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Laval Rocket season review: Daniel Audette

Injuries and inconsistency conspired against Daniel Audette in what should have been a positive second professional season.

Club de hockey Canadien, Inc.

Daniel Audette’s season could not have started off with a bigger moment, beginning his sophomore campaign by scoring the first goal in Laval Rocket team history. In fact, he would tally points in five of his first seven games, providing what looked to be solid secondary scoring on what was a deep Laval team at the time.

Then came the call-ups and injuries, and during that time Audette’s numbers took a bit of a hit. A game or two without points isn’t unheard of, especially for a young player like Audette. However, December heralded a different story entirely, as he didn’t register a point in 12 of the 13 games that month, and none in the last 11 played overall. It was a slump similar to the one he had in his rookie year, when he didn’t score in nearly 30 games, and that’s a key factor that kept him from breaking through this year.

He posted a respectable 16 points in 21 games after that drought as the Rocket foundered to the bottom of the AHL standings. At the beginning of March, he suffered an ankle injury that would knock him out for the rest of the year.

That’s been the story of Audette’s professional career so far: he goes on red-hot streaks where he’s one of the best scorers on his team, but when he slumps it goes on for an extended period, and is more than just bad luck. While in one of his funks, Audette is a non-factor on the ice, and will see a spike in his penalty minutes as frustration mounts.

When he was healthy, there were still some bumps in the road that come with being a young prospect. They’re few and far between, but his lapses are always extremely noticeable. Twice in overtime alone, the effort and execution wasn’t there, and it cost his team a chance at claiming a point on both occasions.

On the play above, Audette glided slowly back into his own end, then failed to register the opponent who put home a wraparound on a play that he could have easily defended.

This is something Audette can and needs to work on heading into next year. In his third pro season, he’ll be counted on to help guide some of the new prospects as they get their feet wet in the AHL.

Desspite some of its deficiencies, there’s a lot to like about Audette’s game, and even more to be optimistic about when taking into account a recent coaching change. Audette has the speed and skill to put on a clinic in the offensive zone, and with the right cast around him he can focus more on not having to do so much himself.

He’s a creative playmaker who, when given time and space, is an valuable asset at centre. While he’s far from a surefire prospect, he could easily make a case for seeing some NHL time should the Canadiens need an offensive reinforcement.

While he didn’t get an assist on the above play, he was the primary reason for the goal, as he caused the defence to bite hard on his fake, and opened up a perfect lane for Adam Cracknell to finish the play off. He’s more than capable at being the distributor through the middle of the ice, and when he started taking on more penalty-killing time, the Rocket saw an uptick in their short-handed goals.

While primarily being a playmaker for the Rocket, Audette does have somee finishing ability when he’s on his game. He hasa laser-guided wrist shot that he uses to great effect to beat opposing goaltenders, and also does well to utilize a fantastic one-timer that he can fire off in the tightest of spaces.

The issue was never the tools in the kit for Audette, it’s the consistency in which he uses them, and that is hopefully something his new coach will bring out of him next year. He has the speed and puck skills to do crazy things in the offensive zone, he just needs to avoid that yearly slump that continues to hound him.

Part of that comes with maturity and choosing to focus more on the simple things in the game instead of trying to force plays to make things happen. He’s still extremely young, and there is very obviously a level that hasn’t been touched yet in his game.

Look for a breakout season from Daniel Audette in Laval next year. A new instructor, a healthier team, and better linemates should all add up to a major increase in his overall play.