The Norfolk Admirals, the top farm team of the Tampa Bay Lightning, are the AHL Calder Cup Champions for the 2011-12 season. I will now break down the key young players on the team, and whether I believe they will have an NHL career (prospect), or will be career minor-leagues (non-prospect).
Cory Conacher– The Norfolk player that I’m most frequently asked about. Opinions on the forward vary widely in hockey circles, and many believe that Conacher is too small (generously listed at 5’8, 175), but he is also unproven, having played college hockey at Canisius before his breakout season at Norfolk. But he has proven himself at least somewhat in the eyes of many by scoring 80 points in 75 games as a rookie pro, as well as showing his feisty side with 114 penalty minutes. Next season will be a pivotal one for Conacher, who will likely play in Norfolk again, and it will be some time before we know for sure if he will be an NHLer. It’s still a possibility at this point. Prospect.
Tyler Johnson– Johnson is another small forward who starred for Norfolk in his rookie pro season. The 21-year-old with blazing speed scored 31 goals in th regular season and had a point a game in the playoffs. The other negative on Johnson, aside from a lack of size, is that he doesn’t have a lot of physical grit to his game. He is solid defensively, which combined with his great speed, could land him a bottom six role in Tampa. Of course, that won’t help any fantasy players. Non-prospect.
Alex Killorn– Another relative unknown prior to the season, Killorn came into his own as a senior at Harvard with 46 points in 34 games. The slick center continued as a pro, putting up six in ten regular games for the Admirals and finishing with 12 in 17 during the Calder Cup run. Killorn is a slick playmaker whose passes make his linemates better. One of my sleeper picks,I like his future. Prospect.
Mark Barberio– A 22-year-old offensive defenseman, Barberio will get an opportunity to stick with the Lightning in the fall. He showed that his high junior output wasn’t just a product of playing in the “Q” as he lit the lamp 13 times and added 48 helpers for the Admirals. He was also a plus 28 and was one of the top defensemen in the AHL. Expect good things from the Montreal native. Prospect.
Alexandre Picard– The name should be familiar to you, because Picard was the 8th overall pick in the 2004 draft, taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009-10, and totaled just two assists in his 64 game NHL career. The 26-year-old tied teammate Trevor Smith for the AHL playoffs scoring lead with 16 points, but even in the AHL is not the dominant offensive force he was expected to be when drafted. Non-Prospect.
Richard Panik– The 21-year-old Slovak had 41 points in 64 games in his first professional season in Norfolk. Panik has good hands and is a skilled winger who is also not shy about physical contact. He is not good defensively and has a long way to go before h’ll be trusted in his own zone on an NHL rink. Prospect.