Weekend notebook: Fatherly advice helping Rocket’s Ylönen

Photo: Laval Rocket

📝 by Patrick Williams

Jesse Ylönen received some fatherly advice on what to expect from the American Hockey League.

Ylönen’s father, Juha, had a 61-point season with the Springfield Falcons back in 1996-97. That year, as a Phoenix Coyotes prospect, the elder Ylönen went to the conference finals with the Falcons before going on to play 341 NHL games with Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.

Now the younger Ylönen continues his path through the AHL with the Laval Rocket, who will meet the visiting Belleville Senators in tonight’s AHLTV Free Game of the Week (7 ET/4 PT). The Rocket (22-15-3-0, .588) have won eight in a row at Place Bell and hold third place in the North Division.

Ylönen, 22, is a 2018 second-round pick by the parent Montreal Canadiens and came to Laval last season, finishing with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 29 games. That experience, along with his father’s advice, set up Ylönen well for his second AHL season: his 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 30 games lead the Rocket in 2021-22.

One piece of fatherly advice: learn to manage the demanding AHL schedule. The Rocket played four road games in six nights, capped by a 6-4 win in Toronto on Wednesday night, and logged 10 games in a 22-day stretch before finally rolling back into Laval. Ylönen assisted on a first-period goal and skated on a line with Jean-Sébastien Dea and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard on Wednesday.

“He gave me a lot of advice,” Ylönen said of his father. “[The] biggest thing is that there’s a lot of games, and it’s a tough schedule. So you need to do the right things in practice and off the ice as well so you’re ready to help the team win.”

Managing the schedule while trying to instill consistency into one’s game challenges most AHL players.

“I need to become a more complete player and I want to play [well] defensively,” Ylönen explained.

“I want to be a type of player you can put on the ice whether we’re leading the game or down by a goal or two. I’ve been playing a lot of power play, so that’s something that I really need to focus on. It’s a really big thing, especially when the season goes on, to have a good PP and [penalty kill] each night, and it can really help the team to win games.”

That work has already paid off with some time at Bell Centre skating for the Habs. Ylönen has played his first seven National Hockey League games this season, scoring against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 14 and also picking up an assist while on recall.

Now the Rocket face another battle with the rival Senators, who have won five of seven meetings between the teams this season and six of their past eight games overall. The teams will stage a Saturday afternoon rematch at Place Bell.

Belleville enters the weekend at 22-20-0-0 (.524), fifth in the North Division. Former Rocket forward Jake Lucchini’s first career AHL hat trick carried Belleville past the visiting Syracuse Crunch, 4-1, on Tuesday.


The Stockton Heat remain first overall in the AHL at .744 (29-8-3-1) after sweeping the Bakersfield Condors in a home-and-home set last weekend.

Now thanks to provincial COVID-19 restrictions ending in British Columbia, plenty of Abbotsford Canucks fans will have a chance to see the visiting Heat tonight. The teams start a two-game series at Abbotsford Centre, which will operate at 100 percent capacity. The Heat swept a pair of games in Abbotsford between the teams earlier this month.

Heat forward Matthew Phillips took over the team’s all-time scoring lead at 136 points (55 goals, 81 assists) with four points in a 7-4 win over last Sunday. Phillips, 23, had a goal and five assists in helping the Heat sweep the home-and-home.

Bakersfield saw the same sort of offensive force that Abbotsford saw earlier this month against the Heat, when they broke open a one-goal game with a four-goal third period to win, 7-3, on Feb. 3. Phillips had a hat trick in that win.

Forward Justin Kirkland has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past four outings, while Luke Philp and Connor Zary each have three-game goal streaks.

After visiting Abbotsford, the Heat will be at home for six of their next seven games, where they are 16-3-3-0 this season.


Steven Fogarty makes a strong impression on his head coach wherever he plays.

In Hartford, Fogarty captained the Wolf Pack in 2019-20. Last season with the Rochester Americans, Fogarty wore the “C” again and head coach Seth Appert praised him repeatedly.

Now first-year Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel has taken a liking to what Fogarty offers. Last weekend his team swept a three-in-three weekend, winning twice at home against the Hershey Bears and defeating Hartford on the road. Fogarty has earned recall time with the parent Boston Bruins, dressing in two games; with Providence he has 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 33 games.

Following a 5-1 defeat at Springfield on Feb. 12, Fogarty made another impression on Mougenel, who calls his veteran forward “almost stoic.”

“Really serious guy,” Mougenel said. “But it was evident in practice how he was not happy with how he played. He’s a guy you don’t really have to say too much to. He’s a smart guy. He figured it out.”

Next game out, last Friday’s 5-0 win over Hershey, “I thought defensively he was way tighter and harder on the puck and all the things you love about Steven,” Mougenel said. “He is exactly that ― he’s a little bit unassuming because of his personality, but he is a huge part of our offense, for sure.”

Tonight the P-Bruins (22-13-3-3, .610) welcome the Charlotte Checkers to Dunkin’ Donuts Center.


Ken Appleby is making a push for more playing time in Bridgeport.

With Cory Schneider up with the New York Islanders, Appleby was given the chance to share time with top goaltending prospect Jakub Skarek and stopped 45 shots in a 5-3 road loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds on Wednesday. A game earlier, he shut down the Hartford Wolf Pack with 30 saves in a 2-0 win, his first AHL victory of the season.

Appleby, who has also spent time in the New Jersey Devils and Winnipeg Jets organizations, has a 2.23 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in eight appearances for the AHL Islanders this season.


A big piece has been added to Colorado Eagles head coach Greg Cronin’s lineup.

Forward Stefan Matteau has joined the Eagles on assignment from the parent Colorado Avalanche. Matteau, a 2012 first-round pick by New Jersey, has played 92 NHL games but suffered an injury Oct. 16, his first game with the Avs this season, and had been out since then.

Matteau has five AHL seasons with 12 or more goals and went to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals with the Chicago Wolves.

The Eagles are in Milwaukee this weekend for a pair of games with the Admirals.


🏒 Laval will host the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic next season, the league announced Thursday. Twice postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be held at Place Bell Feb. 5-6, 2023.

🏒 Chicago Wolves forward Andrew Poturalski continues to fend off T.J. Tynan of the Ontario Reign for the AHL scoring lead. Poturalski is up to 64 points (22 goals, 42 assists) in 43 games and has a seven-game point streak (two goals, 11 assists). Tynan’s 10 goals and league-leading 48 assists have him second in the AHL at 58 points; he has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past six contests.

🏒 With six goals in three games last week, Wolves forward Stefan Noesen is the latest AHL Player of the Week. That outburst shot Noesen past Sheldon Dries of Abbotsford to 28 goals to take over the AHL goal lead.

🏒 Tucson Roadrunners forward Matias Maccelli has built a 12-point advantage on Stockton forward Jakob Pelletier in rookie scoring with 52 points (13 goals, 39 assists) in 40 games. Thirty-three of those points (six goals, 27 assists) have been recorded in his past 18 games.

🏒 Ontario is still first in the AHL at 4.05 goals per game and possesses the number-one power play at 27.1 percent (45-for-166). Chicago has tied Stockton for first with an AHL-best 2.59 goals-against per game. The Wolves are also holding opponents to 25.2 shots per game, best in the league. Stockton has stayed first overall on the penalty kill at 87.3 percent (158-for-181) while also scoring a league-high 10 shorthanded goals.

🏒 Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Kirill Ustimenko earned his first AHL win of the season Wednesday, posting 30 saves to defeat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a shootout, 3-2. Both of Ustimenko’s two career AHL wins have been at Wilkes-Barre.

🏒 Charlotte opens an eight-game, 13-day road trip tonight in Providence. The Checkers will also visit Springfield, Bridgeport, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, and Texas.

🏒 Bridgeport’s Chris Terry grabbed an assist at Springfield on Wednesday to tie T.J. Hensick (588) for 53rd place in all-time AHL scoring. Terry has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his past 12 games and is up to a team-leading 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) through 40 games. Islanders captain Seth Helgeson played his 500th AHL regular-season contest Wednesday night.

🏒 Bakersfield forward Adam Cracknell played his 600th AHL game on Wednesday night. He also has played 210 NHL regular-season games.

🏒 Providence goaltender Troy Grosenick notched two assists in a game for the first time in his career as the Bruins took a 4-1 home win against Hershey last Sunday afternoon. Grand Rapids’ Calvin Pickard assisted on the game-winning goal in the Griffins’ 2-1 overtime victory over Cleveland on Wednesday; Pickard leads all AHL goalies with four helpers this season.

🏒 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s line of Jordy Bellerive, Jonathan Gruden, and Kyle Olson had a dominant performance in a 3-1 road win at Hershey on Tuesday. Olson supplied two goals, Gruden had his first three-point pro performance (one goal, two assists), and Bellerive added an assist. The win was the Penguins’ first in their past 12 visits to Hershey.

🏒 Toronto goaltender Joseph Woll returned from injury on Wednesday for the first time since Jan. 15. In net for the 6-4 loss to Laval, Woll stopped 30 shots. Marlies rookie forward Alex Steeves had a goal and two assists, giving him six points in his past three games.

🏒 Syracuse captain Gabriel Dumont’s hat trick on Monday led the Crunch to a 6-2 win at Belleville. It was Dumont’s fourth career AHL hat trick.

🏒 Incumbent Eddie Shore Award winner Ryan Murphy of the Grand Rapids Griffins owns the league lead in goals by a defenseman with a career-high 10. Murphy delivered 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 37 games for the Henderson Silver Knights in 2020-21.

🏒 Springfield is on a six-game point streak (5-0-0-1), the team’s longest since a 7-0-2-0 run that started the season. The Thunderbirds host Hartford tonight.

🏒 Texas is two games into a season-long seven game road trip after sweeping the Iowa Wild in back-to-back games this week. Stars rookie netminder Matt Jurusik stopped 61 of 64 shots in earning both wins and has taken each of the team’s past four decisions (3-0-0-1). Before this week, the teams had not met since a two-game series at Texas on the opening weekend of the season. The Stars have a five-game point streak (4-0-0-1) as they move on to Rockford for a pair of weekend games.

🏒 Gabriel Vilardi of Ontario has two two-goal games in his past five outings. His two-goal, one-assist afternoon last Sunday took the Reign past the visiting San Diego Gulls, 4-3. Vilardi went to the Los Angeles Kings as the 11th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. After overcoming injury problems, the 22-year-old forward has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 31 games for the Reign this season.

🏒 Stuart Skinner improved to 9-1-3 in taking the Condors past the San Jose Barracuda, 6-3, on Wednesday with 21 saves. Last weekend against Stockton, his 40 saves pulled out a point in a 4-3 shootout loss.

🏒 Abbotsford goaltender Spencer Martin’s 43-save performance took the Canucks to a 2-1 win at Colorado last Saturday night. The former Eagle is 10-1-2 with two shutouts, a 2.37 GAA, and .920 save percentage in 13 games with Abbotsford this season after the Vancouver Canucks acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning in an offseason deal.

🏒 Zdeno Chara skated in his 1,652nd career NHL game on Thursday, setting a new record for a defenseman. Chara was recalled from the AHL’s Kentucky Thoroughblades on Nov. 19, 1997, and made his debut with the New York Islanders that night.

🏒 In addition to a hands-on role in prospect development for the Seattle Kraken, Troy Bodie is director of hockey and business operations for the Coachella Valley Firebirds. Seattle’s new AHL affiliate will begin play next season. Said Bodie of the Firebirds having the 11,000-seat Acrisure Arena next season: “Just having the resources for our prospects to grow and develop into NHL players, it’s going to be incredible. It’s first-class.”


🏒 Rochester forward Brandon Biro became the 117th AHL player this season to make his NHL debut. Biro, 23, played 13:30 for the Buffalo Sabres at Montreal on Wednesday night. Biro, who signed with Buffalo in March 2020 after captaining Penn State, is fourth in AHL rookie scoring with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 40 games for the Amerks.

🏒 Cleveland Monsters defenseman Jake Christiansen is on recall to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The undrafted 22-year-old has 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 38 games for the Monsters.

🏒 Recalled from Hartford earlier in the day, Zac Jones recorded an assist for the New York Rangers in their 4-1 win over Washington on Thursday night.

🏒 Riley Tufte skated for Dallas in their game at Nashville on Thursday, his first NHL action since Dec. 20. Tufte has 10 goals and seven assists in 37 AHL games for Texas this season.

🏒 Lane Pederson recorded two assists in his San Jose Barracuda debut on Wednesday night. He had two assists in 26 games with the San Jose Sharks before his assignment this week.

🏒 Andrew Nielsen signed a professional tryout deal with Tucson this week. Nielsen, 25, had a 39-point season (14 goals, 25 assists) in 2016-17 as a rookie with Toronto and won the Calder Cup with the team the following season. This season with Utah of the ECHL, he has 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in 36 games.


Lehigh Valley goes to Cleveland for match-ups tonight and Saturday; tonight’s game is the Monsters’ annual Black Heritage Celebration night… Toronto has a home-and-home battle against Rochester on Saturday and Sunday afternoons… Syracuse will host Rochester tonight and the Utica Comets on Saturday; the Comets host Hershey tonight and visit the Bears on Sunday… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is in Bridgeport on Saturday night… Bakersfield heads east to meet Grand Rapids tonight and Saturday; it is the Condors’ first visit to the Eastern time zone since a trip to Charlotte in March 2017… Iowa hosts the Rockford IceHogs tonight, the third home game in four nights for the Wild… The Wolves stop in Winnipeg for a pair of games against the Manitoba Moose on Saturday and Sunday… San Diego has a two-game visit to see Henderson, starting tonight… Ontario will be in Tucson on Saturday and Sunday as the Reign finish a three-game trip this week.


“He said, ‘Boys, I’m going to beat this. It’s just a matter of time.’ Having him back just completes our team.”

― Henderson forward Paul Cotter on having head coach Manny Viveiros back following diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer.