Wrapping-up the top honors that have been awarded in the AHL in this week's Sunday Ramblings…
As the AHL season comes to a close today, the league has named their All-Stars, All-Rookies, and winners of several awards. Mastering the AHL is usually a good that a player is ready to take the next step in their careers, so the players named on these squads should be among those closest to getting NHL looks next season.
2015-16 AHL First All-Star Team:
C – Frank Vatrano (BOS) – A few season stats to get Boston fans salivating: Vatrano has averaged a goal per game and over 5 SOG per game, all as a rookie to the league. Add to this that he already made a good impression spending time with the Bruins this season, and fans should expect him to make an impact in the NHL next year.
LW – Chris Bourque (WAS) – Bourque has been on this ballot three time over his career, and passed the 500 point mark on his AHL career this year. The 30-year-old's chance to be fantasy relevant has passed, as his last call-up to NHL action was in 2012-13.
RW – Seth Griffith (BOS) – Another Bruin prospect whose successful time when called-up adds one more reason to get excited, as if 75 points in 56 games and career-highs in all categories this campagn wasn't enough.
D – Brandon Montour (ANH) – Absolutely tore up the AHL this year as a rookie 21-year-old, leading the league in powerplay scoring. He is the reason the Ducks feel comfortable shopping named like Vatanen and Fowler, and will be coming to the NHL as soon as one of those rumors turns into non-fiction.
D – TJ Brennan (TOR) – Outscored teammates such as Nylander, Kapanen, and Soshnikov. Yes he played more games, but that means he also sits third in league scoring playafter ing many games without the help of those names.
G – Peter Budaj (LAK) – That's right, he's still around and put up a helluva 2015-16 campaign with a .932 SV% over 60 games played. Fantasy relevant? Of course not, he's 33 and a backup at best, but you have to feel good for the veteran.
2015-16 AHL Second All-Star Team:
C – Dustin Jeffrey (PIT) – Despite having the most NHL experience on this list, he is perhaps the least fantasy relevant. The fourth-liner is likely only an injury fill-in at this point in his career, but has been serving his teams well in the AHL.
LW – Mikko Rantanen (COL) – In 52 games this rookie season, he has scored at least a point in 42 of them. Extreme success on a weak team, but nothing to show for his NHL chances so far. Not to worry, he's too talented to not click once he settles in.
RW – Mike Sislo (NJD) – 304 AHL games played over five seasons: 187 points. 42 NHL games over three seasons: five points. He has had his chances and never taken advantage, so one shouldn't expect any new developments.
D – Robbie Russo (DET) – Coming out of college, he posted the league's highest plus-minus rating (plus-47) in 22 years. Another shrewd signing by Detroit after he passed up the Isles to finish his college program. No reason he can't earn an NHL spot… in due time (this is Detroit after all).
D – Will O'Neill (PIT) – After a full four years in the NCAA, O'Neill now has five AHL seasons without even a peek of NHL action. He has the size, puts up the points, and has a mean side, so one would think the 27-year-old would be a good candidate for a call-up soon and desperate for that chance.
G – Matt Murray (PIT) – Followed up a great rookie year by placing near the top of the league in all categories and earning several NHL starts when Fleury got injured. His fantastic stats transferred well to the NHL, where he reportedly had several suitors at the trade dealine wanting to give him a shot at a startng job.
AHL All-Rookie Team
F – Mikko Rantanen (COL) – See above. Big, talented, experience against men in the FInnish league made the AHL easy.
F – Frank Vatrano (BOS) – If a rookie make the All-star team, shouldn't be a surprise to see them on this team too. Or to see them in the NHL next year.
F – Austin Czarnik (BOS) – Look how many Bruins are on this list. Its impressive. Also means lots of compettion for players like this, whose 60 points in 67 games dont even make him the top prospect on the team.
D – Brandon Montour (ANH) – Really an outstanding season. Anaheim is absolutely loaded on defense.
D – Robbie Russo (DET) – Any other team would make a bigger deal of signing a player who turns out to be All-Rookie caliber. Just another year for Red Wings management.
G – Juuse Saros (NSH) – Coming to North America this year from the Finnish league, he played 38 games and posted a .920 SV% on the season. A top goalie in the Nashville system? No way!
Yanick Dupre Memorial Award (2015-16 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year):
Ryan Carpenter (SJ)
This award has nothing to do with fantasy-relevance, but why wouldn't we acknowledge a player's aweome off-ice behavior? Carpenter works with multiple charities and goes out of his way to teach classes to kids, using his NCAA education. He also put up 55 points in 65 games, not too shabby.
Red Garrett Award (Rookie of the Year):
Frank Vatrano (BOS) and Mikko Rantanen (COL)
A very rare tie in a category voted on by coaches and media around the league. Given my descriptions above, both are extremely worthy of the award. Both come from leagues with older and stronger competition than the CHL, showing just how valuable experience overseas or the NCAA can be for developing players.
Eddie Shore Award (Top Defenseman):
TJ Brennan (TOR)
What more convincing does an organization need? I am sincerely confused by the lack of NHL opportunity given to Brennan, who admittedly hasn't played up to his standards when called-up, but at some point AHL dominanace earn's someone an extended look. Maybe he prefers being a leader in the AHL and raking in the performance bonuses.
Aldege Bastion memorial Award (Top Goalie):
Peter Budaj (LAK)
A nice honor for the NHL and AHL veteran who has paid his dues and been through many good and bad times. Still not going to be picked up in any fantasy leagues.
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your playoff pools!