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The Laval Rocket are being built for immediate success

Yesterday’s signings show that the Canadiens want the AHL club to be an immediate contender.

St. John’s IceCaps/Jeff Parsons

It’s the first year in the AHL for the Laval Rocket. Typically being a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization is tough enough, but moving back into Quebec next season the spotlight will be shone brightly on the club; something that was missing while the team was in Hamilton or St. John’s in recent history.

With that in mind, Marc Bergevin has gone out and loaded up on talent to ensure that the premiere season is a successful one.

Both Byron Froese and Matt Taormina were outstanding for the Syracuse Crunch last year, and found a second gear in their run to the Calder Cup Final against Grand Rapids.

In his two full AHL seasons, Froese has been around a point-per-game player for the Toronto Marlies, and following a late trade to Syracuse he continued that trend. He’s a natural centre as well, meaning he will likely step into the role of the departed captain, Max Friberg.

With his solid scoring upside he is a great complement to Chris Terry, and will allow the Rocket to spread out their scoring wingers, as opposed to loading up one line like the AHL club did last year.

For players like Jeremiah Addison and Nikita Scherbak, he’s a good guide to have down the middle, and both prospects should enjoy success if he’s their pivot throughout the year. Depending on how the lineup shakes out it could mean that down the middle the Rocket could have Michael McCarron, Jacob de la Rose, Byron Froese, Daniel Audette, and Chris Terry. Obviously some of these players will shift to the wing as needed, but that’s a formidable group to say the least.

Taormina is another massive add, as he won the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award for being the league’s best defenceman, and is a multiple-time All-Star. In the past two years Taormina has had seasons of 41 and 60 points, respectively, making him one of the AHL’s best point-producers from the blue-line.

With Mark Barberio lost to waivers last year the IceCaps were missing a crucial piece of their offence: a good puck-moving, point-producing defender. Taormina is exactly that, and he’s likely to be paired along with Zach Redmond, who himself was a great defender for the IceCaps last year. That duo should ease the load on the incoming prospects like Noah Juulsen and Simon Bourque, allowing them to take easier competition and adjust to the AHL level of hockey.

While it’s possible he’s an NHL option, there is also the chance that Peter Holland could spend parts of this season in Laval as well. In his AHL tenure, Holland has produced at nearly a point-per-game pace, and would be a massive boon for Sylvain Lefebvre. He’d be a part of arguably the deepest group of centres in the league, and like the other two additions, would be a good mentor for the young prospects in the Habs system.

While it’s all speculation where these new signees will play, they’re a huge get for a minor-league team that hasn’t had many veterans in recent years. Chris Terry is signed on for another year, and was the AHL’s most productive forward in terms of power-play goals. If Charles Hudon is NHL bound this year, Froese and company are good ways to replace his production. If Hudon and the other prospects are starting in Laval, however, not only is their lineup fantastically deep, their power play should be among the league’s best; something they’ve struggled with in the past.

All in all, Bergevin has done well to stock up the Rocket for their debut season, and for good reason. Hiring Lefebvre was a move that was met with immediate criticism, given his lack of success in previous years. In this first year in Laval the team is loaded up with a mix of veteran talent and skilled prospects. The Rocket should be top contenders in the North Division this year. If they can’t pull that off with this roster, then Beregvin needs to reassess the staff behind the bench.