We have known for a long time that the Logan Mailloux moment will come sooner or later for the Canadian. Watching the defender go for several weeks, and in front of the sudden slaughter in defense in Montreal, we wonder if this moment is not about to arrive.
Jordan Harris and Kaiden Guhle both fell in action Sunday against the St. Louis Blues. The first, shaken and confused, needed the help of two teammates to get off the ice. The sophomore was holding his arm in pain when he left the meeting. We can expect them not to be in uniform on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Logic would therefore dictate that the Habs recall a defender, ideally a right-hander. Justin Barron would thus appear to be a logical choice. However, management created a precedent earlier this season by repatriating the best performing player available from the Laval Rocket, even if it was an American League rookie. A few weeks ago, it was Joshua Roy. This time it could well be Logan Mailloux.
The latter, freshly returned from the All-Star game, ranks fifth among defensemen on the circuit with 32 points in 45 games, just two points behind the leader. This production includes 16 points in his 16 most recent outings. All this, let’s remember, while he is playing his first professional season.
The Ontarian’s offensive strengths have never caused concern. We cannot say more about his defensive game, clearly identified as his weakness at Habs training camp last fall. In this regard, his progress has been “incredible”, says Tobie Paquette-Bisson, his teammate at the Rocket.
It will be safe to say that the young man has come a long way. After 21 games, his differential was -12. Over the last 24 it has been +12. The turnaround, although fueled by a collective improvement among the Rocket, is indeed spectacular.
“He has recovered,” confirmed Jean-François Houle, head coach of the Rocket, after the club’s training on Monday morning.
“I think his game has improved enormously since the start of the year, in just a few months. He is capable of generating attack, he has demonstrated it, but his defensive side is also quite good. »
Mailloux himself believes he has come a long way. His efforts, he said, began last season, but in the American League, an “adjustment” was inevitable. “It’s one thing to be a defenseman, but if you want to play in the NHL, you have to defend well, that’s obvious,” he says.
Without mentioning a click, he assesses having “started to change (his) game” around the 20e game of the Rocket season. “I play with more confidence, with and without the puck. I kill games better,” he assesses. According to him, he better controls the distance, in retreat, between his opponent and himself.
A theme that often comes up when discussing Logan Mailloux is that of maturity.
After a good camp in Montreal, the young man appeared rather casual in Laval. Punctuality was not one of his cardinal values. Neither does hard work. The veterans quickly rectified the situation.
Paired with Mailloux in defense, Tobie Paquette-Bisson participated in the intervention, if we can call it that.
“I tried to correct things,” underlines the Quebecer. People forget how young Logan is. The difference between junior and pro is a lot of small details. It means arriving on time or a little before everyone else, to be more sharp. Even if the training doesn’t tempt you, you put yourself into it. For him, I think it was missing. Since then, he has done a good job. »
Adapting to life among the pros goes far beyond working at the arena, Mailloux adds. “You live alone for the first time, you cook and clean; there are no more host families, he notes. Being a pro is on and off the ice. I think I adjusted well. »
“He has really grown up,” says Jean-François Houle. This is what we wanted to see. A prospect like him, a first-round pick, we want to make sure we supervise him well. He showed a lot of maturity. »
Houle was obviously aware that, given the Canadian’s problematic situation, at least one reminder was hanging over his nose. Curiously, in the evening, the organization had still not announced anything in this direction. Have Harris and Guhle, like Lazarus, already returned from the dead?
No matter, the Rocket pilot estimated Monday morning that Mailloux would be “soon ready”.
“He has demonstrated that he is capable of playing at a high level with consistency,” he added.
As for the main person concerned, he assures “not to think about it too much”. “If it happens, it happens, and that would be cool. But others deserve it too. We have a big weekend coming up, I’m focusing on that. »
From his time with the London Knights in the Ontario Junior League, he keeps in mind this maxim that his general manager Mark Hunter repeated: “Optimism and humility, every day. »
It is therefore by repeating these wise words to himself that he welcomes the success he has experienced over the past few weeks. And this is the same way he will try to approach the future if he ever receives the call he has dreamed of for a long time.