AHL Report: March 2024

Cedrick Blais-Turcotte

2024-03-13

Cover credit: https://www.heraldnet.com/

In this month’s AHL report, we’ll take a closer look at some prospects from the East who may not currently have the highest value, but their performance suggests that this could change in the near future. These players may be flying under the radar but have been making significant strides in their development and could soon become impactful contributors at the NHL level.

Angus Crookshank #9 – Belleville Senators

Despite a slower start with only two points in six games, Crookshank has experienced a significant breakthrough this season, producing at a point per game since then. What has allowed Crookshank to reach this level this season has been his almost elite vision on the ice, particularly evident when he’s under tight coverage. When he’s out there, he doesn’t hold onto the puck for long but consistently finds open teammates. Even when he doesn’t have a passing opportunity, Crookshank utilizes his average shot effectively to catch goalies off guard. However, it’s his vision that’s his bread and butter, making him an enticing pickup for any fantasy owner.

Gage Goncalves #39 – Syracuse Crunch

Goncalves fits the stereotypical mold of an all-around winger. He excels as a forechecker, preferring a north-south style of play, and he’s reliable defensively. This type of game has proven successful for him in the AHL, particularly this season with 45 points in 52 games. Despite his unusual ratio of 10 goals and 35 assists, don’t underestimate his powerful one-timer. With Tampa’s deep lineup, breaking into and maintaining a spot in the NHL might be challenging for him. However, if he does, he could be a sleeper pick to make some noise.

Georgii Merkulov #10 – Providence Bruins

The Bruins seem to have discovered another promising prospect in Merkulov, an undrafted playmaking center who has been excelling in the league this season. Currently ranked sixth in points with 49, Merkulov’s game may not feature blazing speed or an elite shot, but his strong vision allows him to set up his linemates, notably Fabian Lysell, for scoring opportunities. On the powerplay, Merkulov often operates from the left side but truly shines when positioned in the bumper spot, where his skills are most effective. However, one area of concern is his defensive play. He has been criticized for being a passenger in his own zone, which could impact his chances of making the Bruins lineup.

Ty Smith #24 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Once regarded as a blue-chip prospect, Smith has faced challenges in recent seasons within the New Jersey organization, ultimately resulting in his trade to the Penguins. However, this setback may have served as a wake-up call for him. In 51 games this season in the AHL, Smith has amassed nine goals and 23 assists for 32 points. This level of production is no fluke; Smith has been a significant contributor in Wilkes-Barre, particularly evident in transition where the team heavily relies on him.

I initially wrote this article before his trade to Carolina. Obviously, with the depth of defensemen the Hurricanes have, it will be more difficult for him to make the roster, but I still think he can have value in the next few seasons.

Joel Blomqvist #30 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Another key aspect of the Penguins’ future may lie between the pipes. Blomqvist, a 22-year-old Finnish goaltender, is currently in his first season in the AHL, but his performance doesn’t reflect his lack of experience. Blomqvist ranks in the top 10 in every significant goalie statistic: with a GAA of 2.13 (3rd) and a SV% of 0.919 (7th). His success can be attributed to his ability to excel against obstructed shots and his acrobatic style of play, which serves him well in making crucial saves. These impressive stats indicate that Blomqvist has the potential to become a reliable goaltender for the Penguins in the near future.

Thank you for reading this month’s AHL Update on Dobber Prospects. For more analysis, you can follow me on Twitter: @cbturcotte17

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