JF Houle paying off on Rocket bench

Coaching from the bottom to top is equally important and that is why JF Houle's work in Laval is crucial.
Syracuse Crunch v Laval Rocket - Game Three
Syracuse Crunch v Laval Rocket - Game Three / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
1 of 3

One of the most important aspects of the Montreal Canadiens rebuild has been player development.

This isn’t going to change which has made the Habs American Hockey League affiliate the Laval Rocket an important piece in the puzzle. Without prospects having a place to start their professional hockey career and prepare for the NHL, an essential step in the process would be missed. Perhaps the most important of all is who is guiding the players in the American Hockey League.

Down in Laval that is JF Houle, the man who calls the shots and prepares many AHL rookies for life as a pro. This year he had a handful of fresh faces join the fold, which put his skills and coaching acumen to the test. It's a different game, the speed, the skill and the size of players, but the schedule can be a gruelling one, especially for college hockey players, who generally only play twice a week - on the weekends.

In Houle's third season, he welcomed his new starting goaltender - Jakub Dobes to the fold. It was a bit of a shaky start for the 22-year-old, but once he hit his stride; it was relatively smooth sailing the rest of the way. After two years in the NCAA with the Ohio State University Buckeyes, Dobes grabbed the crease in Laval, and through 51 games, the rookie posted a 24-18-6 record.

It was a disappointing end to Dobes' rookie year, coming down to the second last game - a must-win for the Rocket to clinch a playoff spot. The Rocket lost the game against the Belleville Senators, but Dobes is not to blame for the loss. Offensively the Rocket offered very little run support, which was ultimately the team's undoing.

Houle also brought in the Canadiens' polarizing 2021 first-round draft selection Logan Mailloux from the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights. Mailloux was known for his offensive game, but under Mark and Dale Hunter, he was relied on heavily; which helped him grow his defensive game. The 21-year-old was by no means a perfect study, but under Houle's guidance, he posted a respectable 14-33-47 stat line through 72 AHL games.

Mailloux's impressive season earned him the distinction of being the Rocket' representative at the AHL all-star game. It was a year of learning for Mailloux, and it's hard to argue that he didn't grow. The Canadiens awarded the defenseman for his hard work with a call-up to the NHL for the final game of the Habs season.

Sean Farrell, Jared Davidson and Riley Kidney also played their debut professional seasons with the Rocket. They were less impressive than Mailloux and Dobes, but the trio are far from guys who should be written off. Farrell posted 9-19-28 through 47 games, Davidson suited up for 38 games and posted 11-5-16, while Kidney played the most of the three rookie forwards (65 games) and scored 7-13-20.