The Montreal Canadiens may not be on their way to the spring dance this season, but their farm team likely is. General manager Kent Hughes has stated in the past that the Montreal Canadiens would like to provide the Laval Rocket with some reinforcements, but not everyone is eligible.
The Laval Rocket are well on their way to qualifying for their first playoff appearance since moving across the river from the Canadiens in 2017. Despite trending for the playoffs in 2019-2020 before the Covid-19 pause and being the top team in the North Division during the playoff-less 2020-2021 season, The Rocket have been a good team for the better part of three years and need some reinforcements to go on a nice deep run.
Technicalities Disqualify Some Young Montreal Canadiens
Unfortunately, due to AHL playoff eligibility rules, Jordan Harris cannot join the Laval Rocket for the players. Due to Harris coming into the NHL directly and burning the first year of his entry-level contract, he is, unfortunately, unable to join the Rocket for the playoffs this year. Had Harris signed his NHL contract effective for next season (2022-2023) and then signed a Professional Try-Out (PTO) with the Laval Rocket, he would have been eligible for the AHL playoffs, but would have been unable to suit for the Canadiens this season.
Even if he somehow agreed to it, Cole Caufield is also ineligible to join the Laval Rocket because he was not sent down as of the NHL Trade Deadline. According to the AHL, a player must be sent down before the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 pm to be eligible to play in the AHL for the rest of the season and the AHL playoffs. Because Caufield was not sent down and immediately recalled in what is referred to as a ”papered transaction”, Caufield would not be able to join the Rocket on their playoff run. He has no business being there to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him represent Team USA at the Hockey World Championships.
The same limitation also inhibits Ryan Poehling, who was injured at the time of the NHL Trade Deadline and thus could not be sent down, from being eligible for the AHL playoffs. Although he started the year in the AHL, the fact that he couldn’t be sent down and quickly recalled leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline now makes him ineligible to return to Laval to help the Rocket down the stretch.
— AHL Communications (@AHLPR) February 25, 2019
So Who is Eligible?
The Montreal Canadiens recently sent down Corey Schueneman to the Laval Rocket. The 26-year-old defenceman is still waiver-exempt and was sent down prior to the NHL Trade Deadline to make him eligible to join the Laval Rocket on their playoff push once the Montreal Canadiens gained some bodies back on their defence. Before being called up to the Canadiens, Schueneman was one of the team’s best players and top-pair defencemen. His return to the team will be a significant boost to the roster.
Recently-signed Emil Heineman is also eligible to go and join the Laval Rocket once he has returned to full health. Unlike Jordan Harris, Heineman signed his entry-level contract effective for next season (2022-2023) and will then sign a Professional Try-Out with the Laval Rocket when healthy, allowing him to play out the final games of the season and participate in the playoffs. The rugged winger has been practicing in Brossard for the last couple of days and looks primed to give the Rocket some much-needed scoring punch on the wings going into the spring dance.
Like Heineman, NCAA free agent Luca Condotta also signed his one-year entry-level contract effective for the 2022-2023 season and has played with the Laval Rocket ever since on a PTO. In his four games, he has yet to register a point with the Rocket.
Some Possible Surprises Down The Road?
The Laval Rocket could also get some help from the junior ranks should top prospects playing in Canadian Major Junior like Kaiden Guhle, Jan Mysak, Arber Xhekaj, and Joshua Roy finish their respective junior seasons before the Rocket’s playoff run ends.
Because these players are already under contract with the Montreal Canadiens and did not play in the NHL or AHL, they can be reassigned to the Laval Rocket directly without burning a year of their contracts. In the event that their junior playoffs come to an early end, they could provide some much-needed help to the Rocket down the stretch, while gaining some invaluable experience.
With the way things are trending, the Laval Rocket should have no shortage of reinforcement options despite limitations to some key guys. It will be a good opportunity for some of the Montreal Canadiens prospects like Harvey-Pinard, Corey Schueneman, Emil Heineman and more to get some good experience in an elimination setting.