Montreal Canadiens: A critical season to come for Daniel Audette

LAVAL, QC - FEBRUARY 14: Daniel Audette #24 of the Laval Rocket skates against the Belleville Senators during the AHL game at Place Bell on February 14, 2018 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Belleville Senators 3-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - FEBRUARY 14: Daniel Audette #24 of the Laval Rocket skates against the Belleville Senators during the AHL game at Place Bell on February 14, 2018 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Laval Rocket defeated the Belleville Senators 3-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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With the new names in the Montreal Canadiens organization, Daniel Audette will have to do his best to stand out and earn a new contract.

It’s easy to pay attention to the shiny new tool in the set and disregard the ones that have been sitting there for years. Daniel Audette finds himself in a similar position ahead of his third professional season within the Montreal Canadiens system.

The Habs drafted him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft after a 76-point season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL. But with 21 of those points being goals while the other 27 were primary assists, it was apparent that Audette had the skill to create on his own (via prospect-stats). Despite being a small statured guy, scouts were in awe of his offensive capabilities in combination with explosive skating that had him stand out on the ice.

The Blainville native returned to Sherbrooke another year that saw him score at a higher rate (1.12 vs. 1.21). A highlight from that season had to have been his six-point night against the Moncton Wildcats. Audette finished the game with 2 goals and 4 assists and given the First Star.

Audette signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2015 bringing him a step closer to the professional world of hockey.

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The final year of his junior career didn’t start well as he missed a month with a shoulder injury. It also ended up being the first time in three years where Audette didn’t finish first in team scoring. But his overall play continued to see improvements. He got a taste of the AHL at the end of the 2015-16 season playing 4 games with the St Johns Ice Caps to go pointless.

Next season was Audette’s time to make his presence in the minors permanent. The question was whether his high-flying shot-generating style of play work well amongst a higher tier of competition.

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Audette’s size didn’t appear to be an issue in his first full AHL season. He used his skating to move the puck and himself out of danger and was still able to produce offensively. Audette finished sixth on the team as a rookie (the only rookie forward) with 10 goals and 20 assists in 75 games.

Then head coach Sylvain Lefebvre had him centring the second and third lines for the majority of the season but rose to the occasion on the first line when needed. The breakdown of his scoring wasn’t any different than when in junior. 25 of his 30 points were primary ones as his linemates benefited from his playmaking.

This past season had a decent start for Audette as he scored the first goal in Laval Rocket history off the power play.

His place in the lineup would change from the third to the first line centre, and even first line wing when Nikita Scherbak was called up. Unfortunately, things for him, as well as the whole team, took a turn for the worst. Defensive execution was the biggest issue.

That said, Audette still managed to be a stand out on an otherwise mediocre Laval team, especially when the call-ups started to come. An ankle injury ended his season early having him finish with 13 goals and 16 assists.

Audette is going to have to continue the positive trajectory he’s established for himself in the AHL. There are a lot of new faces expected to be in the lineup, but his game could grow under the guidance of Jöel Bouchard who appreciates players with speed. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the Montreal Canadiens call him up at some point to see what they have in him.

Next: Five Forwards Fighting for a Spot

With a new crop of faces in the organization, the Habs may start to feel less obliged to the older crop. Audette will have to do what he does best in finding different ways to stand out.