Laval Rocket season review: Brett Lernout

Like many of his teammates, Lernout wasn’t put in the best position to succeed.

Brett Lernout has been on the line between the NHL and the AHL since his professional career began. In fact, in all three of his full professional seasons, he has played in both leagues.

In the American Hockey League this season, with the Laval Rocket, it was not the step forward you would like to see in a prospect’s third full season in the league. Lernout’s production — not his speciality — dropped from last year. He also went from a plus-five to a minus-16.

But it’s not all on Lernout. Like many of his teammates in Laval, he couldn’t be used where he is best suited. For him, that is probably on a second pairing role in the AHL, playing a solid if unspectacular style. But often this year, with Éric Gélinas and Matt Taormina as the offensive-minded guys, he was used like the top defensive option on the team. That is not where his game is at this time.

He is not a guy who will be playing against the other team’s best players and playing all of the tough minutes, even in the AHL.

Ice time for the AHL is an estimate in the stats, but the chart above shows that Lernout was among the worst defencemen in the minor leagues by goal metrics. When he was on the ice, approximately 67% of the goals scored were by the other team. The opposition scored 3.5 goals per 60 minutes of time he saw

This is decidedly not good. Part of it is that he was used in situations that were above his abilities, and part of it is that his style of play is not suited for today’s professional hockey. Despite Laval’s team defence being among the worst in the league, he was still unable to distinguish himself among the blue-liners.

It wasn’t all bad for Lernout. In the last game he played before being recalled for the first time by the Montreal Canadiens, he found himself on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box, and he made no mistake for his only goal of the season.

After he got recalled, he saw his longest NHL stint so far. He previously had three games over two seasons, but had 18 games with the Canadiens due to injuries and roster movement. He did get his first NHL point, getting one assist.

Among Canadiens defenders, only Mike Reilly was worse in shot-attempts-for percentage, and even that includes Reilly’s time with Minnesota. When taking into account only games with Montreal, Lernout was worst, at 46.5% of shots. Lernout was also last among defencemen (who played more than two games) in percentage of Canadiens goals when he was on the ice (31.25%), ranking him last for Laval and Montreal in that department.

Having a defenceman who hasn’t been successful stopping the other team from scoring, while also not contributing to his team’s scoring, is a recipe for disaster.

I think at this point, it’s clear that Lernout is not ready for the NHL. This isn’t to say that he’s never going to be — he is only 22 years old — but I think he needs to focus on his game in the AHL, and he may be the person who will benefit the most from the coaching change in the AHL.

If he gets someone who can help him develop, and the team can deploy him in situations that put him in a position to succeed, it would be ideal for his development. There are things that are intriguing about his game. He is a big body and he has skating ability. He just hasn’t been able to put it all together.

This season wasn’t a step forward for Lernout, and there’s still time for him to change course. But time may be running out.

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