Rocket’s Bisson excited to have young players under his wing

The defender was convinced to return to Laval this season by head coach Jean-François Houle, who envisioned a mentoring role for the veteran.

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Almost every minor professional hockey player is trying to prove that they deserve a chance in the NHL.

But for the Laval Rocket defender Tobie Bissonhe was simply trying to establish that he belonged in the AHL after spending the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons in the ECHL with Cincinnati.

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It meant letting the organization shake off any labels that had been attached to it.

“It was like a gift and a curse to me,” the Rosemère native recently told the Montreal Gazette. “Coming from the ECHL, they saw me as the guy that came from (there). You’re stuck at the bottom. There is an image and I think it takes time to shake that image. That’s why I left last year. I wanted to get away from that image.

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“It takes time more than anything. I had to prove myself. “I think after three years I have shown that I can play.”

Bisson was not drafted after his junior career in the QMJHL and contemplated continuing his education at the University of Moncton. Instead, he changed course after signing a two-year, one-way AHL contract with Rochester. But the 6-foot-2, 208-pounder played just one game with the Americans and instead spent two seasons with the ECHL Cyclones. While he enjoyed his time in Cincinnati, Bisson yearned for more.

“You always hope to play high,” he said. “I got that one-way contract with the AHL for two years and I was hoping to make the team and have my place. You’re always good in junior. You end up high and you think you’re going to come in and ride that wave.”

Bisson then had two productive seasons with the Rocket, starting in 2020-21, only to change course again last season, signing a two-way NHL deal with Los Angeles but being assigned to the Kings’ AHL affiliate in Ontario , California.

“It was a matter of having a good feeling, trying a new place and going to California,” he explained. “It was not a difficult choice. There was no snow. Instead of playing in Belleville…Syracuse…we played in Las Vegas (Henderson), Arizona and San Diego. Beautiful places.”

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The 27-year-old could have stayed there, but was convinced to return to Laval by many of his former teammates and coach Jean-François Houle, who obviously had an ulterior motive.

Houle named Bisson assistant captain. He teamed him with rookie Logan Mailloux and then, as of last week, David Reinbacher, both former Canadiens first-round picks, following the Austrian’s arrival from Europe.

“Tobie is a very calm person and a very good leader,” Houle said. “I think Reinbacher can learn a lot from him, not only as a person but also how to behave off the ice, with the tough schedule we have and the preparation for games.”

Bisson said returning home wasn’t easy, especially knowing he was signing a one-way contract with the AHL. He said he thought he had left the Rocket in his rearview mirror, but that he got carried away by his former teammates and Houle. He has eight goals and 24 points in 60 games in addition to 54 penalty minutes. He is also a plus-16.

“It’s more of a reset year for me,” Bisson explained, adding that he was excited to take on a leadership role. “Playing in the ECHL and coming up has helped me learn a lot over the years. I take all that experience and put it into young people. We have so many little kids that want to learn and love to grind. It is a pleasure for me to guide these guys and help them.

“Logan, what has happened this year and how he came out of this season; I am very happy for him. Taking David under my wing now is what I like to do. Turns me on”.

The Rocket (30-25-8), in the midst of a five-game road trip, returned to the North Division playoff picture with three weekend wins in as many days. Laval, which occupies the fifth and final playoff spot in the division after winning seven of eight, concludes its trip Wednesday at Utica.

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