I have to admit, in the midst of the hockey void we’ve been living in over the past several months, it’s been easy for me to develop tunnel vision on particular aspects of the prospect world. For the most part, I’ve been spending the last several weeks covering topics relating to the pending NHL Entry Draft, as well as expanding on some of the topics that I had covered through the season including looking at next year’s Calder Candidates as well as a bit of a deeper look into QMJHL happenings.
Needless to say, it’s been massively refreshing to see some of the canceled leagues announcing year-end awards, even if for no reason other than to satisfy our craving for hockey news – and that it has.
The AHL began announcing the winners of their regular-season awards in the month of May, and to date, there have been several prospects of note who deserve some extra press for their hardware.
AHL All-Rookie Team
G – Cayden Primeau – Primeau started in two games for the Montreal Canadiens this year and had a significant amount of quality starts for the Leval Rockets in the AHL. He’s a ways off from getting a legitimate full-time opportunity in the NHL, but another couple of years with similar results will force the Habs to consider promoting him regardless of what they may have expected from their seventh-round draft pick.
D – Joey Keane – The Rangers leveraged their defensive depth to bring in an NHL quality forward this year, but parting ways with Keane couldn’t have been easy. Only one year removed from the OHL, Keane quickly became a more productive player at the AHL level than he ever was in junior. Carolina also has a good amount of defensive depth, but Keane could eventually fill the void left by Justin Fault in Raleigh.
F – Jack Studnicka – Boston has one of the more shallow prospect pools in the league, and after an exceptional debut in the AHL Jack Studnicka has risen to the top. He was able to dip his toes in the water with the big Bruins this year and did not look out of place in terms of speed or tenacity. He fits the mold of a modern Bruin and could begin to see a rising amount of time in the NHL over the course of the upcoming season.
F – Alex Formenton – Flanking Josh Norris for part of the season in Belleville was speedy London Knights alumni, Alex Formenton. The OHL graduate has had previous opportunities and exposure to the pro game, but his first official season in the AHL was a massive success. Ottawa’s contractual obligations may allow them to feature several rookies in their lineup next year, but Formenton is a bit less of a sure thing right away. In another year though, there is little doubt that Formenton will be taking leadership roles on many of the Sens’ special teams lines.
AHL First and Second All-Star Teams
F – Josh Norris – The Ottawa Senators forward prospect depth is arguably the most formidable, through and through, in the entire league. At the forefront is 21-year-old American, Josh Norris. The University of Michigan product had an extremely productive rookie season in Belleville and as such, should have an excellent shot at making Ottawa’s lineup when next season begins. In addition to being an AHL first-team all-star, and being featured on the AHL’s official All-Rookie team, he also took home the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the leagues’ top Rookie.
D – Jake Bean – In addition to being named to the AHL’s first-team All-Star list, Jake Bean also took home Eddie Shore Memorial Awards for the league’s top defenseman. The 22-year-old defenseman has quickly developed into a leader among Hurricane prospects. After helping the team to a Calder Cup Championship a year ago, Bean is first in line to graduate to the NHL from the ‘Canes farm system.
D – Brogan Rafferty – The Canucks had one of the best rookie defensemen in recent NHL history this year, and Rafferty proved to be a quality supplement to their defensive depth in the AHL after leaving Quinnipiac University. He may have a chance at getting into the NHL for a few games next year after being named to the AHL’s second-team All-Star lineup as well as the All-Rookie team, but another year with some time in the AHL is probable.
F – Alex Barre Boulet – At 23-years-old, Barre-Boulet remains the Lightning’s top offensive prospect, especially after the team dealt Brett Howden to the Devils at this year’s NHL trade deadline. Unfortunately, the Lightning seem to be intent on building with proven talent around the age group of their current core, so while the team has continued to have success, Barre-Boulet has been left waiting.
F – Drake Batherson – Despite spending a significant amount of time in the NHL this season, Batherson remained eligible for the AHL Second-team All-Star team. He’ll undoubtedly start next season in the NHL and could see some growth in his production rate of 0.4 points per game, while he helps to bring other baby-Sens’ into the fold.
Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award – The goaltending duo of Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick were the statistical winners of the Hap Holmes Award, which is the NHL’s equivalent of the Jennings award for the goaltender(s) with the lowest GAA in the league. The more relevant prospect of the pair is undoubtedly Ingram, who recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Predators. The 23-year-old goaltender has already been recognized as an AHL all-star on two separate occasions and has been rewarded with the second year of his new deal being on one-way terms. While the Predators current tandem of Jusse Saros and Pekka Rinne seem to be holding the fort down, for now, it now seems highly plausible that Ingram will gradually begin to step into a backup role with the Preds, and potentially challenge Saros for the starting gig within the next three years.
Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award – The AHL’s equivalent of the Vezina Trophy was awarded to Minnesota Wild goaltending prospect, Kaapo Kahkonen. The Finnish netminder has had two consecutively strong seasons in the AHL, and could be knocking on Devan Dubnyk’s door as a backup quite soon.