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Laval Rocket season review: Alexandre Alain took another step forward

The second-year pro showed improvement in 2019-20.

Shanna Martin

When Alexandre Alain was signed to an entry-level contract by the Montreal Canadiens in April, 2018, Joël Bouchard was not yet in the organization. As it turns out, a month later Bouchard was named the head coach of the Laval Rocket. That means Alain has been coached by Bouchard in his last two seasons in the QMJHL and his first two professional campaigns. That has definitely helped Alain’s adjustment to the pro game, and his second year was better on a per-game basis than his first from a productivity standpoint.

Alain finished top-five in both goals and points among Rocket players, and he moves up in both categories if you only consider players who spent all season with the organization (Laurent Dauphin and Riley Barber, for instance, are ahead of him). This was despite him not really having a top-line role, and even a top-six role for the vast majority of the season.

In a way, that makes Alain’s potential path to the NHL clearer. Undrafted players like Alain do not end up in top-six roles in the NHL, and he doesn’t have that kind of offensive upside to do so. Yet a lot of his impact does come offensively. He has a great shot that he uses in multiple ways, and he does have a good amount of skill. It’s what got him noticed when he played with Drake Batherson and Alex Barre-Boulet in Blainville-Boisbriand, though he’s not at the level of his two former linemates.

The biggest strength of his game may be his shot. It’s something that he used a ton in Junior. It’s perhaps at its best from the left circle where he can fire off one-timers. There was one game I watched before he signed with the Canadiens where he had a hat trick, and could have easily had a fourth if it didn’t ring off the post.

It’s something that could probably be used more on the Rocket power play, especially when Charles Hudon is out of the lineup. Alain’s shot isn’t of Hudon’s quality, but it can play at the AHL level and is definitely good enough to be a secondary option.

Alain contributes to the Rocket on the second power-play unit, and also plays a significant role on the penalty kill. Early on in the year, his line with Joe Cox and Lukas Vejdemo was a dominant one every time they went on the ice, playing tough, two-way hockey. He looks like a player who needs to contribute offensively, but there’s a lot more to his game.

The fact that he is that versatile is what makes me think there’s a potential NHL player in Alain, but he isn’t quite there yet. He’s a very mature player, with a good head on his shoulders. He was the QMJHL Scholastic Player of the Year in 2018, and also won the Guy Lafleur Award of Excellence, presented to an amateur hockey player who best combines hockey performance with success in the classroom.

His mother is a teacher, and his father is an engineer, and he took online University classes while playing for the Rocket. He is also one of the mainstays of the community outreach the Rocket do in schools. He was captain for Bouchard in his final year with Blainville-Boisbriand in Junior.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Alain is a player whose effort all over the ice complements his skill level, and the combination could make him a potential depth player on an NHL team. He is only 23, and there is still room for growth.

An NHL future is not a sure thing, as both the depth of the organization and question marks about his game leave some doubt. He is entering the third and final year of his entry-level contract in 2020-21, and it will be a significant part of the decision on whether he remains on an NHL contract beyond that season, or if he will leave the organization or sign a minor-league contract elsewhere.