The Montreal Canadiens have announced the signing of forward Alex Belzile.
Belzile will be 28 years old when the season starts, but without a shadow of a doubt earned his very first National Hockey League contract.
Belzile had an outstanding first season with the Rocket, scoring 19 goals and adding 35 assists in 74 games. He was easily the team’s top scorer and their most valuable player, showing a work ethic second-to-none on most shifts he played. He could be compared to Brendan Gallagher in that regard, and he served as an excellent role model for the younger players on the team. He largely carried the team on his back as recalls to Montreal and injuries reduced the forward group to carry mostly rookies or ECHL call-ups.
His production put him in an elite group of players with AHL contracts under Marc Bergevin. Only T.J. Hensick had more points- 60 points in 2014-15. The next best was Eric Gelinas who registered 26 points in 2017-18, half of what Belzile produced.
In addition to being Laval’s top scorer, Belzile was also voted the Rocket’s recipient of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year Award and the team’s nominee for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, which honours a player’s outstanding contributions to their community during the 2018-19 season. He also represented the Rocket at the AHL All-Star Classic.
His likely return to Laval will ensure some on-ice continuity for Joel Bouchard who will see some turnover on his roster from the previous season with an influx of rookies (Joel Teasdale, Nick Suzuki, Cayden Primeau, and Josh Brook among the known) and the departure of several other players.
The secondary advantage of having Alex Belzile back is that he doesn’t yet count as an AHL veteran, because his 168 ECHL games do not count against the professional game experience, so the team will be able to load up on an additional veteran to provide the leadership for what promises to once again be a pretty young team.
Since this is his first NHL contract he will not be waiver eligible.