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Laval Rocket season review: Chris Terry

The brightest light in an abysmal season for the Rocket established himself as one of the AHL’s elite forwards.

Club de Hockey Canadien Inc.

When Chris Terry signed on with the Montreal Canadiens organization two years ago there wasn’t much fanfare. He had good AHL numbers, but failed to really light up the NHL. He looked to be another fourth liner who would shuffle in and out of the lineup or the AHL as needed.

Then, in the final year of the St. John’s IceCaps franchise, he shattered the record for points in a season, and set a new team record for goals in a season and earned a contract extension.

Serving as an alternate captain for the Laval Rocket this year, Terry didn’t just lead the offence over the course of the season. He dragged a ragtag group of AHL bottom-six players and ECHL call ups along all year as he piled up points. He along with Adam Cracknell and a mix of Nikita Scherbak, Kerby Rychel and many others clicked along on the top line, while the rest of the team failed to even try and keep pace.

To put it in perspective, Terry outscored the next closest Rocket player by 19 points, despite missing over a dozen games due to injury. For his 32 goal, 71 point effort Terry collected a veritable bounty of awards including: The John B. Sollenberger trophy (leading scorer), AHL Player of the Month, another AHL All-Star Classic appearance, and being named to the AHL First All-Star Team to end the year.

He did all of this on the last place team in the AHL, with one consistent line mate for the most of the season. That’s not just impressive, it’s almost unheard of to see someone accomplish a feat of that magnitude.

To say Terry was an offensive force is honestly underselling things. He was the offence for Laval this year. His 32 goals accounted for almost 1/7th of all the Rocket’s goals in 2017-2018, and considering he had 39 assists he had a hand in over a third of Laval goals. A huge boost this year is that his goal production was not limited primarily to the power play like in previous years. While he still tallied 14 goals with the man advantage, his other 18 came at a combination of even strength or shorthanded. He became a terrifying presence in the offensive zone by the end of the year.

With the puck on his stick there was always an extremely good chance that Terry was going to bury it in the back of the net. On the power play he set himself up in the faceoff dot and the second the puck touched his stick he snapped it past many goaltenders this year, in almost Ovechkin-like fashion.

Not only was he a threat in the upper part of the offensive zone, he ran a highly potent Rocket power play with great success from the point as well. When paired up with Matt Taormina, Terry was able to use his quick, but powerful slapshot to great effect.

Opposing teams knew the puck was going to Terry nine times out of 10, but then they had to stop him still. That is just not something that happened very often, as scoring 32 goals in the AHL isn’t an easy feat, especially not on an offensively starved team like Laval.

Overall, there isn’t much that Terry couldn’t do for the Rocket this year. He played in every situation for Sylvain Lefebvre. Some of that was out of necessity, and some of it was out of the fact that when Terry and his line took the ice the team was immediately better. Even with an ugly minus-33 rating it’s hard to pin that on him when taking into consideration how often he was thrown on the ice in games. He was fine defensively, but much like Matt Taormina he was eventually forced into playing a role that didn’t always befit his talents.

With his production, many were thinking he would get the chance to battle for another NHL spot this year and based on his production alone he was far more deserving than Byron Froese or any of Michael McCarron’s recalls. He had four points in 14 games in his last stint with the Habs, which isn’t anything crazy, but considering how the fourth line is deployed in Montreal, it is just alright.

In a season such as this one where you’re playing for pride, especially, rewarding a player like Terry who did so much for the AHL club would be the least they could do. While he didn’t receive a call up, Terry will still go down in Rocket history as he set an extremely high bar for single season records, and collected a cabinet full of awards.

It’s up in the air whether or not Terry will return to the Habs organization next season. Fans and teammates alike would likely welcome him back with open arms. For Terry however, he’s proven he’s an elite AHL talent at this point in his career. With the crowded bottom six in Montreal he may not have the chance to truly carve out a place for himself. Whether he chooses to sign with another NHL team for a fresh start or tries his luck in Europe remains to be seen. He becomes at unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Regardless of his choice it needs to be stated that what Chris Terry did this season was incredible. He was one of the AHL’s most terrifying scoring threats, even while battling through injuries over the course of this season. If he is going to move onto another organization, he gave fans a show every time he touched the puck and was easily the team MVP for this season. All of his accolades were well deserved, and should he move on, he’s going to leave a monster-sized hole to fill in the Laval lineup.