With the AHL regular season coming to a conclusion, it’s a great time to take a step back and review the year as a whole.
When we kicked the year off in October, I reviewed three groups of players to watch in the AHL – “High Profile Vets”, “Rookies to watch”, and “Graduates to watch”. While some of those players to watch, may be prospects that we continue to watch in the AHL next year, a good number will (or already have) dropped the prospect status and will be players to target for your fantasy team in the fall.
Mason Appleton was one of the “High Profile Vets” to watch – The former Michigan State forward continued to impress with the Manitoba Moose throughout the season, but also became a regular call-up for the Jets. As the NHL team faces some uncertainty in their lineup, Appleton will be a very interesting player to watch in the coming months. The story is similar for Andrew Mangiapane who has become a regular in the Flames lineup as the year has wore on. Both players should be valuable fantasy additions in the long-term.
Headlining the “Rookies to watch” category, in review, were Carter Hart and Drake Batherson, both of which were not long for the AHL life and have, for the most part, made full-time transitions to the NHL level. Impressive fantasy production from both should be expected as they kick off 2019 in the National League.
Conversely, in the “Graduates to watch” category, we saw class of 2018 graduates falter through the course of the season. Players such as Valentin Zykov, Ty Rattie, and Daniel Sprong who had been gifted with an NHL opportunity in the fall struggled to make the transition. Mathieu Joseph and Dylan Strome, however, did their best to keep the class above water.
In November, we had a look at some of the players in the AHL who were off to streaky starts, both good and bad. In some cases, their trends carried them through the remainder of the season, and in others, well… you’ll see.
Hot Starters who finished Hot
Henrik Borgstrom, Florida Panthers
After a somewhat surprising demotion to the AHL post training camp, Borgstrom started hot in the minor league, before being recalled to the Panthers. His 18-points as a Panther certainly qualify him for a hot finish.
Hot Starters who finished Cold
Janne Kuokkanen, Charlotte Checkers
After six goals in his first 13 games, Kuokkanen tallied only another six in the remaining 35 AHL contests he would play in. With an additional 7-game recall from the ‘Canes in which he was held pointless, the 20-year-old could be looking at yet another full year in the AHL before making the jump.
Jayden Halbegewachs, San Jose Barracuda
The free agent signee who kicked off his professional career with a near-point-per-game pace wrapped it up with nearly half his projected total. Despite the drop in production, a 33-point rookie campaign for the previously overlooked forward is a relatively positive start.
Cold Starters who finished Hot
Eeli Tolvanen, Milwaukee Admirals
The KHL D+1 phenom had a rough debut in North America, but in spite of his adjustment period, Tolvanen is back on a positive track with the Pred’s organization. He finished the year with 31 points in 55 games played, which as a teenager, is a very respectable rate.
Cold Starters who finished Cold
Cliff Pu, Springfield Thunderbirds
The Buffalo Sabres draft-pick is quickly making his rounds in AHL dressing rooms. After a disappointing start with his new squad in Charlotte, Pu was dealt to the Panthers organization at the trade deadline where his disappointment has continued. The 20-year-old could use some time to adjust, but at the moment, his future as a pro looks quite uncertain.
In early February, well past the mid-way point of the regular season, I offered my mid-season awards for the AHL. While I should probably stick to my guns for fairness, here are some changes I’d definitely like to make…
First off, I’d like to take back my choice for the Cunningham Award (MVP) from Daniel Carr. Rather, I feel that the league’s leading scorer, Carter Verhaeghe has earned the hardware based on his season-long dominance of the league. As a pending RFA, 23-year-old Verhaeghe is a good bet to finally earn a one-way deal. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll fit into the Lightning roster, but an NHL job could be in his future making him a player to consider rolling the dice on again.
Secondly, while Drake Batherson’s rookie stint with the Senators AHL affiliate in Belleville was impressive, Alex Barre-Boulet has almost certainly eclipsed Batherson as the top rookie. I’ll eat my socks if Barre-Boulet does not find a plaque with his name on the Garret Memorial award.
Finally, rookie Bakersfield goaltender, Shane Starrett is a great pick for the Baz Memorial as the leagues top netminder. With an incredible stretch of 14 consecutive wins to kick off the New Year, a top-5 save percentage, and four shutouts, he’ll be up against Charlotte Checker’s backstop and Carolina Hurricanes prospect, Alex Nedeljkovic for the hardware.
Just a month ago now, in early March, we reviewed the NHL trade deadline and how it impacted the AHL. Since being moved, a couple of players have managed to get traction with their new squad while others have been left in the dust.
Carl Grundstrom in particular has certainly found a groove with both the LA Kings and the Ontario Reign. The trade alone had made a positive impact on the former Maple Leaf prospect’s outlook, but his success since being dealt makes his file look that much more intriguing. With the Kings making him a regular on the NHL squad at this point in the season, don’t be surprised to see him retain an NHL role into next fall, with plenty of opportunity to work his way up the lineup.
Twenty-five year old JS Dea is another tradee who hasn’t missed a beat since the deadline. Coming over from the Penguins organization, Dea has been on a tear with the Springfield Thunderbirds, averaging better than a point per game since February. If Florida’s offseason leaves holes in their NHL roster, expect the long-time fringe prospect to get a one of his last kicks at the can.
One player who has experienced serious regression since the deadline is twenty-three year old Darren Raddysh. Elder brother of Syracuse Crunch forward, Taylor, Darren was moved to the Rangers organization at the deadline. In his 18 games since the shuffle, Darren has added only two helpers for the Hartford Wolfpack, making his outlook with the organization look quite bleak. With competition from top prospects such as Libor Hajek, John Gilmour, and K’Andre Miller, Raddysh will likely hold minimal fantasy value in the short-term, and next to none past 2021.
The AHL playoffs will get started in a week, stay up-to-date with the Calder Cup Playoff picture here. Thanks for reading, and as always, you can find me on Twitter to discuss today’s or past articles @olaf1393.