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Despite missing the playoffs, Houle is optimistic about the trajectory of the Rocket |

Patrick WilliamsFeatures Writer for

Hope for the next chapter of the Laval Rocket is high, with the head coach JF Hole you want to be a part of that future.

Houle, who finished his third season behind Laval's bench, expressed interest in returning next season when he met with reporters on the team's bye day at the end of the regular season. After reaching the Calder Cup Playoffs in his first two seasons, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2022, the Rockets missed the cut this year. But Houle can point to the work he and his coaching staff have done in preparing the Montreal Canadiens players.

“We're going to have discussions here,” Houle told the assembled media about his next move with Montreal management. “We will take a step back and check everything, hopefully we will have discussions, we will see what happens in the future.

“I have been here for three years. I love being here. I think we did a good job… We did very well with the players. The players loved being here.”

With a strong depth of prospects already in Laval and more talent on the way, Houle wants to continue his work on the future of the organization. Houle pointed out that managing an AHL club presents a different set of challenges. The Canadiens have taken a development-oriented approach, and Houle has had to wear a different kind of coaching hat, especially this season.

AHL All-Rookie defenseman Logan Mailloux he joined Jayden Struble, Joshua Roy again Emil Heineman as the Rockets make their NHL debut against Montreal this season. Arber Xhekaj, Justin Barron again Mitchell Stephens spent significant time in Laval while playing a key role with the Canadiens. Forward Sean Farrell, Riley Kidney, Xavier Simoneau again William Trudeau It is among the youngest players playing in Houle this season. Jakub Dobeš helped keep Laval in playoff contention until the final weekend of the season, tying for the AHL lead among hitters with 51 games.

Expectations are high for the defender David Reinbacherthe fifth overall pick in last June's NHL Draft, and beyond Luke Tuchwho played in the second round in 2020, were among the most recent offseason additions to Laval's roster.

Montreal's list is included Cole Caufield, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Cayden Primeau, Michael Pezzetta again Jesse Ylönenall players trained under Houle's guidance before this season.

“When you have a young core, there's a learning curve,” Houle said. “The only way to make the learning curve continue, to go up and learn, is to play games. I told everyone it would be hard before Christmas, and it was, and I said after Christmas we would be better. That's the learning curve of having a young, immature team.”

And after managing five wins in their first 22 games (5-12-3-2), the Rockets put together a solid four-month finish with the second-best record in the North Division (28-19-3-0, 59 points. ) since December 9 onwards. Laval's playoff hopes dwindled as they made a postseason bid before being eliminated in their second-to-last game of the season. And the crowds at Place Bell seem to give off an atmosphere to play every night.

They did it all amid a series of NHL recalls, injuries, and losing talent in the middle of the season.

“The American Hockey League is a different animal,” Houle explained. “That's why you go day by day, you don't plan for next year because it can happen at any time. Our job as coaches is to manage day to day. There is a saying: 'If you can't see the white of his eyes, you can count on him.'

“I think we have made progress with our team. Players are developing. The players love being here.” features writer Patrick Williams has covered the American Hockey League for nearly two decades at outlets including, Sportsnet, TSN, Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM ! Sports, and most recently was the host of The Hockey News On The 'A' podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL's James H. Ellery Memorial Award for the league's top scorer in 2016.

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