey League game the following night at Place Bell. It was his first game in the AHL since the 2009-10 season. “Being in for two, out for two regardless of how I was playing, I saw the writing on the wall,” said Alzner when he met the media for the first time in Laval.
The 30-year-old veteran had several reasons to be sour this season. Not only did he spend significant time in the AHL, his 622 consecutive game streak was ended at the season opener as Claude Julien didn’t dress him in Toronto. And Alzner spent most of the time in the press box with the Canadiens as he played a total of nine games for Montreal.
His drive to the rink was extended as he had to drive further north from his South Shore home to Laval. And for those living in the Greater Montreal Area, you can relate to the headaches associated with that commute. He had to trade travelling in charter flights and having his own hotel room in the NHL, to bus rides and a roommate in the AHL.
It seems to me that Alzner had many good reasons to be disengaged, yet Karl wasn’t. Alzner was a true professional. He gave 100 percent on every shift and took his role with the team seriously. He was an excellent mentor to the young players of the team, the very same players trying to get a shot in the NHL, just like him. It is the kind of professionalism that all employers want in their organization.
Alzner was paired with Brett Lernout and Cale Fleury for the majority of his time and was on the first penalty kill unit. Alzner had an excellent stint in Laval doing a good job defending as he was well positioned defensively and was physical.
“It was like a Tour de France, you know, like just up and down a lot, a lot of stuff to deal with throughout the season. But in the end, this was a fun year of hockey,” said Alzner at the conclusion of the season.
“I expect to expect the unexpected. Like I honestly have no clue,” said the veteran on his future with the organization. “My goal is to get to 1000 games in the NHL, and this puts a little speed bump in the way,” a milestone that he will likely not reach with this organization.
“I don’t really think there’s much of a choice you know, it’s what what the organization wants and then I follow from there,” when asked if he would agree to return to Laval next season.
With another three years remaining in his contract at a $4.6 million cap hit, Alzner may not be an attractive target for another team to acquire via trade. It was reported at the end of November, that Marc Bergevin gave Alzner’s agent permission to speak to other teams to find a fit. If it wasn’t for his contract, Alzner would have a new home in the NHL next season. A buyout isn’t an interesting option for the Canadiens this season.
If Alzner is back in Laval next season, you can count on him to remain a true professional.
On July 1st 2018, Xavier Ouellet signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens.
“I spoke to Joel before signing my contract. My message was pretty clear. I’m signing a contract with the Canadiens with the goal to play in Montreal. My goal isn’t to play with Joel Bouchard in Laval. I like and have a lot of respect for him, but I want a role with the big club. I know he understands that!” said Ouellet to Journal de Montreal at the time.
Bouchard was Ouellet’s coach with Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL.
Ouellet started the started the season in Montreal and played 19 games before clearing waivers and sent to Laval on December 8th. He remained with the Rocket for the balance of the season, where he got 27 points in 48 games. Ouellet was named the team’s captain by the coaching staff and management on February 12th, after Byron Froese was traded to the Flyers.
Ouellet was given a lot of responsibility by Bouchard. He was on the first defensive pairing, and on the top power-play and penalty-kill units. Ouellet mentioned earlier in the season that it’s the most ice time that he has played in a long time. His biggest impact was with the extra attacker.
Prior to his arrival, the team’s power-play was ranked last in the AHL with a 12 percent success rate. With his 18 points on the power play, the Rocket finished 18th in the league with 17.9 percent. Ouellet has a good point shot and can help generate offensive scoring chances.
“It went pretty good. Obviously things didn’t go as I would have hoped. My goal was to be in Montreal and I didn’t stay there all season. So it didn’t go as planned, but I’m happy with my season and I’m happy about the challenge that I had to go through and
I know I did my best. I think I did a pretty good job,” said Ouellet on his season.
As a restricted free agent, the Canadiens will decide if they want to bring back Ouellet next season, and I think they will. It would be the right decision. Even thought things didn’t go the way he expected, he focused on playing his game in order to earn another shot in the NHL.
Both defensemens’ attitudes would be an asset to have around the team next season when a lot of young prospects are expected to join the roster.
“They came down here and weren’t sour about it. They kept the positive attitude the whole time and to see that is very comforting. To see a guy like Karl come down, he’s been playing in the NHL forever and Xavier too, to have such positive attitude it’s awesome to see,” said Lernout on the impact of his veteran teammates.