Some hockey players take more time in the AHL before they develop into NHL quality players. A great example of this is Yanni Gourde, who played 298 games in the AHL before becoming a regular in the NHL. In this report, we will take a closer look at older prospects who appear to be on the cusp of finally getting their chance in the NHL.
Alex Steeves #46 – Toronto Marlies
With the depth scoring struggles that the Maple Leafs are facing at the time of writing this, it may not be long before Steeves gets a shot in the NHL. In the last two years, he played three games for the Leafs each season, but in 2023-24 he seems on another level. Despite not being the biggest forward, his office is truly in front of the net. Every chance he gets to go in front of the net, he takes, and when he is there, opponents have a difficult time moving him away. In his own zone, Steeves does the job. He is not the most proactive, but does what you would expect from a winger. Steeves is a perfect complementary piece for any lines that need a boost — a pure grinder who, by all means, seems to have a true desire to get to the NHL and stay there.
Trey Fix-Wolansky #64 – Cleveland Monsters
Fix-Wolansky, the diminutive playmaking winger, has been a force in the AHL since last season. In his last 95 games in the league, he has amassed 41 goals and 106 points. For him, it feels like now or never, as he will turn 25 in May. If he is unable to secure a spot on the Columbus roster now, it becomes challenging to envision him making it when the team is at its peak. With that said, here is why I believe he would excel in the NHL right now. His standout skill is clearly his vision; on the ice, he effortlessly finds and creates opportunities for his linemates. When there’s no obvious passing option, Fix-Wolansky utilizes his above-average wrist shot effectively.
Lucas Carlsson #32 – Charlotte Checkers
The oldest player we will talk about today, Carlsson, plays a really mature game. He stays calm when it is time to make zone exits, even when pressured. In the offensive zone, when he goes deep, he is always the first one back. One thing that helps him do that is his agility. He is not the fastest skater but has great mobility, particularly at the opponent’s blue line when he has the puck or is trying to become available for a pass. Carlsson shoots a lot; this season, he has a rate of almost four shots a game, and he does that without neglecting his defense.
Leon Gawanke #26 – San Jose Barracuda
There has been a consistent progression for Gawanke since his debut in the AHL. Unfortunately, before this season, he was in an organization with a lot of depth at his position (the Winnipeg Jets) and never had an opportunity. The German offensive defenseman possesses a great shot and utilizes his skating very well. One impressive stat that is destined to change for him this season is his PPIPP. Gawanke has had a point in every goal scored on the powerplay when he is on the ice. Usually, an 80% success rate is amazing, but a 100% rate is extraordinary. Considering the type of defense the Sharks have, it is surprising that Gawanke has not already been called up, at least for a short stint.
Olivier Rodrigue #33 – Bakersfield Condors
With his success this season and the struggles of Jack Campbell, it seems that it’s the perfect storm to see Rodrigue in the NHL this season. The 23-year-old goaltender impresses me with his quick and precise movements, as well as his above-average puck-tracking skills. The Oilers may have found a solution to their goalie problem with him.
Thank you for reading this month’s AHL Update on Dobber Prospects.
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