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Olivier Galipeau looks like he belongs in the AHL

When a team plays seven games in 11 days, even at home, it’s unavoidable that the depth of a roster will be tested at a point or another. It was the case for the Laval Rocket defense, which endured in a short stretch, injuries to Josh Brook, Tobie Bisson and Gianni Fairbrother.

Even though the Rocket defense corps is excellent this season, that number of injuries (and that’s even before talking about Corey Schueneman graduating in the NHL) will change the situation for any team.

The injury to Gianni Fairbrother was particularly difficult to deal with for the Rocket because of the timing. It happened on Friday night against Abbotsford. Not only did the Rocket ended the game with five defensemen but they didn’t even have a player ready to step in the lineup for the Saturday afternoon game against the same opponent.

With so little time to find a replacement, the Rocket signed Olivier Galipeau from the Trois-Rivières Lions, to a tryout contract for the second time this season. The defenseman did not have too much time to prepare for a dominant 3-0 Laval win.

“The goal is not to put pressure on yourself and play your game” analysed Galipeau on Monday morning. “That’s what I did during the last game. I arrived a bit last minute. Sometimes, those are difficult circumstances but it’s also something that may help you. You get here, you don’t put pressure on yourself, you play your game and it goes well.”

When Galipeau says it went well, he is not wrong at all. He was on the ice for 20 of the 37 Laval shot attempts at 5 on 5 during that game, which led to a Corsi percentage of 86.96%. The Rocket almost had seven shot attempts for every single Canucks one when Galipeau was on the ice (20 to 3).

That edge maintained when it comes to scoring chances. The Rocket #44 kept up a scoring chances differential of +3 at 5 on 5 during that game. That was good enough to lead Laval that day. His partner Amorosa was the only other defenseman in the green for that statistic in that matchup.

“He’s done a good job” analysed his defence partner Terrance Amorosa. “He is a really good two-way player. He can chip in offensively as well as shutdown defensively. He is a smart player and an easy guy to work with. We pick each other’s brains before and during the game.”

It was not a flash in the pan either because Galipeau did well during his first emergency callup in January. Even though it is a smaller sample than his teammates, it’s notable that Olivier Galipeau has the best Corsi percentage among all Rocket defensemen this season with 60.58%.

His closest teammate is Corey Schueneman (58.63%), who is now on the NHL roster. This means that his lead on the second guy among players who are still with the Laval Rocket, Louie Belpedio (56.61%) is even bigger.

Galipeau obviously doesn’t take all the credit himself. He credits his teammates and the coaching staff for his good play since his arrival in Laval.

“When you get here, you’re very well received, the group of players is really easy to join” explained Olivier Galipeau. “The coaches make our life easier. They don’t want to pressure us with the system. They let us play a little.”

That good showing is obviously crucial for the Rocket at a moment during which the team really needs it, whether it’s because of the injuries or the brutal calendar created by the COVID pause a few months ago.

That being said, it’s also a nice calling card for a player who’s shining through with the Trois-Rivières Lions and is trying to force the hand of the Laval Rocket. Considering the quality of Laval’s group of defensemen, the opportunities to do so won’t come too often during the season but if you listen to the Rocket coach, Galipeau is currently making the most of his right now.

“I think so, yes” answered Jean-François Houle when he was asked if Justin Ducharme and Olivier Galipeau were close to establish themselves as AHL regulars. “I think they are really good players. For them, it’s a nice opportunity to prove what they can do. It can lead to an AHL contract for years to come. It’s important for them. If they keep playing this way, it’s good for us and it’s good for them too.”

For the team, and all the players in its locker room, the main focus right now is the playoff push. That being said, you can’t forget that on a personal level, especially as we’re getting closer to the end of the season, the players are working for their next deal.

That situation means that when injuries arise, it’s a big challenge for the team but it’s also a nice opportunity for players who are ready to seize it and that’s exactly what Olivier Galipeau is doing right now.