BELLEVILLE - The final score didn't matter on Saturday night. The most important thing was to see improvement.
And that's exactly what Laval Rocket head coach Joel Bouchard was proud of when he shared his assessment of the 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators' prospects at CAA Arena.
His charges were neck-and-neck with their opponents for the majority of the contest, and it was only during the final 10 minutes of the third period that things ultimately slipped away.
That being said, there were more than a few positives in the defeat. First off, Bouchard was pleased with the overall performance of the group.
"If we compare it to the Rookie Tournament last year, it was night and day. We made a lot of nice plays. We didn't score a lot of goals. I think we could have scored more. I liked the effort, and I think the guys gave what they could give," explained Bouchard. "It wasn't enough, but I'm really happy with the way the guys handled themselves."
One of the players that really stood out from the pack was forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard, who won the Memorial Cup as a member of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last season.
Bouchard wasn't at all surprised by Harvey-Pinard's performance, though, knowing full well that the youngster boasts plenty of talent.
"He's very quick in between the ears and he was very good tonight. He's capable of reading the play very well and he wasn't intimidated at all about playing with Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling," mentioned Bouchard, on the subject of the first Habs hopeful to light the lamp in Belleville. "He was very good in all situations."
The line of Suzuki, Poehling and Harvey-Pinard did some solid work, combining for 11 shots on goal.
For his part, Poehling really enjoyed the chemistry the three forwards began to create on Saturday night.
"I loved playing with them. I think we played well. It took some time to adapt and create some chemistry, but I think we did well. We had a lot of scoring chances," explained Poehling. "I should've scored on the power play, but I'm happy with our performance."
Suzuki, meanwhile, shared similar thoughts as his linemate after coming up short in the Rookie Showcase opener.
"We built some chemistry together quickly. It's easy to play with Ryan, and Harvey-Pinard is good at getting loose pucks. I think we did good work," mentioned Suzuki.
Speaking of Suzuki, Bouchard had some kind words to share about his play.
He's been following his development for quite some time, and he's a big fan of Suzuki's ability to absorb information and learn.
"He's a very good hockey player. I really like his progression since age 16. He's a youngster who continues to progress in terms of his style of play, both offensively and defensively, and he's also getting stronger. There's such a big difference in his frame from when he was 16," said Bouchard. "I found that he was very comfortable. He's a guy who played in big games and on the international stage. We can see his skills with the puck. Obviously, there's still room for improvement. But he was very good."
The Canadiens will be back in action for their final Rookie Showcase contest on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. when they battle the Winnipeg Jets' prospects.