Prospect Ramblings: Youngsters riding the yo-yo (Nov. 5)

Mark Allan

2016-11-05

Still looking for his first NHL start, Chris Driedger has been sent down to the AHL even though Ottawa is without injured goaltender Andrew Hammond and sometimes misses Craig Anderson when he's with his cancer-stricken wife.

 

November is a time in the NHL season when prospects like Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews and William Nylander who haven't carved out NHL roles ride the yo-yo between the big league and the minors.

Chris Driedger, who played in exactly one NHL game in each of the past two seasons, has matched that total – although he allowed four goals on 15 SOGs in a 5-2 loss to Calgary as an emergency replacement for Andrew Hammond, who didn't last through the first period. Driedger, a 2012 third-rounder, has yet to make his first NHL start and was demoted today to the AHL's Binghamton Senators. With Craig Anderson back, apparently  at the request of his cancer-stricken wife, and newly acquired Mike Condon backing him up today, there was no room on the NHL roster even though Andrew Hammond remains on IR. Hammond will presumably join Driedger in Binghamton and play himself back to shape once he's back on skates. 

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Detroit demoted center Tomas Nosek to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins before he could take an NHL shift. The Czech had a rough start to his season, first injuring a knee in training camp, then undergoing a medical procedure for a different lower-body injury. The biggest challenge faced by the 24-year-old, who also can play LW, is that the Red Wings have a selection of other young forwards with promise who are ahead of him on the depth chart. Fifteen goals and 30 points in 70 AHL games got Detroit's attention last season but he must do better this time and do whatever he can to get noticed the next time he's called up.

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The return of veteran D-Man Niklas Kronwall after he missed 11 games with a knee injury will make it harder for youngsters Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet to get into the lineup. Both received some icetime during Kronwall's absence although neither made a splash statistically. The more offensively gifted Sproul posted two points in six games while the more-rounded Ouellet had one point in six games. Both second-round picks were scratched from Friday's game against Winnipeg and it's likely one of them will be shipped to the AHL. On the bright side, the 23-year-old Ouellet is a sure-fire NHLer and the skilled 6-4 Sproul shows great promise.

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The Sabres demoted RW Justin Bailey to the Rochester Americans of the AHL and promoted fellow second-rounder William Carrier. The hefty Bailey, son of former NFLer Carlton Bailey, has yet to get a point in 10 NHL games over two seasons, although his 6-3, 214-pound size and athleticism would suggest an NHL future once he learns the ropes in the minors. Considering Evander Kane remains on the IR with cracked ribs, LW Carrier has a chance to impress the Buffalo brass, especially if he gets some of Kane's quality icetime.

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Considering he has just one goal and no assists in four AHL games while going minus-3, it was mildly surprising that Columbus recalled LW Sonny Milano on Friday from the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. A healthy scratch against Montreal, Milano was forced to watch as the Blue Jackets destroyed Montreal 10-0. Maybe that will inspire him the next time he gets into the Columbus lineup.

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The goal-starved Canucks would be grateful if Troy Stecher could replicate this pre-season score in an NHL regular-season game.

 

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With top-two blueliners Alex Edler and Chris Tanev hurt, Vancouver recalled Troy Stecher from the Utica Comets of the AHL. As promising a prospect as the smallish, playmaking Stecher is, he can't replace Edler and Tanev by himself. The Canucks, on a road trip back East, would be happy if he helped their blueline corps to keep playing excellent defensive hockey. They would be ecstatic if he could contribute to a popgun offense that has registered a pathetic one goal in four games en route to a seven-game losing skid.

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Former junior scoring sensation Nic Petan will throw his 5-9 frame into the NHL fray after being called up by Winnipeg from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. The Jets are missing RW Joel Armia and C Mathieu Perreault, both hurt in Thursday's 4-3 OT loss to Washington. Armia, Winnipeg's best two-way forward the past two weeks, has returned to Winnipeg for testing and could be sidelined for some time. Although Petan plays LW and C, an extended absence by Armia might give him a chance to stick with the big club for awhile. Coming off four goals and an assist in nine AHL games, Petan must do better than six points in 26 games with Winnipeg last season.

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How frustrating must it be for outstanding blueline prospect Shea Theodore to be assigned by the Ducks to the San Diego Gulls of the AHL? It's not like the 21-year-old former first-round pick is doing anything wrong. Even after loaning Jacob Larsson back to Frolunda in Sweden, Anaheim has the deepest corps of talented young blueliners the NHL and, until it thins, Theodore will have to endure minor-pro life. He is, however, an undeniable future NHLer.

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After C Martin Hanzal and LW Tobias Rieder suffered day-to-day injuries, Arizona promoted C Christian Dvorak, one of its most outstanding prospects. Dvorak was assigned to Tucson of the AHL earlier this season after compiling three assists in seven NHL games. The Coyotes have been shuttling AHL-eligible players down to keep them in game shape if they aren't getting a lot of NHL playing time. It is only a matter of time before Dvorak is up to stay as a budding NHL star.

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With Michael Raffl back from an eight-game absence due to an abdominal injury, Philadelphia sent fellow LW Scott Laughton to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL for conditioning purposes. The former 20th-overall draft pick is a strong two-way player with moderate skill and a willingness to play physically. As such, Laughton needs to stay in shape, work hard and make the most of his chances until the sticks in the NHL for good.

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LW Conor Sheary will return from an eye injury today as the Penguins continue their West Coast trip in San Diego. The 24-year-old has two goals and three points in four games as Sidney Crosby's sidekick. Although Sheary's also valuable to Pittsburgh as a fourth-liner, the Mighty Mite could become a valuable fantasy performer if he sticks with Sid.

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