The AHL season is in full swing, even if the games played varies from a minuscule six games for the San Jose Barracuda to a high of a dozen for the St. John's IceCaps. But for young players that should be on the radar, the picture is becoming clearer.
Kasperi Kapanen continues to impress at the AHL level, being top 10 in both total points and shots. Along with Brendan Leipsic's 15 points are helping the powerhouse Toronto Marlies continue their dominance. Both plays are knocking on the NHL door regarding production but on a very young Maple Leafs team, Head Coach Mike Babcock might hesitate to add even more youth to the squad. With goals like the one below, Babcock's hand might be forced.
The Marlies went on another powerplay and converted just four seconds in. 3-1 on Kasperi Kapanen's Ovechkin-esque second of the game. pic.twitter.com/eduyYkA6mF— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 6, 2016
Staying in the east, AHL rookie Jake Guentzel left the University of Nebraska-Omaha after three years and joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins late last year with impressive results. Guentzel registered 20 points in 21 regular and postseason AHL last year and jumped out to 12 points in 10 matches for the little Penguins. The 2013 third round pick is progressing nicely and might earn a cup of coffee at the NHL level and potentially challenge for a roster spot next year for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
In The Middle
If the small stature of the Juuse Saros is keeping him off the radar of fantasy players and prospect hounds, it is time to stop. Saros has performed at every level and has every tool in a goaltenders toolbox except a 6'3" tape measure behind him. His AHL save percentage in seven games this season is an impressive .929, and his one start with the Nashville Predators allowed a single goal.
Predators backup Marek Mazanec has been terrible with a .806 save percentage opening the door for an NHL backup job that Saros could and should steal. In a few years time, Saros could turn out to be the steal of the 2013 draft when the Predators took the SM-Liiga HPK star with the 99th overall pick. In a keep league of any variety, Saros should not be available.
The Colorado Avalanche raised some eyebrows in selecting AJ Greer in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft but now looks to have a solid power forward prospect on their hands. After leaving Boston University in the middle of last year to join the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Greer was in the odd position of being a 19-year-old QMJHL player that could make the leap the AHL. So far, the third move in less than a year is paying off for Greer, who leads the San Antonio Rampage in points (11 points in 11 games) and recently strung together a seven-game point streak that was snapped in a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Barracuda. Power forwards can take longer to develop, but his march forward regarding production and increasingly tough leagues is something to take note of and add to your watch list.
Four youngsters have become mainstays on prospect and fantasy radars. In San Jose, Nikolay Goldobin finally has some talent to play with in Kevin Labanc. The two 2014 draft picks came to San Jose in very different slots at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Goldobin 27th and Labanc 171st overall, respectively. The skilled wingers are centered by two-way former Kelowna Rocket Rourke Chartier, selected in that same 2014 draft in the 5th round, in forming the most dynamic line in the Barracuda's short history.
Goldobin has been especially proficient in setting up the play, and his eight apples lead the team. Labanc and Goldobin share the team lead with 10 points and Labanc was recalled on Monday to join the Sharks on their six-game road trip and will make his debut against the Washington Capitals.
In Stockton, a pair of first round picks are making their mark. Mark Jankowski's four years at Providence College appear to have paid off. After the conclusion of his NCAA career, Jankowski joined the Stockton Heat last season and was a positive impact for the Baby Flames with six points in only eight games. His solid play has continued and has taken another step forward with three goals and seven assists in eight contests. His overall play in all three zones will be something that is a need in Calgary.
2013 first round pick Morgan Klimchuk has simply exploded. After only nine points in 55 games as an AHL rookie, it's taken only seven games to eclipse that modest total. His five goals on only 14 shots are tops on the Heat and Klimchuck has added five assists as well. Klimchuk scored 80 points in his final WHL season split between the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings, so there is proof of offensive ability in his major junior career. He could be worth a stash on benches in deep leagues in case this hot start continues.
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