Canadiens: In Other News… Lack of Secondary Scoring, Kotkaniemi Struggles

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
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Rocket Leading Scorer Brandon Gignac Signs Two-Year NHL Deal, Impresses in Debut

It’s been a long and winding road for Quebec-born center Brandon Gignac. Yet, after spending each of the past three seasons on AHL-only contracts, the Laval Rocket’s leading scorer this season has finally signed with the Canadiens, on a two-year, two-way deal for league minimum. After enduring an ECHL demotion in the 2020-21 season and his NHL future seemingly bleaker than ever, Gignac has rebuilt his career in Laval and earned the complete and total trust of head coach Jean-Francois Houle.

Ever since their beginnings in a dismal 2017-18 season that saw them finish with a 12-game losing streak, the Rocket have built a reputation for feel-good stories and a lineup largely built around the unknowns and the underdogs.

Whether it be overlooked prospects like Joshua Roy and Xavier Simoneau, or minor-league journeymen like Danick Martel and Tory Dello, the Rocket have established a culture based around hard-work and selfless play, and nowhere has this been more apparent, than with guys like Gignac. The departure of fan-favorite and the heart and soul of Laval since 2018-19, Alex Belzile, definitely left a hole in both the Rocket’s lineup and team culture after signing with the Rangers this past off-season, but almost immediately, Gignac has stepped in not only in the locker room, but on the ice as well.

Along with Captain and NHL veteran Gabriel Bourque, Gignac has been a model of consistency for Laval on both sides of the puck. However, while he had shown solid defensive ability and a decent scoring touch over his first two seasons, neither me nor anyone else could’ve predicted the pace Gignac would be playing at this season.

With remarkable 14-28-42 totals over 43 games, placing him 5th (yes, 5th) in the entire AHL in scoring, Gignac has simply been dominant for Laval this season being a deadly threat on both sides of the puck with his remarkable speed, stickhandling abilities, and penalty killing expertise. With this, the Repetigny native has earned an NHL opportunity once more, having just 1 career game to his name with the New Jersey Devils in 2018-19.

Playing a bottom-six role in the Canadiens win over the Capitals, Gignac didn’t look a step out of place and made some nice plays here and there, showcasing his aforementioned skating ability. With a Canadiens roster once-again decimated by injuries and inconsistencies though, there’s a chance Gignac makes an immediate impact and brings some much needed energy to a Habs lineup reeling from a less-than ideal recent stretch.