It was quite a year for Maxim Lamarche in Laval. No, he wasn’t a superstar defender, and didn’t put up a ridiculous amount of points, but he did set career highs in multiple categories in 2018-19, and given his role on the Rocket, those were important milestones.
He was brought in to be the no-nonsense, defensive stalwart who can play up and down the lineup on any given night, and over the course of his 73 games played, he did just that. Forming a partnership with Brett Lernout for most of the year, that duo ended up being Joël Bouchard’s go-to unit for defensive-zone assignments and on the penalty kill. Lamarche provided a solid blueprint for Lernout to follow over the course of the year, being defensively responsible but also having the skating ability to create plays on his own when called upon.
His 73 games were 23 more than his previous AHL best, and setting new highs in assists (16) and points (19) were a bit of bonus offence for the team. Considering his playing style, that is solid secondary production from the blue line.
Lamarche actually showed off some decent offensive instincts for someone noted as a defensive defencemen. When he chose to be aggressive from the point or with the puck, good things happened.
Maxim Lamarche intercepts an errant pass, and flicks a backhand shot home for a goal.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 21, 2019
Rocket trail 2-1. pic.twitter.com/Mbnp9UNtRR
His ability to generate assists with a low shot/slap-pass was highlighted throughout the season. The Rocket were not a team that beat goalies with laser-sighted shots, but with quick lateral passes to open up shooting lanes. Lamarche’s low shots were great in terms of allowing players to redirect them passed the goalies, or to corral them and quickly pass off for a cross-crease feed.
The Rocket play in Cleveland again tonight, here's a few of the highlights from last night's win over the Monsters.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2018
Starting with Alexandre Alain's perfect redirection of a Maxim Lamarche shot/pass pic.twitter.com/AAzbvL22wY
In the defensive zone, he quietly went about his business, keeping good position and blocking dangerous attempts around him. Laval was one of the best teams in the AHL this year at limiting shots against, and when you play as much as Lamarche did, a big chunk of credit should go to him.
Despite his steady performance, things get a bit dicey heading into next season. The Rocket could potentially have three starting right defenders in Noah Juulsen, Josh Brook and Cale Fleury. It’s possible that one of the aforementioned players will earn a spot on the NHL roster, but the competition for spots in Laval is just as tough. If none of the prospects make the Montreal Canadiens roster, it’s hard to see Lamarche getting regular playing time over them in the AHL. With his ability to eat up hard minutes, and with plenty of experience at the AHL level, it would not be a surprise to see him back next year, albeit liekly in a less regular role than this past season.
Overall, Maxim Lamarche came exactly as advertised: a solid, unspectacular defenceman who can play on any pairing. He did what was asked of him, and chipped in the odd point here and there while spending significant time on the penalty kill. The Rocket and Bouchard would love to have him back to help ease in the new prospects, but other suitors for Lamarche’s skill set and experience may be able to promise him a bigger role on their team.