Wrapping-up the state of the AHL playoffs in this Sunday's Ramblings…
The first round of the AHL playoffs is nearly complete, with seven-of-eight series finished with teams ready to roll into Division Finals. Our April 29th Ramblings by Dave McDonald took a good look at some high-profile players to keep an eye on; to keep this coverage going here's a quick summary of what's transpired and who should be popping-up on teams' radars as a result:
Grand Rapids 3 – Milwaukee 0
The Griffins swept the Admirals in an impressive fashion, allowing only three goals in three games. Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk led the way with four points each in the series, and both having three-point-games. Obviously in such a low-scoring series the goalie deserves a good chunk of the praise – Tom McCollum played all three games and finished the set with a fantastic .968 SV%, good for t-2nd in the playoffs. Mantha has been a top scorer most of his career and has always been considered a potential exception to Detroit's tendancy to expect mastery of the AHL before earning an NHL spot, time will tell if his strong performance will break this rule (he will become even more of a must-own in keeper leagues if this is the case).
Lake Erie 3 – Rockford 0
Another swept series, but this one done a little more offensively as the Monsters scored five goals in all three games. Naturally they have some players performing well and making an impact on the scoresheet – Josh Anderson tops the team with five points and the league with four goals, Oliver Bjorkstrand has tallied four points which ties him for 2nd among AHL rookies in the playoffs, and Alex Broadhurst has chipped in four points of his own. Newcomer defenseman Zach Werenski only played seven regular season AHL games, but has thrived so far and has been good for a point-per-game and over two SOG-per-game pace in the post-season. This kid is a stud and is proving so at a higher level every time we check in on him it seems.
Ontario 3 – San Jose 1
Not quite the historic rivalry that their parent teams have endured over the last few playoffs, but a good series nonetheless. Both sqauds clearly aimed at rolling all their lines and making a team effort, as despite a four-game series (among many sweeps), no players had particularly dominant offensive showings. The top scorer of the series was the Reign's Nic Dowd with four points and a more impressive 16 SOG over the series – someone is good at giving himself chances.
San Diego 3 – Texas 1
The Gulls' 20 goals in the series was the most scored by any team in one round so far. Five players cracked the poit-per-game threshold for the Ducks affiliate: Chris Mueller (5), Mike Sgarbarossa (5), Nick RItchie (4), rookie d-man Shea Theodore (4), and Stefan Noesen (4). Given the disappointing finale to the Ducks' season and the extreme promise seen in some of these youngsters, don't be surprised to see some of the aforementioned in the NHL lineup next year. Theodore and Ritchie are good bets to get permanent jobs, and both have significant upside (draft them asap in your keeper leagues is what I'm saying here). Texas defenseman Esa Lindell followed-up his excellent first AHL campaign with an even stronger four points in four playoff contests; he is another player you shouldn't be surprised to see get a good NHL look in 2016-17.
Toronto 3 – Bridgeport 0
The Marlies are likely the most-discussed team this playoffs given their stacked lineup and incredible regular-season. They've lived up to expectations, and defenseman Connor Carrick acquired at the trade deadline currently co-leads league scoring with seven points (five of which came in a single game!). Coaching gave top players (Kapanen, Shoshnikov, Smith) nights off throughout the series, so it will be intrigueing to track player-usage as the Calder Cup run continues. Josh Leivo is having perhaps the second-best run on the team fantasy-wise; he currently has three points (all assists), six PIM, 14 SOG, ang a plus-2 rating. Goaltender Garret Sparks has yet to allow a goal in two games played. Any number of Marlies players could crack th NHL during the ongoing rebuild.
Albany 3 – Utica 1
Another very strong team with no troubles scoring, Albany came one overtime away from a sweep. The Devils' Reid Boucher (6), d-man Damon Severson (5), rookie Blake Pietila (4), and Jim O'Brien (4) are the offensive leaders so far, with Pietile recording a four-point game in the series-clinching match. Severson and Boucher are NHL regulars at this point, while Pietila could make a push for a spot next season with a good training camp. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood carries a .922 SV% in the playoffs, and could also be fantasy-relevant as an NHL backup next year (unfortunately being a backup to Cory Schnieder leaes little to be exected in terms of games played).
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 – Providence 0
This was the closest sweep I've seen in a while – every game was decided by a margin of just one goal. The Penguins came out victorious thanks to co-leading scorer of the playoffs: rookie Jake Guentzel (seven points). He had points in all three contests, maxing out with four in the final match. The talented scorer came straight out of the NCAA to the AHL just weeks ago, and the transition has been smooth. Given his small stature and relative inexpereince in the pros, don't expect too meteoric of a rise for now, the NHL is still a ways off. A more prominant rookie – Daniel Sprong has also been playing well, holding four points in three games. Sprong will be the most likely receiver of a top-six call-up next season, but the Penguins have a stacked lineup so sliding into one of those very valuable winger slots will be a battle out of training camp. One more name on the contender list having a solid post-season: Carter Rowney. He always produced in the AHL playoffs and has taken strides during the regular season…oh and his 6-2 208 lbs frame sets him slightly apart from the more talented names already mentioned.
Hershey 2 – Portland 2
Last but certainly not least – this is the only series yet to be decided (but will be later today). The Bears' talented rookie Jacob Vrana has impressed with four points in four games so far, but the matchup has been defined by its very balanced abttle between two teams not relying on any particular player or line. Hershey Goaltender Justin Peters may have played himself out of an NHL gig in the past few seasons, but has been dynamite this playoffs with a .968 SV% so far. This evening's game should be an excellent close-out to an exciting first round!
As always, thank you for reading and best of luck in your ongoing playoff pools!