Since the beginning of the season, we have discussed young players who have had a great start and players from the west. Most of them play for really good teams. However, there have been a couple of promising prospects who have had an amazing season that have gone under the radar because they play for underperforming teams. Today, we will talk about a few of them.
Ruslan Iskhakov #17 – Bridgeport Islanders
Although he plays for the worst team in the league, Ruslan Iskhakov is by far the best player in Bridgeport. The small forward loves controlling the play. Many of the Islanders’ plays in zone exits or zone entries start with him having the puck. In only his second season in the AHL, Iskhakov has already scored 23 points in 28 games. The pure playmaker possesses great skating abilities that serve him well when facing bigger competition. In the defensive zone, he is no slouch either; he frequently moves deep into the zone to assist his defensemen and is often the first forward to backcheck when a change of possession occurs. The only criticism I have for Iskhakov is that he doesn’t have a great shot, but he compensates for that with hands that can beat any goaltender he faces.
Ethan Del Mastro #38 – Rockford IceHogs
Always perceived more as a strong defensively minded defenseman, Ethan Del Mastro has discovered a knack for offense this season with the struggling IceHogs. The young defenseman is an excellent skater who remains cool under pressure and tends to be aggressive against zone entries. A significant portion of his offense comes from his playmaking ability on the powerplay, where seven out of his 15 points originate. While I appreciate Del Mastro’s defensive skills, I have observed in my viewings that he occasionally struggles to move the robust AHL forwards out of the front of the net. This is certainly not a dealbreaker for him, but something to consider.
Drew Commesso #33 – Rockford IceHogs
At 6-2, Drew Commesso is not considered very tall for an NHL goaltender by standard measures, but his style of play makes him appear larger than he is. The rookie goaltender has posted some impressive numbers for his age this season, boasting an .896 SV% and a 2.93 GAA. Calm, rarely caught out of position, and athletic are the three main components of Commesso’s game. With the way he’s been playing, we expect to see him in the NHL soon.
Brad Lambert #13 – Manitoba Moose
After the small disappointment of last season in the AHL, it was just a matter of time before Brad Lambert would come back and become a force in the league. This season, the fast-finishing center has accumulated 21 points in 24 games. Not only does he lead his team in goals with 10, but he is also second in points, trailing only the next player we will talk about, Nikita Chibrikov. Lambert is a dynamo on offense; his hands and speed form a deadly combination for opponents, and his shot is above average. Defensively, he is great without being excellent. He may sometimes get bullied in his own zone, but the positives outweigh the negatives by a large margin in his case.
Nikita Chibrikov #19 – Manitoba Moose
As a rookie this season, Chibrikov has already proven that he is an important piece for his team. As mentioned earlier, he not only leads his team in points with 23 in 25 games but has also demonstrated that he is a reliable forechecking winger with some physicality in his game. Chibrikov already plays a style that can be plugged directly into an NHL lineup.
Thank you for reading this month’s AHL Update on Dobber Prospects. For more analysis, you can follow me on Twitter: @cbturcotte17.