After a long summer, the Laval Rocket made their AHL debut, playing 10 games in the month of October and putting on quite a show in the process, posting a 5-3-2 record. The Rocket got off to a hot start, going 3-0-0 to start the year, before limping to a 2-3-2 end to the month.
The offence deserves high praise for the great start, posting an AHL-best 38 goals, while the defence and goaltending is responsible for an AHL-worst 38 goals against.
It was a wild first month of the team’s existence, highlighted by a 15-goal affair against the Binghamton Devils in which the Rocket scored a pair of hat tricks: from Chris Terry and Daniel Carr. Not only did Carr register thre goals, but his third was the game-winner in overtime. Not a bad way to kick off an inaugural season.
North Division Standings
Stars shine bright
Some of the best moves Marc Bergevin made this off-season didn’t have much of an impact on the NHL squad. Instead he worked to bolster the AHL team, giving them an offensive depth they haven’t had in his tenure.
New additions Matt Taormina (11 points), Byron Froese (7 pts) and Peter Holland (6pts) had good debuts, while returnees Chris Terry (11 pts), Nikita Scherbak (9 pts) and Daniel Carr (10 pts) were outstanding as well. While he didn’t produce at nearly the same level, Michael McCarron played well enough to earn his call-up to Montreal, joining Scherbak in making the short trip to the Bell Centre.
Unfortunately for Scherbak, a good start in the NHL was derailed by a lower-body injury against the L.A. Kings that required surgery, while McCarron has yet to make a major impact.
Meet the new guys
Just after the pre-season wrapped up, the Canadiens made a pair of trades to shore up their AHL roster. First they sent last year’s top AHL defender, Zach Redmond, to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Nicolas Deslauriers. They also shipped out Andreas Martinsen to the Rockford IceHogs in exchange for Kyle Baun, in what currently looks like a robbery for the Rocket.
Deslauriers has been in and out of the Laval lineup, mostly due in part to the AHL Veteran Rule, which allows only five “veteran” players (320 pro games played) in the lineup on a given night. In his eight games he has two goals and two assists, and oddly enough also suited up on defence. Deslauriers hadn’t played on defence since his time in the QMJHL, but in his one game alongside Stefan Leblanc he didn’t seem to struggle much.
Kyle Baun on the other hand came in without much known about him, besides the fact he posted decent numbers on a bad Rockford team the previous year, but many assumed with Laval’s depth he would play primarily in the bottom six. That was the case early on, then the points started rolling and haven’t let up. Baun has slid perfectly into the Rocket’s top six alongside Daniel Carr, and sits fourth on the team in points with one goal and seven assists.
Perhaps the brightest spot in St. John’s last year was the stellar play of rookie netminder Charlie Lindgren. This year has not been as kind to him, or backup Zachary Fucale. In eight games Lindgren has a 3-2-2 record with a 3.60 goals-against average and an .883 save percentage, while Fucale is 2-1-0 with a 3.52 GAA and .866 Sv%.
Thankfully the Rocket have been scoring goals like they’re going out of style, so deficiencies in net are slightly covered up right now. To reach the next level and make a serious Calder Cup run, the Rocket are going to need both goalies to round into their best form sooner rather than later.
Lindgren has shown flashes of his old brilliance this year, including a shutout on opening night, and a 44-save performance in a loss to Rochester. Adding an in-form Lindgren to this potent offence is a recipe for success, and with a bit of shoring up on the defensive side of the puck, it’s not far from becoming reality.
1st Star: Chris Terry: 10 GP, 6 G, 5 A
Last year’s leading scorer, and St. John’s IceCaps record-holder for most points in that team’s history, is off to yet another incredible start this year for the Rocket. With six goals (T-3rd in the AHL) and 11 points (T-4th in the AHL), Terry is once again leading the charge on offence for his team.
Not only is he driving the bus at even strength, he continues to be one of the most lethal power-play options in the entire AHL. So far only Daniel Sprong has more goals on the man advantage than Terry this year, and as a Rocket power play continues to stay hot his numbers will continue to grow.
Chris Terry doing Chris Terry things, his second goal of the first period pic.twitter.com/IpP4E7UGnA— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 14, 2017
2nd Star: Matt Taormina: 10 GP, 1 G, 10 A
Taormina has been exactly what a young Rocket squad needed on defence. The AHL team lost their top two defenders from last year (Redmond and Mark Barberio, the latter of whom was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Avalanche), but Taormina has stepped in and produced at an outstanding clip.
His production a huge benefit, but he provides an invaluable presence for what is an extremely young defensive unit. His ability to read the AHL game, and make smart plays with and without the puck, is a major benefit. When Noah Juulsen returns from injury, pairing him alongside Taormina might be the best fit for his development.
Matt Taormina makes it 7-6 now and my computer just burst into flames pic.twitter.com/ka9vfhTsg1— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 14, 2017
3rd Star: Daniel Carr: 8 GP, 6 G, 4 A
It’s easy to forget how good of a hockey player Daniel Carr can be, especially at the AHL level. Injuries and an overcrowded roster have forced him to the backburner a bit in recent seasons, with fans focusing on players like Scherbak and McCarron.
Through Laval’s opening eight games, Carr is looking like the forward who led all AHL rookies in scoring a few years ago. After missing the first two games of the year, Carr returned to the lineup against the Binghamton Devils and made a major impact. He followed up his hat trick performance with a handful of multi-assist games, and registered a pair of goals against the Toronto Marlies to end the month.
Scherbak was a near miss for the first three stars vote of the season. He has a goal and eight assists to start the year, and had been the most dominant player on the ice for the Rocket before his call-up.
After a rough NHL pre-season, the young forward upped his game big time as the regular season kicked off. Outside of the one game he was held out of (ahead of his recall to the Canadiens), Scherbak registered at least a point in every game he played.
MANGO UNCHAINED!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 21, 2017
Scherbak dangles the Penguins D and sets up McCarron for the go-ahead goal pic.twitter.com/cSALrrPNOL
Here’s hoping to a smooth recovery from his knee surgery, so he can pick up his game right where he left off.