Prospect Ramblings: The AHL Prospect Frenzy

Dave Hall

2021-02-09

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Ramblings.

It would be a crime not to begin this week by sending out a farewell, along with a few additional congratulations. If you missed the news, Cam Robinson, our former Managing Editor and highly touted Vancouver Canucks scout has officially moved on from his role(s). Of course, he will be greatly missed, but we wish him all the best.

On the bright side, this paved the way for Tony Ferrari, who you already know so well, to jump right into the role. If you aren’t already, make sure you are following him on Twitter @theTonyFerrari.

Congratulations to both.

On a personal note, with Cam passing the torch, I am pleased to announce that I have officially taken over the Canucks prospects. The shoes will not be easy to fill, but as a lifelong fan of the club, I cannot wait to bring you updates on the club’s up-and-comers. In addition, I will continue contributing to the Columbus Blue Jackets, however, I will be stepping away from the Florida Panthers. Not to worry, Josh Simpson has taken over as the Panthers contributor, so, make sure to give him a follow for updates @joshsimpson77.

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Alright, on to this week’s task at hand – the AHL.

After ten (plus) game-less months, the American Hockey League has officially hit the ground running with their 2020-21 season and if you are a fan of prospects, you are going to want to tune in this season. With no games taking place in leagues such as the OHL and WHL, many prospects have fast-tracked their careers, making their pro debuts slightly early than originally expected. The result? An abundance of young, talented rookies night-in and night-out. Basically, the league is going to be spicy. Very spicy.

With that, I dedicate this week to a quick recap on some notable first-year prospects.

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As if we need any further evidence, but Trevor Zegras has officially achieved legendary status. Roughly one month removed from his historic WJC run, where he amassed 18 points to go along with a tournament MVP and Gold Medal, the 19-year-old made his professional debut with the San Diego Gulls.

Not only did he find the scoresheet, but racked up an impressive five points, which includes two goals and three (primary) assists – which at the moment, his point total holds up as tops in the league. Naturally, he was awarded AHL Player of the Week.

What makes his debut so impressive, is his incredibly smooth transition. At no point did Zegras portray his inexperience, and looked poised and comfortable in all situations, despite having never been apart of a professional atmosphere. Much like we saw in this year’s WJC tournament, he carried the puck with utmost confidence and swagger. In fact, before contributing his first career assist, went as far as attempting a “Michigan goal”:

I mean, are you kidding me?

No, I do not view his minor league stint as shocking. Although I would have loved to see him fast-tracked to the NHL, he still has some tweaks to make in his game – most notably, his play along the boards and perhaps some additional touch-ups in the defensive end. However, if his extraordinary offensive contributions trickle through his next few games, I cannot picture a short-term future where we don’t see a “Zegras” name bar on the back of an Anaheim Duck uniform.

He’s extremely fun.

Continuing with the Gulls, Zegras wasn’t the only young gun to make their debut over the weekend. Both Jacob Perreault and Jamie Drysdale took to the ice for their first reps and of course, both saw the scoresheet.

Perreault, the Ducks’ 27th overall selection in October, registered a primary assist in game one. The helper came off of a beautiful give-and-go set-up. Unfortunately, his game took a backseat in game two, as he was held off of the scoresheet and suffered a disappointing minus-three rating. Sorry fantasy owners, I personally foresee him taking a little longer than the others to grow his game and likely spends some time in the minor league system before taking that next step. Nonetheless, he’s got a bright future.

Drysdale, on the other hand, recorded his first professional goal and earned his first multi-point game with a primary assist to boot. As you would expect from a swift skating, offensive defender, his goal was the product of a solid breakout and a clear cut breakaway. He made no mistakes.

The club’s recent number six pick is already enjoying top-pairing minutes and is showing early promise to be an extremely prominent pro defender.

Finally, between the pipes, Lukas Dostal has traveled to North America as advertised. Following an impeccable 10-1-0 season in the SHL, the 20-year-old netminder backstopped the Gulls weekend back-to-back and enjoyed wins in each. He stopped 69 or 73 shots faced and looked extremely calm and collected in his crease.

Luckily for Ducks fans, John Gibson looks to be back to his true self this season. Yet, Dostal is quickly rising as one of the league’s top goaltender prospects and should be knocking on the door sooner, rather than later. If I am a shareholder, which I am in one of my leagues, I am beginning to get my hopes.

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Off to Chicago, where both the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes prospects have joined forces (Covid induced) to ice a team this season. Hurricanes prospect duo of Seth Jarvis and Jamieson Rees teamed up for two impressive outings, combining for five points between the pair over the weekend.

Rees, the former Sarnia Sting stand-out, showcased his strong skating ability and terrific drive for the net throughout the weekend. Not once:

But twice.

His ability to play the game with an added edge is a trait that Canes’ Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour, will surely appreciate as he grows within the club’s minor system. The fact that he can drop his head, and move through men with ease bodes very well for his stock. He has middle-six, peripheral player written all over him.

Jarvis, the beneficiary of the first hard-nosed Jamieson Rees drive, contributed for two goals and an assist over the weekend. This included a powerplay tally, where he became the second-youngest player in Chicago Wolves history to record a goal.

The former Portland Winterhawk was one of my go-to’s heading into this year’s draft. His terrific skating ability, combined with his ability to create opportunity off the rush had me intrigued from the get-go – clearly, I had good reason. Carolina holds a deep pool of players at their fingertips, and Jarvis most certainly sits at the top-end of that list.

Finally, Phillip Tomasino, a prospect on the Nashville Predators end of the team, posted two secondary assists on Friday. The swiss-army knife was considered a fringe forward to make the Predators out of camp but ultimately found his way in the minor system.

Personally, as much as we enjoy seeing our top prospects among NHL lineups, I have no issues with a team’s decisions to stow prospects away. The professional transition can be challenging, and far too often do we see a fast-tracked kid fall subject to confidence shattering situations – let the young buck rack up points, gain his reps, and promote when ready.

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In Leigh Valley, Wyatte Wylie skated in his first professional game and enjoyed a goal and assist as a member of the club’s third-pairing unit. While two points in a professional debut is a pleasant surprise, especially coming from a defender, his point production should come as no surprise. Throughout his career in Everett (WHL), especially in the ladder half of his career, Wylie had been a strong offensive driver from the backend with 111 points through the final two years of his tenure.

Goal aside, Wylie looked comfortable in his first game as a pro. His skating is a strong suit in his game, and it certainly stood up to those around him on the ice – he did not look out of place. As a right-handed option, his value holds stronger than others within the depth chart, but should still be considered a few seasons away from making any real splash at the NHL level.

Regardless, it’s a quick foot in the right direction.

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Vegas Golden Knights’ 2019 first-rounder, Peyton Krebs, was inches from earning a roster spot this season, but couldn’t quite sniff one out. Instead, he has begun his pro career with the newly formed Henderson Silver Knights and is sporting a shiny new chrome helmet. He’s been quite shiny himself.

No surprises here. But through two games, he’s currently sporting four points, which includes three primary assists and a powerplay marker. The Winnipeg native just fits the bill as a natural pro. He embolizes the perfect power forward, who refuses to quit on pucks and can provide offense when needed – hense his four points.

Vegas certainly has a good one, and if it were not for their incredibly deep line-up on the strip, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him earn a role this season.

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Additional notable performers so far have been:

Riley Damiani, Dallas Stars – GP: 3/G: 2/A: 2/PTS: 4

Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars – GP: 3/G: 1/A: 2/PTS: 3

Calen Addison, Minnesota Wild – GP: 3/G: 0/A: 3/PTS: 3

Gabriel Fortier, Tampa Bay Lightning – GP: 1/G: 2/A: 0/PTS: 2

Samuel Fagemo, LA Kings – GP: 2/G: 1/A: 1/PTS: 2

Quinton Byfield, LA Kings – GP: 2/G: 0/A: 1/PTS: 1

Grigori Denisenko, Florida Panthers – GP: 1/G: 0/A: 1/PTS: 1

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Prospect enthusiasts – this is the year. If there was ever a time to catch some American Hockey League action, this is the year. Each team is swimming with young prospects and it’s shaping up to be an incredibly entertaining year.

Follow me on Twitter @hall1289 as I will be keeping close eyes on the league and providing updates around the top prospect crop.

Have a great week.

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