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2016-17 IceCaps Player Review: When he was able to play, Markus Eisenschmid was a strong defensive forward

Despite signing an entry-level deal, injuries derailed the German’s season for the second year in a row.

(St. John's IceCaps/Colin Peddle) Markus Eisenschmid St. John's IceCaps/Colin Peddle

It’s been rough going for Markus Eisenschmid since he first joined the St. John’s IceCaps last season on an AHL contract. A serious injury limited him to just 28 games in his rookie season, but even in that short time he earned another AHL deal for the following year. In 2016-17, with a strong start to the season that included an uptick in offence and heavy reliance on his defensive abilities, Eisenschmid earned a two-year entry-level contract.

However, that would be the high point of his season. Soon afterward the injury bug reared its head once more, knocking the young German out of action for nearly two months. Eisenschmid has played a grand total of 67 games in two years for St. John’s, equaling less than one full season.

With one year remaining on his ELC, Eisenschmid will need to make a big impact with the Laval Rocket in order to keep his future NHL hopes in Montreal alive.

When healthy, Eisenschmid provided great support as a defensive player in the bottom six, alleviating some pressure on Jacob de la Rose and the now departed Max Friberg. With solid puck-handling skills, good speed, and a smart defensive acumen, he was able to become a solid threat at even strength as well as short-handed.

He’s unafraid to drive to the net, making him a great opportunist on loose pucks and errant passes, often converting them into goals. His speed stretches out opposing defences, giving his linemates more time to find passing lanes and generate shots on net. With the roster due for a bit of a shake-up with the upcoming expansion draft and players leaving on expiring contracts, the kid from Marktoberdorf will have ample chances to prove his worth with the Rocket.

While injuries do happen in hockey, and often there’s nothing anyone can do about it, for the Canadiens to get the most out of this contract Eisenschmid has to stay healthy going forward. And much like Nikita Scherbak learned in his rookie season, hockey in the AHL is played at a much faster pace than in the CHL, and keeping your head up is a must. During his first year, he got concussed by Viktor Loov on a borderline hit because of puck-watching.

While his production this year was decent for the role he was playing, Eisenschmid will be expected to take on a larger role next year. With de la Rose being a potential expansion target and Friberg headed home to Frolunda, Laval will likely need him to resume his defensive minutes. This time he’ll be leading the charge instead of supporting it, and it’s unclear if he can handle that duty just yet. It’s not that he’s incapable of doing so, it’s just uncertain if he’ll be up to that task due to his limited playing time.

The 2017-18 season is a big one for Eisenschmid. If he can stay healthy and step into the role the former captain played, then he’ll likely earn an extension with Montreal and keep working his way towards the NHL.