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Production and Confidence earn French AHL Call

Wednesday, February 28th
Production and Confidence earn French AHL Call

When a player puts on the type of show that Steelheads forward Max French did last week, people take notice. And although French didn’t earn the top recognition from the ECHL this week, finishing as a runner-up in Player of the Week voting, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t rewarded.

French earned his second call-up of the season on Monday, joining the AHL’s Texas Stars after scoring goals in four consecutive games last week during the Steelheads road trip. French had two-goal games on Monday and Wednesday in Utah and Rapid City, following them up with goals on Friday and Saturday as well to give him seven goals and nine points in a six-game span.

“He’s been growing over the last several weeks. Even if you look at some of his early games where he wasn’t getting rewarded with point production, he was starting to find his rhythm and build confidence within each game,” said Steelheads Head Coach Neil Graham. "I think it’s great that as of late, he was able to get on the score sheet.”

French was in the Steelheads’ lineup for one game prior to his first call to Texas, when he had no points but nine shots on Opening Night. After he returned to the Steelheads in January, he was again kept out of the lineup for several weeks with an upper-body issue, adding to the challenges that already exist for a rookie forward.

Despite those challenges to jumping right in with the Steelheads, there was no questioning the points were coming. French finished second in goal-scoring in the Atlantic Hockey Conference while playing at Bentley in each of the past two seasons.

“He’s a guy who has had some movement between our league and the American League, and as a first-year pro you have to learn how to channel things. It’s not uncharacteristic to feel a bit out of rhythm,” said Graham. “He’s found that rhythm and I think he’s always taken good shots. I think his work ethic has always been terrific and the fact that he’s getting good shots in good areas speaks to his confidence in those moments.”

He’s never shy firing the puck, firing 22 shots in his final four games with the team. Whether he was banging in rebounds on the door-step or beating goalies clean from the tops of the circles, French was a danger from all areas.

“When you’re confident and you want the puck, you’re going to take those shots and you’re not going to be afraid to take the shot form certain areas,” said Graham. “A guy that has a shot like his, I think it’s important to get pucks on net.”

“He’s been doing it in stride and with his head up, and he’s in a bit of a rhythm at the moment, which is great. Getting pucks on net is a big part of his game, and it’s generating second and third opportunities.”

Now, French returns to the AHL, where he produced three goals and six points in 25 games to start the season. He’s joined by Steelheads leading goal-scorer Steve McParland, who is getting his first taste of the AHL this year. While there is never an ideal time for the Steelheads to lose top producers from the lineup, the experience will certainly benefit both players and also make them better pieces for a Kelly Cup playoff run should they return.

“In a perfect world this is how you want it done in a development system. You want guys playing well to get a chance. We’re happy for them both and we hope they get an opportunity.”

“We wish them both the very best.”

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