One of the overstated parts of this Laval Rocket season is that they had to lean heavily on depth players in roles they might not have been suited for.
In this review we’re going to do a brief review looking at their contributions as the players in questions didn’t play enough games, or stand out enough warrant a full review like others have. In this group we’ll look at the seasons of Niki Petti, Yannick Veilleux, Markus Eisenschmid, Jordan Boucher, Thomas Ebbing, Stefan Leblanc and Jeremiah Addison.
In the case of Addison, he was injured for most of the year and only featured in a handful of games to end the season. While the rest might have played more games, their overall impact and future with the organization is limited.
Jeremiah Addison - 6 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 6 PIM
For Addison, this year is a write off for him. He was injured some time during the NHL rookie tournament in Toronto this year, and had shoulder surgery that caused him to miss almost the entire season. After being a key piece in a Memorial Cup victory, there were high hopes for the seventh-round pick, and having to sit on the sidelines for most of this year is a major disappointment. To his credit, in his first game of the year he made the most of it, by flinging a ridiculous backhand shot into the net for his first professional goal.
What a ridiculous backhand shot by Jeremiah Addison for his first professional goal. pic.twitter.com/wYuqDKD8lA— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 24, 2018
He struggled to find consistency after that as the coaching staff eased him back into the game by alternating healthy scratches and games for him. Next year will be big for him as he’ll be a part of a much younger core in Laval alongside Will Bitten, Michael Pezzetta, Hayden Verbeek, and Jake Evans.
Jordan Boucher - 70 GP, 10 G, 12 A, 37 PIM
It might surprise people that Boucher played the second most games out of any Rocket player this year, just one behind Tom Parisi who had 71 games played. Boucher was one of the guys who went to rookie camp and then earned an AHL deal out of it, and out of all the ECHL call-ups this year in Laval he was the one with the most impact. That unfortunately isn’t saying much, as despite playing in a primarily top-six role he tallied just 22 points and that’s also including power play time.
He has good speed and hustles on every play - things coaches love to see on the ice. However, the rest of his game isn’t quite there. His hands are a step behind where his legs are and he doesn’t have the high-end skill with the puck. If he was in a bottom six role, he’d be a great fit as his forechecking and speed would give teams fits on the ice. It’s hard to know if Boucher will be back next year, but if he is, he’ll hopefully be in a role more befitting him as opposed to being asked to carry a line. With the added depth in Laval, that should be the case.
Niki Petti - 64 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 33 PIM
Petti falls much into the same trap as Boucher above. He was asked to play a role far above his weight class, and struggled to keep his head above water. He had moments where looked like a great power forward, using his size to drive around the net and use his speed to create odd-man rushes into the offensive zone.
Okay this is pretty impressive, Simon Bourque with the alley-oop pass to Yannick Veilleux, and Niki Petti beats the defense with a great power move. pic.twitter.com/StXv2SswHX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 18, 2018
Now - and stop me if this sounds familiar - the problem is that his good moments were few and far between this year. Again, it’s hard to know exactly where someone like Petti is at as a player, he was asked to play well above a role he may be suited for. With more prospects coming in, it might be a lot more difficult for him to find a spot in Laval next year.
Markus Eisenschmid - 57 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 29 PIM
The good news for Markus Eisenschmid was this was the healthiest year of his professional career, playing in 57 games. The bad news is that is still not quite close to a full year, as he spent a chunk of the year injured once again. When he was healthy, he was a highly useful utility forward in the lineup for Sylvain Lefebvre. He is responsible defensively, but also able to chip in the odd goal in the bottom-six.
He has good speed and was right at home on the penalty kill and in heavy defensive minutes. Posting 16 points isn’t a great sign for someone signed to an NHL contract, and obviously they were hoping for more out of the young German in terms of offence. That’s not Eisenschmid’s game, as he’s more of someone to lean on for defensive situations, as opposed to a goal. It’s unlikely to see him gain another NHL deal next year, but ruling out an AHL return isn’t something I’d be willing to do yet.
Yannick Veilleux - 52 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 78 PIM
Yannick Veilleux is a dime-a-dozen AHL fourth liner who scores the odd goal and plays a physical game above all else. That’s what he did in St. John’s last year and that’s what he did in Laval this year too. He threw his body around and threw punches when the situation called for it, and that’s really about it.
There really isn’t much to say about Veilleux. He can hit and fight, but if he can’t contribute decently on offence there isn’t reason for him to take up a spot that could be filled with a prospect.
Thomas Ebbing - 45 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 15 PIM
One of the first Rocket players signed to an AHL deal, Thomas Ebbing is another player who spent too much time in the AHL playing in a role he wasn’t ready for. He didn’t stand out much in a Rocket bottom-six that desperately needed someone to stand out, and with one goal in 45 games, he was clearly there due to the lack of available players, rather than his own skill.
It’s harsh to say, but Ebbing probably shouldn’t have been more than a call-up option this year for Laval, and yet he played 45 games for an injury-laden side. He played his role to the best of his ability, but in the end he didn’t quite make a big enough impact to stick around next year.
Stefan Leblanc - 56 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 14 PIM
The only defender in this review is in a bit of an odd situation. He doesn’t have the veteran pedigree of Matt Taormina or Eric Gelinas, yet despite being just 22-years-old he doesn’t really have the same prospect appeal of someone like Noah Juulsen or Simon Bourque.
Leblanc, still was one of Lefebvre’s more utilized defenders through the early stages of the season, even with Bourque healthy and ready to play.
His skating was his best asset, allowing him to push the play up ice and get in deep in the offensive zone to try and create plays. His play in the offensive zone was quite good, as he made smart plays and actually showed off a decent shot when he got the chance.
The flaws were in the defensive zone where he was deployed like a top pairing defender at various points of the season, and used heavily on the penalty kill as well. His reading of plays in the defensive zone left a lot to be desired, and in the end his goalies suffered a fair bit for it.
The Rocket defence is going to be a big question mark heading into next year, so seeing Leblanc brought back wouldn’t be surprising, so long as the next coach uses him in a way that matches his overall skill level.