Daniel Audette was the only rookie forward on the St. John’s IceCaps’ roster last season, and he fared quite well all things considered, scoring 10 goals and adding 20 assists in 75 games. He played centre on the second or third line, alongside the team’s offensive propsects like Nikita Scherbak, as well as veterans like Bobby Farnham and Yannick Veilleux.
Audette was the ironman for the team, only missing a single game all year. A nearly permanent role on the team was surprising for the rookie forward, but being one of the few offensive centres on the team probably earned him that stability by default.
In December he was called upon to pivot the first line for the IceCaps due to injuries and call-ups, and had his best month of the season. He rose to the occasion, scoring half of his goals on the season that month, and adding six assists.
He also logged important time on the power play. He earned our IceCaps first star for the month of December for his performance, helping to keep the IceCaps’ season from falling off the rails once again at the first sign of adversity. He faded as the season went on, however, as the wear and tear of professional hockey seemed to take its toll.
The community vote once again hits the mark, placing Audette at his 2017 position of #22. The spread showed a general consensus with minimal variance on his standing with 65% of the panel placing him from the 17th to the 25th spots.
The obvious outlier was Shayna’s vote, ranking him at #8. “I think he's a guy who puts in full effort every game and is fully capable of becoming an absolute menace for the opposition,” she explained. “While I don't expect him to be in an NHL top-six, I do see him as a guy who can take full advantage of all ice time and contribute consistently. I just think if the Habs don't undermine his development he has a high ceiling in his potential.”
Audette’s ranking may have fallen victim to a lack of buzz relative to some other prospects, but with increased exposure this year with the Laval Rocket, a rise up the ranks should be predicted for next season.
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This is Audette’s fourth year of eligibility on the list, and he has never really managed to gain any momentum in our ranking from his initial debut in 2014. This year’s edition ranks him at his lowest, however this is not an indictment on his play receding, but rather could just be a momentary bump after a rookie season in the AHL. It was a big step in terms of competition over his final junior season, which impacted his effectiveness and normalized heightened expectations.
Audette is a clever playmaker, putting up 15 primary assists on the season, accounting for 75% of his assists. This was good enough for third on the team, and only one back of Nikita Scherbak. For primary points (primary assists and goals), Audette ranked fourth on the team, tied with Max Friberg with 24, and ahead of more seasoned players like Stefan Matteau.
In a random 10-game sample tracked by Mitch Brown throughout the season, he counted that Audette averaged four controlled exits per game. That ranked fourth among all forwards on the team in that span. The more telling stat is he logged less than one uncontrolled exit per game. This is the hallmark of a confident player who has a good vision on the ice.
Head coach Sylvain Lefebvre was impressed with Audette’s game. “Daniel is doing well. He is playing some good hockey. His play in the defensive zone pleasantly surprised me; he pays a lot of attention to his defensive play. He wants to play the game right and learn the right things because he wants to play in the NHL. Daniel can’t expect to get there by solely relying on his scoring talents.”
Once he leaves the defensive zone he drives to the net, which, combined with his size and the exact same draft position, often leads to comparisons with Brendan Gallagher. Suffice to say that Gallagher made the big leagues a lot faster becuase of a more complete game, but Audette is probably the more natural scorer of the two. If he can put it all together he may have in interesting NHL career ahead of him.
Great passing sets up Daniel Audette's game winner in OT, three points on the night for him. pic.twitter.com/vPKUUUgXFD— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 30, 2016
Audette, headed into only his second AHL season, needs more experience with the pro game. Lefebvre often has to remind him to watch his body language in order to not give away injuries or frustrations. An air of confidence even when it belies the situation is one of the most important pokerface requirements for a great player, and something that Audette continues to improve.
Just like in his junior career, he lived a season bouncing between extremes in his rookie debut, with some high highs and low lows. He will need to find consistency in his game.
His estimated TOI was around 14.5 minutes per game, but with half his goals scored on the power play, Audette’s relative goals-for percentage was -6.52%. So, despite having one solid month, the rest of the season saw him have a negative impact on his team’s fortunes. That’s something you would expect from a learning rookie, especially a centre prospect.
Depth at centre won’t be an issue for the Laval Rocket this season with the likely addition of veterans Peter Holland and Byron Froese, on top of presumed AHL starts for Michael McCarron and Jacob de la Rose, with Markus Eisenschmid rounding out the group. Audette will probably find himself anchoring the third or fourth line, and risks even being muscled out of a centre slot and shifted over to wing.
His season will probably be defined by this. If he’s playing at centre it would most likely be on a checking line; if he plays on wing it may be as part of the top nine or even top six. He faces two differing roles with different expectations and assignments.
Needless to say this will be a crossroads type of season for Daniel Audette who will hopefully be able to showcase his talents as the Montreal Canadiens turn to Laval to look at call-up options throughout the season.