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Coming home ‘brought out the best’ in Richard

Anthony Richard has enjoyed a wonderful season with the Rocket

MONTREAL – Anthony Richard’s numbers with the Rocket this season speak for themselves.

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With AHL career-highs in all three major offensive categories – including a team-leading 26 goals and 60 points – the 26-year-old forward has been a steady contributor for head coach Jean-François Houle all year.

Richard believes several factors have contributed to his success, including finally returning to his home province after spending over half a decade south of the border.

“The pressure that comes with playing for the Rocket or the Canadiens is something I was looking for when I was a free agent, to feel a certain sense of pressure to perform. I knew there would be more media attention playing in Laval. The fans expect a lot from the Rocket, and it brought out the best in me,” said Richard, who previously played for Milwaukee, Chicago and Syracuse, and boasts 420 games of AHL experience. “Playing in this kind of environment makes you want to bring a lot of energy. I always want to bring my best game every night, even when I’m not feeling my best. The fans here are really passionate, so they deserve a good show. That’s what has made the difference for me. I always want to be better and that took my game to a new level.”

Learning under Houle’s tutelage has also helped the former fourth-round selection of the Nashville Predators reach new heights production-wise.

The veteran bench boss has been a driving force behind the Trois-Rivieres native making notable tweaks that have ultimately paid serious dividends.

“J-F changed me to be more responsible defensively and bring more physicality in my game, and that often puts me in a better position on the ice. I don’t have to think, I can play free, and when I play without having to think, I play my best games. J-F really helped me play with a clear mind and be more creative offensively without costing my team goals,” explained Richard. “He’s a demanding coach when it comes to the small details and he really helps me get the most out of my game. He’s a big part of my success this season.”

For his part, Houle knows exactly what he has in Richard.

He’s pleased to see that the QMJHL grad has taken full advantage of his opportunities with Laval.

“Anthony is the most dangerous player on our team. That’s no secret. He’s one of the best players in the league. He has a lot of speed, he’s tough to defend against, and we’re happy to have him on our side,” said Houle. “We’ve put him in good situations and he capitalized on them. He reads the play really well both on the power play and penalty kill and he makes the most of his ice time to really stand out.”

With plenty of AHL hockey already under his belt, Richard has been mentoring some of his teammates, too.

Playing a leadership role means a lot to him.

“I try to bring enthusiasm to practices. I like to smile and bring good vibes to the group. I was never very vocal, but I try to speak up between periods when things aren’t going well to help turn things around. I was in the same position as our younger players back in the day, and I know it’s good to get tips and advice sometimes from other people than the head coach who sees the game from the bench. It’s a different approach when advice comes from a fellow player,” mentioned Richard. “I’ll talk to a guy like Xavier Simoneau a lot. I see myself in him when I was in my first few years as a pro. You need to play without fear of making mistakes. I like giving advice, and that’s the way I’ve been trying to bring leadership.”

Clinching a playoff berth would mean the world to Richard, who relishes lacing up his skates at Place Bell.

Playing against the Rocket in the North Semifinals last year as a member of the Syracuse Crunch gave him a taste of the unique postseason environment the building has to offer.

“The atmosphere was incredible. Being on the other side, it was very intimidating. I remember our first game here, the guys were really nervous. We had a lot of trouble containing the Rocket’s energy during the first 10 minutes of the first period. It was hyped up by the crowd,” recalled Richard. “The fans were really intimidating, too. That’s one of the reasons I signed here, to experience that atmosphere on the good side this time around.”

Only time will tell if the Rocket punch their postseason ticket, but Richard will be ready if they do.

The bottom line is that he’d love this campaign to continue.

“I felt really good from the start at Canadiens training camp in September. It was one of the best camps I had as a pro. Starting the season with the Rocket, J-F showed a lot of confidence in me,” said Richard. “I knew I had a good season ahead of me and I’ve been lucky to play with good players. That helped, so I’m happy.”

This profile is part of a series of articles to promote the Laval Rocket during their 2022-23 playoff push. 

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