On a Laval Rocket team where every forward line and defensive pairing has NHL experience, a top prospect, or both the line of Lukas Vejdemo, Joe Cox, and Alexandre Alain sticks out for not having either.
That’s meant as no disrespect. Vejdemo was #17 in the 2019 Top 25 Under 25, Alain was #38, and Cox was signed to an AHL contract after a try out from the ECHL a year ago.
The line is often considered the fourth line for the Rocket, and it was listed as such on Saturday afternoon as the team was taking on the Toronto Marlies. Time on ice is not available at the American Hockey League level, but if it were I would bet on this line not being used the least.
There’s a good reason for that. Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard trusts all four lines.
“They’ve been good,” Bouchard said about the trio after Saturday’s win over the Toronto Marlies. “I’m very happy that we can roll four lines and I think that’s why in the third period we’re relentless. We can play everybody.”
“Everybody’s chipping in. Some nights some guys don’t play as much as other nights because you can push the pace with the guys that have a better night but Lukas has been playing really well.”
On Saturday against the Marlies, the line of Vejdemo, Cox, and Alain were instrumental in the comeback. First, Vejdemo’s effort to get the puck back to Noah Juulsen led to the shot that was tipped in by Joe Cox to make it 2-1.
Really liked this effort from Lukas Vejdemo on Saturday afternoon. A well deserved secondary assist. pic.twitter.com/JMpWw7jml5— Jared Book (@jaredbook) November 5, 2019
Then, that line put together one of the best shifts you’ll see at even strength. Cox, Alain, and Vejdemo jumped on the ice with just over 11 minutes remaining on the fly in the third period. They took a few seconds and established possession in the offensive zone. They didn’t return to the bench until two minutes later, with a goal in their pocket.
Anthony Marcotte, on the team’s radio broadcast on 91.9 FM said that it looked like a power play. The official shot summary shows three shots on goal. There were at least four others that went just wide. In one shift. Charlie Lindgren could have gone to the bench.
At the end of the shift, the Marlies got the puck to the neutral zone and quickly tried to change. Vejdemo secured possession in the neutral zone, and eventually Gustav Olofsson entered the zone. Somehow, after two minutes of winning puck battles in the offensive zone, Vejdemo had enough left to get behind the defence and redirect Olofsson’s pass into the net.
At the time, that goal made it 4-3. Toronto eventually got it to 5-3 before the Charles Hudon show in the final four minutes of the period.
“I felt our line played well the last couple of games,” Vejdemo said. “I felt that we deserved a couple of goals here [Saturday]. We worked hard and that gave us the goals.”
Vejdemo is currently third in team scoring, behind just Charles Hudon and Alex Belzile, with four goals and two assists in 13 games despite not playing with the team’s top offensive talents. His four even strength points are second on the team, behind just Otto Leskinen’s five.
With Phil Varone out with an injury, and Ryan Poehling called up to the NHL, Vejdemo is one of five potential centres in the Rocket lineup. Jake Evans and Michael McCarron remain, Kevin Lynch is returning to full health, and Matthew Peca is one of the other players on the roster who can move to centre with the absence of Poehling.
It is possible that the line that was so good on Saturday will be broken up, out of necessity. Either way, Vejdemo will continue to be leaned on when shorthanded, and has had some power play time early in the season.
Even when he was playing in the SHL as a teenager in Sweden, Vejdemo has adapted to his role. Put him in a shutdown role, and he’ll do that. Put him with talent, and he’ll put up points. To say that Vejdemo has been under the radar in Laval would not go far enough. He’s been under the radar since before he was drafted in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft, which just happened to be his second year of eligibility.
He never made the Swedish World Junior team, being one of the final cuts before the 2016 tournament.
There are still steps to be taken before Vejdemo gets the call to the NHL, but when discussing potential options to be called up, it may be time to add Vejdemo to the list alongside Evans, Belzile, and Hudon. Either way, he’s quickly becoming a mainstay in the organization.