Cayden Primeau and Ryan Poehling were standing in the Laval Rocket locker room after the team’s 3-2 win against the Providence Bruins. Both of them played big roles in the win. Poehling scored the game-winning goal in the third period, while Primeau made 32 saves.
About 1,600 kilometres away, in Madison, Wisconsin Cole Caufield scored a pair of goals. Twenty-four hours earlier, Nick Suzuki scored his first NHL goal.
Sometimes you have to look real hard for patterns or metaphors. On Friday, it was clear as day. The Montreal Canadiens’ top prospects are coming. They are playing their game, learning what it will take to excel at the NHL level.
The four of them are at three different stages of a career, and all of them are taking different paths, but the talent is on display. Poehling, Caufield, and Suzuki were the trio everyone was watching at development camp. Primeau and Poehling have a connection together as well.
“He’s always surprising me,” Poehling said about Primeau. “I’ve played with him growing up in USA Hockey and whenever we have him in the net he gives you a chance to win. We have two great goalies.”
“He’s a goal scorer,” Primeau said about Poehling. “He scores goals at big times, and he did that [Friday].”
Joël Bouchard is in a tough spot. He’ll never say he’s in a tough spot, because this is the tough spot you want to be in. The Rocket simply have more capable players than lineup spots and it means Bouchard is stuck making tough decisions.
On Wednesday night, Michael Pezzetta scored the game’s first goal. On Friday, Alexandre Alain took his spot. Alain scored the game’s first goal.
“There are days where you get to the rink and you’re looking at your board and you have 12 forwards and six defensemen with no decision to make,” Bouchard said. “Sometimes there is, but there’s always a logic that comes through and sometimes there are guys that don’t play and maybe they should deserve to stay in the lineup, but in the American League — knock on wood — things could change very, very, very, very, very quickly. Last year we were without 12 or 13 players in a span of two to three months.”
Bouchard is quick to mention that there are still 70 games left in the season, and players know they will get an opportunity as well, even if there’s a performance reason they aren’t in the lineup.
“Sometimes it’s a punishment. I don’t need to be buddy-buddy with the guy. They need to know where I stand. We need to have an honest and respectful relationship,” Bouchard said. “When I tell [the media] something, I don’t go and tell them differently. Sometimes I don’t tell you guys everything because I don’t think there’s everything to tell. But at least there’s the same message. So there’s no confusion. The guy doesn’t go in his car and hear something then say ‘Why did Joël say that? He told us a different thing’. I’m not smart enough to be complicated. There’s three reasons they don’t play. One, they’re not playing well enough. Two, we have a lot of bodies or you’re a young guy and then we need to put somebody else in. Three, you’re injured and you’re recovering and you’re coming back so you’re not ready to play yet. That’s it, that’s all. There is no grey. And then if it’s not good enough, we will work with you. So we’re better at this, this, and that. And if you’re not playing and you know you’re playing well, we’ll make sure we’ll keep working with you so your game stay up to par. So when we put you back in the lineup, you’re sharp and you’re ready to go. That’s our job.”