When the Montreal Canadiens signed Byron Froese last summer, it was an obvious move to shore up the roster of the Laval Rocket with some veteran talent.
Given his status on the team, Froese was named captain for the AHL team‘s inaugural season. He looked like the genuine article, scoring at near a point-per-game pace. In his first game with the C on his chest on November 3, he scored a goal and the shootout-winner.
With Michael McCarron underperforming at the NHL level, Froese was recalled to the NHL soon afterward, and would remain there for the rest of the season. The Rocket began their descent into abject disaster as McCarron and Daniel Audette struggled to replace his production, leaving Chris Terry and Adam Cracknell to shoulder that burden alone.
Froese played 48 games with the Canadiens in 2017-18, splitting the role of fourth-line centre with Jacob de la Rose until the Swedish prospect was promoted up the lineup to end the year. As mentioned in Nicolas Deslauriers’ season review, the Habs‘ fourth line consisting of Froese and Deslauriers was toothless until Daniel Carr arrived on the scene, but the centre was able to finish the year with three goals and eight assists.
The line picked up some offensive punch and made themselves a bit more formidable from that point on, but statistically Froese still struggled mightily in terms of possession. He ranked near the bottom in most categories among forwards playing at least 200 minutes, clocking in at second-worst in Corsi-for percentage (46.2%), fourth-lowest is shots-for percentage (47.1%), and fourth from the bottom in scoring-chances-for percentage (49.1%).
It wasn‘t all bad for Froese. He struggled by the percentage metrics, but when we look at his heat map for shots allowed in the defensive zone it tells a slightly different story.
As the centre on the fourth line, he did an admirable job of keeping the play to the outside, helping to prevent chances from the high-danger areas. His shot numbers may have been on the wrong side of breaking even, but his style still allowed him to play a fairly effective shutdown game.
Froese is signed through this upcoming season, and assuming the Canadiens address their other issues, it’s highly likely that Froese will resume his duties as captain in Laval. He was never expected to play over half a year in the NHL this year, but due to the startling lack of capable centres he found himself a home on the Habs’ fourth line. All credit to him, that’s not an easy task, but he had some difficulty at the NHL level having a net-positive impact.
Having Froese lead the Rocket next year and finding a cheap NHL-level replacement isn’t the worst course of action. If it turns out that player struggles to begin the season, Claude Julien will have a familiar face to plug into his lineup if the need arises.
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