Laval Rocket Will Be Must Watch This Season

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The Montreal Canadiens 2022-23 season should be better than the previous one, but it doesn’t promise to end with a playoff race. While the 2021-22 Habs were 32nd overall, this year’s team should be a little better, but not exactly a great NHL team to watch on a nightly basis.

The Laval Rocket however, are going to be appointment viewing in the upcoming season. They may not dominate the AHL standings, but the high number of intriguing prospects that will be playing at the AHL level in the Canadiens organization will ensure the Rocket have a lot of eyes on them.

It is not just a couple of prospects either, as there are a handful of young players at every position that Habs fans will want to keep an eye on. Often times an AHL team is filled with veteran players who don’t have an NHL future, but the Laval Rocket will have plenty of young talent that is looking to break through to the next level.

Part of that is because the Habs have a lot of veteran forwards who are going to be on the NHL roster. Even first overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky may start the season with the Laval Rocket, and everyone is going to want to keep tabs on him.

If he is in the minors, joining him on the AHL roster will be fellow first round pick of the 2022 NHL Draft, Filip Mesar. The skilled right winger was taken 26th overall and has played pro seasons in Europe already so he is likely ticketed to play next season with the Rocket.

Jan Mysak will also be with the Rocket. The second round pick from the 2020 NHL Draft scored 34 goals and 64 points in 61 games with a stacked Hamilton Bulldogs team last season. The Rocket don’t have many returning centres, so Mysak will be looking to carve out a top six role with them down the middle.

We should also get our first look at Swedish prospect Emil Heineman who was set to join the Rocket at the end of last season but injuries got in the way. The 20 year old was a part of the return in the Tyler Toffoli trade but Habs fans haven’t really had a chance to see him play since he joined the organization.

Also up front on the Rocket will be young returning forwards pushing for an NHL spot. Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Joel Teasdale, and Jesse Ylonen are more familiar to Canadiens fans but will they take the next step in their development and be ready for an NHL role? You’ll have to watch the Rocket to find out.

The defence could be a very young, but very exciting group. The top pairing could very well be top prospects Kaiden Guhle and Justin Barron. That alone would be enough to have many Habs fans tuning in. It shouldn’t be long before both defenders are playing big minutes for the Canadiens, but it will be exciting to see how they look with the Rocket to begin the season.

Arber Xhekaj will also be playing his first pro season. The 6’4″ and 204 pound 21 year old defender had a tremendous final Junior season and is an exciting add to the Canadiens prospect pipeline. Mattias Norlinder had a brief stint with both the Canadiens and Rocket, but this season should be his first full year in North America and he will likely play the bulk of it in Laval.

Even in goal, Cayden Primeau has been around for a few years but is just 23 years old and entering a key development season. He needs to show if he can be counted on to play a big role for the 2023-24 Canadiens.

Many years the Canadiens AHL team is carried by older players who aren’t likely to get an NHL opportunity. Players like Alex Belzile, Laurent Dauphin, Xavier Ouellet and JS Dea played important roles on recent Rocket teams, but they would not have been considered top NHL prospects.

This season, we could see Slafkovsky, Mesar, Mysak, Barron, Guhle, Xhekaj and Norlinder all playing key minutes in the AHL and they are all 22 years old or younger. That will make the Laval Rocket a team Habs fans want to watch on a regular basis this season.

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