Much like the NHL club, one of the biggest questions this year in the AHL was the strength of its defensive group. Matt Taormina was a known entity and Brett Lernout is what he is in terms of production and play. One of the players who had a chance to stake his claim to a regular lineup spot, and possibly get some NHL attention, was Tom Parisi, the former Providence Friar.
In last year’s review, we noted that despite his promise, Parisi never seemed to fully gain his coach’s trust. This year saw him get a much more stable role, and he showed that he’s capable of being a regular contributor on the blue line.
Playing in 71 games this year is a major step up from the 45 he played in St. John’s the previous year, and he also increased his offensive production during that time. He was not to the level of Taormina in terms of production (few in the AHL are), but Parisi has many of the same strengths that make him an effective player.
He skates extremely well, gliding up the ice, and when in the offensive zone has the mobility to move and make plays that other Rocket defenders could not. Éric Gélinas got a lot of praise for the quality of his shot in the offensive zone, but his main issue is that he’s far too static in his use of it. Parisi walks the blue line and tries to find better lanes, as opposed to just unleashing a bomb toward whatever or whomever is directly in front of him.
Eric Gelinas with an absolute bomb on the power play makes it 2-0 Laval.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 29, 2017
Great puck movement by Tom Parisi to help set this one up. pic.twitter.com/TYL1juOWXs
His shot isn’t anything to scoff at either, and he alternates between using a quick snapshot and heavy slapshot to get the puck on goal with solid efficiency. He can get shots by goalies cleanly or he can create rebounds for his teammates.
One of the main problems the Rocket had (and the IceCaps before them) was an inability to have defenders lead the breakout, and often settled for dumping the puck into the neutral zone. While not the biggest point-producer, Parisi has the ability to change that, and it showed when he was given a bigger role to start the year.
His ability and willingness to jump up in the play or get the puck out on his own stick was what made him the most effective. Joining the rush or jumping on loose pucks led to plenty of goals and scoring chances for his team.
Tom Parisi gets his second of the game, assists to Carr and Froese. Rocket lead 6-3 pic.twitter.com/tYFBbNVtpq— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 22, 2017
Despite playing more games this year, at least compared to his rookie season, Parisi still ended up a healthy scratch at the end of this year, in favour of tryout players. Despite not truly doing much wrong, Parisi seemed to become one of the players fed to the press box when the situation presented itself.
He’s not a game-changing player, and he likely isn’t going to pile up points for the Rocket — or whichever teams he plays for in the future. He is, however, a very stable presence in the lineup, and is exactly the type of player that the Montreal Canadiens need in the organization to bridge the gap between prospects.
With Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen potentially locks for the NHL next year, losing Parisi would be a major blow to a Laval team that struggles mightily even with him in the lineup. That’s not saying that he is suddenly going to blow the doors off and become a surefire NHL player, but he’s going to be a reliable choice for the coach of the Rocket next year.
The Canadiens lack the defensive depth to not bring back Parisi, at least headed into 2018-19. Only Lernout, Simon Bourque, Taormina, and newcomer Adam Plant are signed for next year, and even if Noah Juulsen were to return to the AHL, that’s just five players overall. Given the struggles of Bourque this year, and the relative unknown quality of Plant, not bringing back Parisi would be an unwise move for the Rocket.
When he’s on his game, Parisi is a more than capable point-producer on defence at the AHL level, and he’d be a great partner for an incoming rookie, or even as someone to eat up big minutes on the Rocket’s top pairing. He likely won’t see much more than a brief stint at the NHL level, but he’s still a key part in building what should be a successful team in the AHL.
Not every player needs to be a superstar, but if Laval wants to create a winning environment, the club will need supporting players like Parisi in the lineup.