I was very pleased to see Jesse Ylonen paired with Poehling right off the bat, and the move paid dividends in their very first shift as they opened the scoring. That is a big part of the future playing on this club right there. They are the top 40 picks…and they are the Laval forwards with the best chances of playing top-nine NHL roles some day until further notice. Two more assists for Ylonen, who has shown that his lack of assists for the Pelicans in the sm-liiga was more a product of linemates and opportunity than any deficiency in his playmaking ability. Ylonen had two assists in 20 games, and started this season with just one point in his first nine games in Finland. He already has three assists in his first four games in the AHL, and could have had more. He has a real knack to spot the best option when he carries the puck into the offensive zone, and puts the puck in the right spot for a one-timer. Bouchard using him on the point on the power play is further evidence that the coaches have seen that playmaking ability throughout camp. We already know that he can fire the puck based on previous viewings. It looks like he has all-around offensive ability.
Gianni Fairbrother assisted on that goal in his very first AHL shift, and after that he demonstrated the physical presence that will make life a living hell for AHL forwards in the future…be it in Laval or elsewhere. As I tweeted halfway through the period…Bergy…sign him already! Fairbrother had an excellent all-around first game of pro hockey, and looks like he could play for Laval right now. He will need to keep working on his reads, one-on-one defending and skating but that’s more a product of missing so much playing time the past two seasons. He has the strength, competitiveness, shot and passing ability to help Laval out next season and in the future.
Poehling scored his first goal in 13 months, and his first AHL goal since Nov. 2019. He had gone 16 AHL games without a goal. I asked him if he was glad to get the monkey off his back. He had a wide grin on his face and admitted as much. You can be told you’re playing well and to keep working hard, but nothing raises your confidence quicker than breaking a slump. Look for him to get rolling offensively.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard was rewarded for his hard work through all four games this season with two goals, and if his late-game shot off the crossbar had been an inch lower, he’d have had his first pro hat-trick. Not bad for a seventh-round pick. My first viewing of RHP live was at the Belleville rookie tournament in the fall of 2019, and you could see right away why the Canadiens used a pick on the older prospect. I thought he could have played in Laval last season, and remarked as much during the camp. Alas; he went back to junior for one more year, and now he looks more than ready to not only play regularly for Laval, but to make an impact.
I’m having a hard time figuring out why Xavier Ouellet keeps getting trotted out on the first PP. He’s never had 30 points in his eight pro seasons…and he’s on the first PP instead of Brook, who had 75 points his last junior year. I asked Bouchard about it and he noted that there are more “mature” guys for that role in Ouellet, Leskinen and Schueneman. He explained that Brook won’t make it in the NHL because of his offence. That’s fine, but can you at least give him that chance before definitively slotting him? Xavier Ouellet isn’t going to make it in the NHL as a power play guy, either.
It’s disappointing when AHL coaches determine something regarding a high draft pick at a young age without giving them that opportunity much in games. Yes…as Bouchard pointed out…Brook did get out for some of the 5-on-3 power-play, but it was for the last portion of it. Give him that opportunity to show off his vision and passing ability right off the bat. We know we aren’t going to see it form Ouellet that often…so go with the unknown. Brook was the top playmaking dman in the WHL his final season…the only one who was close was Ty Smith…and guess what? Smith is a power-play QB in the NHL in his rookie year. Yet Brook can’t even be tried on the first PP in the AHL? I saw tons of elite passes from Brook in junior; he has offensive skills that none of the other defencemen on Laval this season possess in my opinion. Hey; scouts and coaches aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye but this one in particular is frustrating.