While the Montreal Canadiens season may have been cut short due to likely their worst season in the team’s history, there is still some great pro hockey in the city for fans to watch. The Laval Rocket, who are the AHL affiliate of the Canadiens, are currently in a tight battle in the second round best three out of five series against their division rivals the Syracuse Crunch.
The series is currently tied 2-2 after the first four games, as both teams split the games in Syracuse and Laval. Both teams are expected to put in a great fight in game 5 on Tuesday night.
While the AHL may not be the NHL, there are some fun prospects of the Canadiens that you would be able to watch for a much cheaper price than the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. With Laval being a 15 minute drive from Montreal, it is very easy for hockey fans in the city to go see the team’s prospects for about $15-$35 during the regular season, and tickets starting at $22 for the playoffs. The tickets may get a little more expensive if the Rocket continue to move on.
The Rocket’s Playoff History
On Thursday May 12th, the Laval Rocket played their first ever home game at Place Bell since their inaugural season during the 2017-18 campaign. They likely would have made it in the 2019-20 season but the season was cut short due to the Covid Pandemic. Last season, they finished first in the Canadian division but there were no playoffs for the league. This was unfortunate as the team could have went far much like the Canadiens did last year.
With the fans on their side, the Rocket beat the Crunch 4-1 to take series lead. Unfortunately on Saturday, the Crunch shut out the Rocket 3-0 to tie the series and send the series back to Syracuse for the fifth and deciding game of the series. The fifth game on Tuesday night will decide whether or not the playoff run continues. Therefore, it will be the biggest game in Laval Rocket history to date.
Who are the Players on the Rocket?
Over the last few years, the Canadiens organization has built up the Laval Rocket to have both development and winning success, with players like Jesse Ylonen and Raphael Harvey-Pinard who are both strong AHL players but also development projects who are close to cracking the Montreal Canadiens in the next few years.
If you followed the Canadiens all season, another guy you will get to see in Laval is Corey Scheuneman who has skyrocketed up the team’s organizational depth chart since signing with the Organization last year. He was originally brought in as a depth defencemen for Laval but has somehow pushed his way into fighting for a role with the Canadiens heading into next season. The fact that his contract allows him to be sent to the AHL, is a big reason why he didn’t finish the NHL season in Montreal. With the big club not having any chance of the playoffs, he was sent down in early April in order to help the playoff push for the Rocket.
While, the AHL is full of players looking to get to the NHL, there are also a lot of key veterans who serve as good mentors for the younger players. The Laval Rocket also have a good number of those guys like their leading scorer Jean-Sebastien Dea (pronounced Dee), forward Alex Belzile and their captain Xavier Ouellet. These three players have played a very key role in the Rocket’s season and have been key early on in the AHL playoffs thus far. Especially Belzile who has scored three of the team’s six goals in their first two playoff games. While Ouellet who has seen some time in the NHL over the last four seasons but has mainly served as Laval’s captain is providing a solid two-way game from the back end.
Some of these veterans may choose to leave the team next year but could also decide to stay on as a leader like they have this past season and over the last few years in both Belzile and Ouellet’s cases.
If you are a big hockey fan, you should really jump on the Rocket’s bandwagon as they will be very good over the next few years with new top prospects such defensemen Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Mathias Norlinder who could all start next season with the Rocket, while also eventually having a big part in the Canadiens future. Another reason to support the Canadiens minor league team is that rather than spend $100 for a night at the Bell Centre at minimum, you can get good seats for $25 at Place Bell.
Whether they move on or not, they deserve the attention from fans for the long-term future as the team will be filled with a nice balance of veterans and top prospects. This team will be competing for a Calder Cup for the foreseeable future, so give your support today!