Anthony Richard enjoyed his time at the AHL All-Star Game, but he’s focused on the second part of the season and that starts on Friday when the Laval Rocket will host the Syracuse Crunch.
With so many of his teammates currently in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens, you can’t blame Richard if he were to wonder when he’ll get another chance, but his focus is purely on continuing to play well which will determine where he ends up.
He also looks back at his short time in the NHL this season very positively. He played seven games, scoring his first NHL goal and getting one assist.
“To score with the Canadiens, my childhood team, my favourite team, it made all the more difficult years worth it,” Richard said. “You have to work two times harder to get back up [to the NHL] so to score that goal with the Canadiens it was really the cherry on top. I never would have thought I’d play for the Canadiens so to score my first NHL goal for them it was really special.”
Richard had previously played two NHL games with the Nashville Predators, one in 2018-19 and one in 2019-20. Last season, he was traded from Nashville to Tampa Bay where he was assigned to the Syracuse Crunch. It became a turning point for the 26-year-old.
“Last year when I was traded to Syracuse, [Crunch head coach] Benoit Groulx showed a lot of confidence in me offensively,” Richard said. “It was the first time I found an offensive fit to show my skill and offensive abilities and the coaching staff in Syracuse really had confidence in me, put me in good situations and that was the spark.”
The way he finished the season earned him a lot of interest, and he had a great playoff series against the Rocket, where he ended up starting this season.
“When I got here, you’re always a bit stressed of how it’s going to go with a new team but as soon as I came, [Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle] put me in good spots, I played with great players to start the season and it clicked offensively. Sometimes you have to be a bit lucky, you get confident and then you keep that confidence the whole season and that’s what happened.”
Richard is the Rocket’s leading scorer with 22 goals and 20 assists in 38 AHL games this year. It’s only natural to wonder when or if he’ll get the call to go back to the Canadiens this season.
“It’s a possibility. We don’t know what’s going to happen with trades. We don’t know who’s going to finish the season, who’s going to have a chance to go up,” he said. “My agent has had discussions with [the Canadiens front office] and it’s only positives so I’m confident the way I’m playing that I’ll have the chance to show what I can do in Montreal.”
Alex Belzile’s All-Star nomination came because Justin Barron, who was originally named to the team, stayed in the NHL. Belzile was asked how he saw his progression when he saw Barron again in the NHL.
“He’s improving every day so that’s a good thing for a young guy,” he said. “He’s got a good attitude, he wants to get better. He’s been playing well in the NHL since he’s been called up and I hope he keeps improving. He’s a nice guy and a really good hockey player.”
Gabriel Dumont was cheered and celebrated during the All-Star weekend but he will go back to being a rival when he returns to Place Bell on Friday night.
Richard said he was happy the Quebec-born Crunch players — Dumont and Alex Barre-Boulet — got warm receptions from the crowd during the All-Star weekend, but expects his former teammates to have a different reception this weekend.
“Friday they’re going to come at us, and the crowd is going to give to Gabriel,” Richard said. “He’s always a pain in the ass here in this building, I was on his side last year so he’s always giving it to the crowd too.”
After Friday night’s game against Syracuse, the Rocket host the Utica Comets on Saturday night. Both games start at 7:00 p.m. at Place Bell in Laval.