Still just 22, Derrick Pouliot of the Penguins has yet to make the impact on the NHL that his talent suggests he can.
The past couple of days have been rough on several highly touted prospects who find themselves back in the AHL or junior.
For instance, Pittsburgh demoted Derrick Pouliot on Thursday to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Penguins’ head coach Mile Sullivan sat the offensively gifted Pouliot for the first several NHL games of this campaign before he suffered a serious lower-body injury in his season debut that sent him to the IR list. The 22-year-old will play a lot with the AHL Penguins, but he’s going to have to be better than minus-3 with one shot on goal in a 5-2 loss Friday to the Hershey Bears.
Justin Schultz, meanwhile, will not make it easy for Pouliot to swap places with him. An obvious target for Pouliot to replace on Pittsburgh’s blueline to start the season, the former Edmonton Oilers’ castoff has a decent three goals and 13 assists in 27 games as well as a league-high plus-16 rating. If Pouliot wants to get recalled and stick in the NHL, he needs to learn how to balance his superior puck skill with improved defense and simply play so well that Sullivan has no choice but to get him into the defending Stanley Cup champion’s lineup.
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Julius Honka’s spotty NHL debut is on hold with an upper-body injury that has sent him onto the IR list. The dynamic if smallish blueliner has three assists in eight games with Dallas so far but he’s minus-7. Intrigued by his 75 points over the past two AHL seasons, the Stars still have plans for the Finn.
Meanwhile, teammate Jason Dickinson has been assigned to the AHL. The future NHL second-line center was scoreless in his only NHL game this season and couldn’t get into the lineup, although the Dallas braintrust noticed his promising 22-goal, 53-point AHL campaign last season.
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With intelligent positioning and a goal-scorer's shot like this, it's only a matter of time before Kyle Connor is putting up big numbers for the Winnipeg Jets. That day is not today, however.
LW Kyle Connor has a long NHL career ahead, although the Jets have been forced to conclude their 2015 17th-overall draft pick won’t begin his big-league production right away. After burning a season on his entry-level contract, Winnipeg demoted the swift, skilled forward to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. In 19 games, he had a mere one goal and three assists as well as an unsightly minus-8 rating. He’ll be back, although perhaps not this season.
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Because their AHL farm team is also in San Jose, the Sharks were able to recall Mirco Mueller a day after assigning him to the Barracuda. The 21-year-old was yo-yoed because David Schlemko’s ankle injury kept him out of the lineup. Mueller, San Jose’s 18th-overall draft pick three years ago, was a healthy scratch in a 3-2 loss to the host Anaheim Ducks. The smooth two-day blueliner is expected to head back for more seasoning with the Barracuda for whom he has six assists in 17 games albeit with a minus-5 rating. Although the 6-3 Swiss native hasn’t seen any NHL action this season, he’s played in 50 big-league games over the previous two campaigns, and is in San Jose’s plans. Showing some significant development this season would help his bargaining position when he’s an RFA in the off-season.
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Although his 17 games represent Slater Koekkoek's highest number in an NHL season, the Lightning demoted him to Syracuse of the OHL. A solid defenseman with offensive upside, Koekkoek has nonetheless totaled just five assists in 29 games over three NHL seasons. Still only 22, Tampa’s 10th-overall pick in 2012 still has time to make his mark. He’s an RFA after this season, so this would be a good time to impress Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
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The Sabres returned Brendan Guhle to the Prince George Cougars of the WHL for whom he earlier potted three goals in four games after coming from the Prince Albert Raiders. The sizable (6-3) mobile puck-mover went without a point in three games with the big club. Fantasy owners shouldn’t fret about his return to junior because the 2015 second-rounder still has an NHL future, especially since he combines solid offense with physicality and defensive awareness.
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Columbus recalled Oliver Bjorkstrand from the AHL, but fantasy owners shouldn’t get excited. Although the Danish RW raised hopes with four goals and four assists in 12 NHL games last season, this current callup is on an emergency basis, likely to replace the ill Nick Foligno on the roster if not with his ice time. Bjorkstrand will soon head back to the Cleveland Monsters unless he wows coach John Tortorella on the fourth line. Tortorella is unlikely to mess with his line combinations while the team is on a roll.
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The Canucks recalled hotshot netminding prospect Thatcher Demko from the AHL’s Utica Comets due to an ankle injury suffered by Ryan Miller. Miller is listed as day to day and Demko, 21, might not see any NHL action while Jacob Markstrom holds down the fort. Demko, a slam-dunk future NHLer has a 7-4-1 record with a 2.47 GAA and .914 save percentage in 13 AHL games this season.
Could goalie prospect Malcolm Subban be dangled as the Bruins continue their efforts to bolster a suspect blueline? Boston drafted Subban 24th overall in 2012 and he might still have some trade value in spite of recent struggles. He bombed in single-game appearances in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 NHL seasons and his AHL stats, solid for the past two seasons, have regressed badly. In 11 games this season with Providence of the AHL, P.K. Subban’s younger sibling has a 3.12 GAA and .897 save percentage, numbers that won’t encourage the Bruins to promote him again anytime soon.