Laval Rocket forward Jared Davidson accustomed to overcoming the odds

The Canadiens took a took a chance on the undrafted free agent, impressed by his leadership, hockey IQ, shot and offensive flair.

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Jared Davidson’s story is one of determination and perseverance, making all things possible as he embarks on his pro career with the Laval Rocket.

Although the Canadiens’ fifth-round (130th overall) draft choice in 2022 might never play a game with the Canadiens, don’t bet against a forward who has overcome a lot just to make it this far.

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“It took a little more time than most guys,” Davidson told the Gazette this week after a Rocket practice at Place Bell. “I think everybody kind of has their path and it’s different for everybody. You could say I’m a late bloomer, but there’s still a lot more to learn and evolve in my game.

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“I think there’s still more to come.”

Released numerous times from minor hockey teams in Alberta and undrafted in junior hockey, Davidson made the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds as a walk-on before playing five seasons for the team, completing his career with 42- and 38-goal seasons along with a Memorial Cup appearance — the team making it to the final before losing to Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts.

Twice overlooked in the NHL draft, the Canadiens took a shot on the overage junior when they signed him to a one-way AHL contract. The team was impressed by his leadership, hockey IQ, shot and innate offensive flair.

“He’s determined,” Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle said. “He’s trying to show everyone that he belongs here. He has been playing in a much more offensive role of late, and we’re giving him a lot of ice time. It’s for him to seize the moment and take it, which he has at times. At other times, he’s still a rookie and makes some mistakes in the defensive zone.

“The one thing with Davidson is he can score. He has a good shot and offensive flair. Those guys aren’t that easy to find. He fits in well with our team and can play on the wing or at centre. We’ll see where he goes, but I like his progression throughout the year.”

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Playing on Laval’s second line with veteran Philippe Maillet and rookie Sean Farrell, the left-winger drew an assist on Maillet’s second-period goal Wednesday night against Syracuse, although the Rocket lost 3-2 in overtime. Davidson, 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, has 10 goals and 15 points in 36 games. That included a hat trick Feb. 16 in Hartford.

After missing six games early this season with an upper-body injury and being a healthy scratch for 13 more, Davidson hasn’t been out of the lineup since early February. He said he spent the first half of the season adjusting to the AHL, getting used to its pace and hectic travel schedule.

“I think the second half has gone really well for me,” the 21-year-old Edmonton native said. “When I was cut from minor hockey teams, it kind of teaches you lessons on what you need to improve on. You can look at it as a failure or something to learn from. That’s what I’ve done. Getting cut and getting that feedback from coaches has been really good for me … as tough as it is to get cut.

“There were lots of possibilities to quit, but I never had that mindset,” Davidson added. “I just love the game so much. I’ve always wanted to be a hockey player since I was a little kid. Hockey always has been my passion. It’s something I want to do my whole life.”

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Davidson credits Seattle general manager Bil La Forge, son of the late former Vancouver Canucks’ head coach, for being one of the few executives who believed in him and was willing to give him an opportunity.

“He took me when nobody else wanted me,” Davidson said.

While he realizes the odds might be stacked against him ascending to the Canadiens, Davidson need look no further than Brendan Gallagher and Joshua Roy, two former fifth-round draft choices currently playing for Montreal.

“I don’t look at the draft as an indication,” Davidson said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday the Canadiens traded Rocket centre Jan Mysak to Anaheim for forward Jacob Perreault, who will report to Laval. Mysak, selected 48th overall by Montreal in 2020, had 13 goals and 20 points in 48 games this season. Perreault, selected 27th overall that same year, had seven goals and 18 points in 31 AHL games with San Diego.

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