AHL Report – All-Star Recap & Mid-Season Awards

by Brayden Olafson on February 20, 2018

                                             Timothy Liljegren – 17th overall pick in 2017

 

 

Over and Under-Owned AHLers

As fantasy owners, we sometimes use ownership as a measure of a player’s value, but when broken down, it doesn’t necessarily hold as much weight as we give it. Not all owners are well informed, some are limited in terms of their roster transactions, more often than not a player’s name and pedigree hold value longer than to his actual statistics.  Ownership percentage does, however, paint a picture of which players have gathered interest from fantasy owners, whether by merit, or by name recognition. In either case, it’s important for fantasy owners to periodically review their prospect pool and evaluate their prospects current trajectories in order to make informed decisions when it comes to making roster transactions.

 

Prospect values are an especially volatile beast, especially when we choose to watch a young player move from a league in which they have become comfortable and established into more challenging league, with pressure that they haven’t encountered in the past.

 

To weed out the usual suspects, I’ve listed players according to a very simple, but arbitrary criteria using the number 21. These AHL players have garnered enough attention to attain an ownership percentage of greater than 21 percent in Fantrax keeper leagues, in part due to their draft pedigree. Each of them is under the age of twenty one, and have yet to play greater than 21 NHL games. Their values are particularly volatile, as they begin and continue to form their own identity as a professional, but how much of their ownership is driven by merit, and how much is lingering from their pedigree.

 

Each player listed is accompanied by their details in terms of age, NHL experience, ownership rate as well as Dobber’s most recent prospect ranking. In order of ownership percentage, the full-time AHLers are as follows:

 

Timothy Liljegren, TOR | 34% owned, 0 NHL GP, 18 y/o | 17thin 2017 | Dobber – D4

Liljegren’s volatility factor remains quite high as this is his first year playing in North America, and as an 18-year-old nonetheless. Thus far, the Swede has done nothing to make us think that he isn’t deserving of his 34% ownership rate. That being said, Liljegren does not appear to be on track to contribute significantly at the NHL level for at least another year. On a competitive Marlies squad, he’s lost major offensive minutes to more experienced blueliners like Justin Holl, and Travis Dermott.

 

Verdict – Justified: 34% ownership is relatively high for the Leafs' 2017 first rounder, although his ceiling as an offensive contributor remains significant. Guhle has had a breakout season for the Amerks, and the Sabre’s may want him in the NHL soon. There aren’t many 18-year-old defensemen making ANY kind of impact at the AHL level though, so if you’re comfortable with another 1-2 year wait, Liljegren is off to a great start and could easily forecast to be a better producer than Guhle in three or so years.

 

Under-owned Comparison: Brendan Guhle, BUF 14% owned, 5 NHL GP, 20 y/o | 51st in 2015 | Dobber – D25

Evgeny Svechnikov, DET | 33% owned, 2 NHL GP, 21 y/o |19th in 2015 | Dobber – 34

A perfect example of the volatility that can be experienced by a young player transitioning into a professional league. Svechnikov had an outstanding rookie season for the Griffins less than a year ago. After sustaining a neck injury with the Red Wings during the NHL preseason, however, the Russian has recovered slowly and had an extremely disappointing first half of the season. Svechnikov’s ownership percentage is certainly a trailing indicator of his actual value, which is currently on a gloomy downtrend. At the under-ripe age of 21, he certainly has plenty of opportunities to correct his offensive trajectory, but it appears as though the elder Svechnikov may end up taking the standard Detroit Red Wings development path after all

 

Verdict – Not Justified: Svchnikov’s 19th overall pedigree is holding his ownership floor at 33%. If you’re tight on roster spots, or less patient than Ken Holland typically is, Merkley is an intriguing option. Arizona doesn’t have much room for the AHL rookie in their NHL lineup now either, but his rookie season is looking a lot like Svechnikov’s did, it remains to be seen if he’ll suffer the same sophomore fate. Regardless, at his current clip, Svechnikov is looking like he could be taking the typical Red Wings development path while Merkley could benefit more from an ever-changing Coyotes roster.

 

Under-owned Comparison: Nicholas Merkley, ARZ | 18% owned, 1 NHLGP, 20 y/o |30th in 2015 | Dobber – 62

Colin White, OTT | 32% owned, 8 NHL GP, 20 y/o | 21st in 2015 | Dobber -24

After taking a point shot to the wrist in an NHL preseason game this fall, Colin White, who stood a fair chance at cracking the Ottawa Senators opening lineup was halted in his progress. The former Boston College Eagle was highly regarded heading into September, as many expected him to start the year in Ottawa, thus earning his 32% ownership rate. After returning from his wrist injury, White joined the Belleville Senators where he’s had moderate offensive success as well as a brief opportunity in Ottawa. While the big Senators fall further and further out of a playoff spot, as well as contemplate some major transactions in their forward ranks, White’s future remains bright in Ottawa, but competition is looming…

 

Verdict – Almost justified: When White was the standalone frontrunner within the Senators prospect pool this fall, his 32% ownership rate was certainly justified. Due to his injury however, the door has been opened wider to fellow forward prospects Logan Brown and Filip Chlapik. White will have to prove that he can out-battle the two of them for ice-time when the positions become available in Ottawa’s future. Mangiapane on the other hand has launched himself to the top of the Flames prospect pool on the front end and is looking like the front-runner to fill any void available in Calagary’s forward ranks – his offensive output in the AHL is significantly more impressive than White’s – regardless of the depth of your league, if one of these two is already owned, the other should be as well.

 

Under-owned Comparison: Andrew Mangiapane, CGY | 12% owned, 9 NHLGP, 21 y/o | 166th in 2015 | Dobber – 48

Michael Dal Colle, NYI | 28% owned, 4 NHL GP, 21 y/o |Dobber – 138

Dal Colle received his first regular season NHL recall this season, after playing the entire year in Bridgeport a season ago. The recall however, was likely more of a strategic confidence boosting move than it was a merited promotion. While the Islanders have indeed been struck with regular injuries within their forward ranks, there have almost certainly been stronger performers in the Sound Tigers lineup than Dal Colle. Since being drafted fifth overall in 2014, the Ontario native hasn’t exactly developed as expected – especially considering the names who were taken subsequently in that draft (see W. Nylander – 7, D. Pastrnak – 25). Dal Colle has played the second least games of any player taken in the first round of the 2014 entry draft, however fantasy owners seem keen on his inevitable reveal.  

 

Verdict – Not Justified: There is really zero justification for Dal Colle’s high ownership rate in fantasy leagues other than the same factor that led to his recall this season. There is still a glimmer of hope in the Islander’s front office that he will ripen to the likeness of a top-5 draft pick. The odds of that happening however are slim to none, and his outlook is actually much closer to fellow 2014 draftee Warren Foegele who was taken two rounds later. Foegele’s ownership is much lower but stands nearly an equal chance of earning an full-time NHL roster spot within the next couple of seasons. If you’re looking to add a player of similar value, Foegele is probably sitting in your waiver pool.

 

Under-owned Comparisson: Warren Foegele, CAR | 5% owned, 0 NHLGP, 21 years old | Dobber – 110

Luke Kunin, MIN | 27% owned, 17 NHL GP, 20 y/o | 15th in 2016| Dobber – 13

After a rocky October being bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL, the first-time AHL All-Star seems to be back on track with his development in Iowa. The former University of Wisconsin captain has somewhat found his offensive stride in the AHL, though still likely has more to give. Despite being just over the 0.5 point per game mark, Kunin hasn’t gone more than three consecutive AHL games without a point which came only once, back in November after his demotion from Minnesota.

 

Verdict – Justified: At 27% ownership, the gap between Kunin and any of his comparables is quite close to negligible given similar production. As we’ve seen with Michael Dal Colle, draft position will always play a factor in how an organization deploys a certain player, therefore Kunin will likely receive as much opportunity, or more as a similar performing player who was selected later.

 

Under-owned Comparison: Nicolas Roy, CAR |14% owned, 0 NHLGP, 21 y/o | 96th in 2015 |Dobber – 36

Julien Gauthier, CAR | 23% owned, 0 NHL GP, 20 y/o | 21st in 2016 | Dobber – 72

On a healthy Charlotte Checkers squad, the AHL rookie has struggled to get into a groove offensively, but has showed flashes of what the Hurricanes hope will become consistent production. With 9 goals and 3 assists through 40 games, Gauthier seems to be stuck behind several other Hurricanes prospects, and will have to beat out a veteran for ice-time before we see his offense spike.

 

Verdict – Not Justified: At 10% ownership, Cirelli represents several other two-way forwards who deserve a share of Gauthiers attention. While Gauthier is clearly being restricted by a strong farm system, Cirelli has overcome a similar situation in Syracuse and has the offensive production to prove it.

 

Under-owned Comparison: Anthony Cirelli, TAM | 10% owned, 0 NHLGP, 20 y/o | 72nd in 2015| Dobber – 58

Zach Senyshyn, BOS |21% owned, 0 NHL GP, 20 years old | 15th in 2015 | Dobber – 76

To quote the great Pierre McGuire, “I think there were better players than this available right now at this number in the draft.” As a major riser at the 2015 entry draft, expectations varied greatly for the 15th overall pick, and for the most part, he has developed as expected. Despite the common thought that he was drafted too high by the Bruins, his flashy 1st round pick tag remains, and thus, his ownership has been boosted.

 

Verdict – Not Justified: You don’t have to look far to find an under-owned player to compare to Senyshyn. Bob Mackenzie had Senyshyn ranked at 40th overall going into the 2015 entry draft – very close to that portion of the second round, the Bruins selected Swede, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, who has no doubt outperformed his fellow Bruin prospect at the AHL level. Looking back, all signs point toward Don Sweeny regretting at least one of his three consecutive first-round selections that year with this one being the most likely. Given their current production, the latter pick is certainly the better fantasy own, which isn’t quite reflected in their ownership rates.

 

Under-Owned Comparison: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, BOS | 15% owned, 1NHLGP, 21 y/o | 45th in 2015 | Dobber – 55

 

** For the given criteria, only 3 of the 21%+ ownerships are entirely justified, that is in comparison to their peers. Draft status plays a role in a prospects opportunity, but at the end of the day, performance should outweigh pedigree. Keep a close eye on Dobber’s rankings and adjust your prospect pool accordingly.

**Notice several Hurricanes prospects mentioned above – They’ve done an excellent job drafting and developing their prospects, and therefore making extremely efficient use of their mid-late round selections.

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Midseason AHL Awards Following suit with the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and other Dobber pages, I’ve made my own selections for the AHL’s midseason awards. With descriptions, the key categories are as follows:

Les Cunningham Award (MVP) – Dylan Strome, Tuscon Roadrunners | 17g 24a +9 in 32 GP

Runner up – Michael Huchinson, Manitoba Moose

 

Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award (Rookie) – Dylan Strome, Tucson Roadrunners | 17g 24a +9 in 32 GP

Runner up – Mason Appleton, Manitoba Moose | 16g 27a + 18 in 46 GP

 

Eddie Shore Award (D) – Matt Taormina, Laval Rocket |

Runner up – TJ Brennan, Lehigh Valley Phantoms

 

Aldege ‘Baz” Bastien Memorial Award (Goalie) – Michael Huchinson, Manitoba Moose

Runner up – Garrett Sparks, Toronto Marlies