Laval Rocket has right balance
Canadiens’ farm team features plenty of intriguing young talent as well
There’s one professional hockey team in the Montreal area that is winning games — and scoring goals.
The Laval Rocket is off to a fast start in the American Hockey League after sweeping the Belleville Senators last weekend 3-0 and 6-2 at Place Bell in Laval.
As Laval prepares to meet the Binghamton Devils in a pair of home games Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m., coach Sylvain Lefebvre said he’s excited about a lineup that offers a balance of veterans and young players with their best years ahead of them.
“Not to take away from the vets, but we have players like (Nikita) Scherbak, who is in his third season, and Daniel Audette, who is in his second season, and you can see the growth there,” Lefebvre said.
One problem facing some AHL players early in the season is NHL hangover. If a player didn’t have a good NHL camp — or maybe had a good camp but was caught up in the numbers game — he might have a problem focusing on the task at hand after being sent down.
Lefebvre said that hasn’t been an issue.
“Scherbak didn’t have a good (NHL) camp and he knows it, but he had a good week of camp with us and the Canadiens called him back for one (exhibition) game and he played well,” Lefebvre said.
The Russian forward had a different experience last season. He was called up to the Canadiens for three regular season games and, when he returned to the St. John’s IceCaps, he had difficulty getting back on track.
“It’s the same with (Michael) McCarron,” Lefebvre said. “He didn’t have a great camp, but he came back to us with a great attitude.”
The 22-year-old McCarron played 31 games with the Canadiens last season, but lost the fourth-line centre job to Jacob De La Rose. That decision might have been affected by the fact McCarron could be sent down without needing to clear waivers.
Lefebvre has one numbers problem — he has too many veterans. But he said that’s a problem that will sort itself out.
Laval has seven veterans, Lefebvre said.
“Too many, but I think that’s a good problem. I think not only talent-wise but leadership-wise, we have a good group that can help the young guys.”
AHL teams dress 18 players for a game — two fewer than the NHL — and most must be young pros with fewer than 260 pro games of experience.
“We can dress five veterans and we can also use one player with between 260 and 320 games,” Lefebvre said. “We have seven veteran players, including Jakub Jerabek and Byron Froese who fall into that (260 to 320 games) category, so we have to dress one of them.”
Jerabek was a healthy scratch for the season opener, but he played in the second game and picked up two assists. The Czech played last season in the KHL, and is expected to have a shot at the NHL after he gains more North American experience.
“I’m feeling more comfortable every day,” Jerabek said after practice Thursday.
While the emphasis is on the youngsters, most of the veterans have NHL experience and are looking for another shot. When you consider the Canadiens are having trouble scoring goals, it’s not inconceivable that Chris Terry will get a call if the parent club runs into injuries or feels the need for a spark. He has 152 NHL games on his resumé.
“I think I’ve shown I can score goals,” said Terry, who had 30 goals in 58 games with St. John’s last season and also picked up two goals in a 14-game run with the Canadiens. “The AHL isn’t the same as the NHL, but I’ve been up before, I know what it’s about.”
Too many (vets), but I think that’s a good problem. I think not only talent-wise but leadership-wise, we have a good group that can help the young guys.
Laval Rocket forward Michael McCarron, centre, didn’t have a great training camp with the Canadiens but joined the American Hockey League club with a great attitude, coach Sylvain Lefebvre said. McCarron played 31 games with the Habs last season.