When Adam Cracknell was acquired from the New York Rangers for Peter Holland on November 30, it raised some eyebrows. Cracknell only had two goals and one assist in 15 AHL games while Holland was on Laval’s top line and had eight goals and 11 assists in 20 games.
It looked like Laval was giving up skill for a veteran presence, and there didn’t seem to be any redeeming qualities to acquiring a player five years older than the one they were giving up and with less production to boot. But it turned out to be a stroke of genius. Cracknell found another gear when he joined the Rocket.
He made an instant impact as well. In his second game during his first weekend with the team, he had two goals for Laval including the overtime winner.
Adam Cracknell gets the OT winner, not bad for his first day as Laval Rocket player pic.twitter.com/IbfElc0r6Q— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 3, 2017
Cracknell found instant chemistry with Chris Terry, who ended up as the AHL’s leading scorer. He started getting points almost immediately, and had a stretch of points in 16 of his first 22 games with the team.
He ended up with 27 goals and 21 assists in 54 games with the Rocket, just missing out on the 30 goal plateau, earning 29 goals on the season. It was the highest scoring season in Cracknell’s professional career.
Cracknell’s biggest asset - and potentially biggest surprise - was his ability to get his shot off quickly and he was able to create scoring chances with that alone. He also had a knack to find himself in good positions to create offence.
Now, having mentioned the chemistry with Terry, if Terry does not return, I’m not sure you can expect as much production from Cracknell going forward, but if he does become the Rocket’s second or third centre with the potential additions of Will Bitten and Jake Evans, he is still a very capable veteran who can be expected to produce some offensively, even if it isn’t at an almost 30 goal rate.
He also played in all situations, including the power play and penalty kill and it cannot be overstated how important he was to the Rocket after his arrival. The penalty kill had issues, finishing the season at a success rate of under 80 percent, but it’s hard to blame the players fully.
He found himself at home in the city, and has been one of the more outspoken veterans about how he wants to stay in Laval despite being an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He spoke very highly about what being in the Montreal area meant to him as well as how players are treated as members of the Rocket.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the leadership of the Rocket. We have to see what happens with the coaching staff, and there is also the impending free agency of Terry and the issue of which level Byron Froese will play next season.
If Cracknell returns to the organization, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cracknell is a candidate to be named captain of the team in its second season. He did get an ‘A’ with the team due to Froese being recalled alongside Terry and Matt Taormina.
He was not called up by the Canadiens, despite them struggling to dress four centres some nights due to the injury to Phillip Danault and trade of Tomas Plekanec. However, Cracknell is the type of player every organization needs. He is someone who can be called up in a pinch but also provide veteran leadership to the team’s prospects in the minor leagues.
Having already shown interest in returning, it would be surprising if the Canadiens did not bring him back. Having a player content with his situation in the American Hockey League is rare, especially someone who can contribute in all facets of the game like Cracknell did.
Even if you shouldn’t expect numbers like he put up in his first season with the Rocket, Cracknell should be expected to be a committed and contributing roster to an AHL team going though a bit of an overhaul if the team brings him back this summer.