AHL Report: April 2018 – Revisiting Early-season AHL Storylines

by Brayden Olafson on April 10, 2018
  • Feature Story
  • AHL Report: April 2018 – Revisiting Early-season AHL Storylines

 

After starting to scout and write for the DobberProspects group around a year and a half ago, I was given the opportunity to take over these monthly AHL editorials for the site in the fall of my second season here. Its been a learning and growing experience for me as I hope it has been for anyone whose bothered to check in on what I've felt has been a hot topic in the AHL throughout the year. That being said, as with any proper investigation, or experiment, one of the most important tasks is review and closure. Before we get into the bulk of this month's AHL review, let's take a quick look at some of the actual headlines from the AHL world over the past month or so.

First off, last week the AHL announced their 2017-18 All-Rookie team. Most of these players have been discussed here at some point throughout the season, but regardless of what my thoughts have been on them, this is a pretty shiny feather in each of their hat's that should draw fantasy owners attention. Last season's team included Jake Guentzel and Mark Jankowski, while years prior to that included Mikko Rantanen, Brandon Montour, Viktor Arvidsson and more!

 

Without further ado, the team is as follows:


Ville Husso, G | San Antonio Rampage
Filip Hronek, D | Grand Rapids Griffins – Sami Niku, D | Manitoba Moose
Mason Appleton, F | Manitoba Moose – Daniel Sprong, F | Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins -Dylan Strome, F | Tucson Roadrunners


The AHL also announced the equally as prestigious First and Second all-star teams, with several rookies making the cut for that list as well. The First All-Star team included:


Garret Sparks, G | Toronto Marlies
Jacob MacDonald, D | Binghamton Devils – Sami Niku, D | Manitoba Moose
Chris Terry, LW | Laval Rocket – Phil Varone, C | Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Mason Appleton, RW | Manitoba Moose


The Second All-Star team included the following players:
Michael Hutchinson, G | Manitoba Moose
T.J. Brennan, D | Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Zach Redmond, D | Rochester Americans
Andreas Johnsson, LW | Toronto Marlies – Austin Czarnik, C | Providence Bruins – Ben Smith, RW | Toronto Marlies


***


The first AHL feature that I ever wrote for DobberProspects was last October, where we looked at how the NHL's CBA can have an effect on not only on blooming CHL prospects, but bubble prospects who are eligible for the AHL as well. In November we looked at some of the players who were either returning to the AHL from NHL opportunities, or new to the AHL altogether, as well as some of the players who were off to both hot and cold starts. To close out the regular season, this month we'll take a look at all of those topics and the players that they concerned, getting an idea of how their seasons progressed, and how far off point I was when we talked in the fall – here it goes!

October Feature, Bubble Prospects<https://dobberprospects.com/october-ahl-report-cba-affecting-bubble-prospsects/>

1. Jared Coreau, Detroit

October Summary: Coreau was being restricted to the AHL in the fall but it was obvious that the Wings wanted him with the big club after what he had shown at the end of last season. Although they seemed to favor Coreau over Mrazek, it was impossible to demote the latter with his $4,000,000 price tag – one had to go.

Review: One went. About a week prior to the deadline, The Wings were finally able to recoup assets on Mrazek, which allowed Coreau to finally break through the AHL bubble. Since being recalled, the 26-year-old has had a couple of rocky starts though, being pulled in his first appearance versus the Bruins, and allowing at least three goals in each of his four. He's unrestricted on July 1st, so what happens between now and the end of the regular season will be pivotal for his future in Motor City.



2. Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto

October Summary: Without a top-6 position available with the Leafs, it seemed as if Kapanen was doomed to be a Marlie until the departure of an unnamed high profile winger on an expiring contract.

Review: JVR is still a leaf, and Kapanen is consistently earning better than 10 minutes of ice time. So what gives? Well, a few things – Soshnikov got injured, then Soshnikov got traded, and Eric Fehr cleared waivers. It wasn't until January 23rd though, that the Leafs finally decided that Kapanen was a better fit than Fred "the goat" Gauthier to drive offense AND kill penalties. In his 30 games this season, he's had modest production, albeit in a modest role. Eight points in 30 games isn't much to shake a stick at, and neither is his 1.38 P/60, his shooting percentage is respectable, even at a higher average shooting distance than all but two Leaf forwards. What might be worse for Kapanen is that Andreas Johnsson has been impressive in his own brief recall and is looking like the top candidate to replace JVR should he depart the six on July 1st.



3. Mark Jankowski, Calgary

October Summary: Jankowski had an impressive pre-season for the Flames and basically all-but earned himself a spot on the roster. If it weren't for the greatest Czech to ever play the game, Jankowski might have had a spot out of camp

Review: Sadly, but inevitably, Jagr's Flames experiment did not go as planned. Coupled with an early injury, the highly regarded winger departed from the NHL and returned to his homeland, opening a spot on the wing for the eager Jankowski. The 23-year-old has spent almost the entirety of his time in the NHL centering some combination of a line with Sam Bennett with whom he is tied with in terms of P/60. Jankowski is just below the 1 Goal/60 mark as well sitting fifth on the Flames roster. As long as the Flames continue to stack their first line, and rightfully so, Jankowski will be forced to drive the majority of his own offense – look out if he ever has the opportunity to center Gaudreau.



4. Shea Theodore, Vegas

October Summary: Back in the fall, I naively accused a poor draft strategy of holding Theodore out of the Knights NHL roster. My judgement was an emotional one though, after all, Theodore was the top prospect in Anaheim who was presumably only being held out of their lineup due to the immense depth Anaheim held on the blueline – Vegas didn't have that, they had Luca Sbisa and Jon Merrill.

Review: It still bothers me to some extent that McPhee allowed Theodore to endure the public humiliation of being demoted to the affiliate of an expansion franchise. In hindsight though, it's tough to argue with where McPhee's leadership has brought the team, regardless of his public perception in doing so. Eight defensemen have played in excess of 25 games for the Knights at this point in the season, by the time the book closes that number is likely to be 30 games. The disappointing starts by Griffin Reinhart (0GP) and Jason Garrison, followed by subsequent demotions allowed for Theodore to finally get his foot in the door at the end of October. In the 61 games since he's been paired with Deryk Engelland, where he started relatively hot, cooled off into February, and came back again for a strong finish with 9 points in his final 10 contests.

November Feature, New Arrivals<https://dobberprospects.com/ahl-report-new-arrivals/>


1. Josh Ho-Sang

November Summary: The notorious rebel, Ho-Sang was demoted from the typically offense-starved Islanders after being labeled as a potential break-out candidate for the season, and then subsequently recalled.

Review: Ho-Sang would be returned to the Sound Tigers from the Islanders on December 15th after his emergency loan. He has yet to return to the NHL, where the Islanders have been more than capable of producing offense without him, making my initial judgement a little less relevant. Where the Islanders did struggle through the year was on the other side of the puck, an area of the game where Ho-Sang certainly isn't praised for. Ho-Sang's output in the AHL this season hasn't been anything to write home about either (7-18-25 in 40 games), a significant drop from his expectations in the fall. Both the Islanders and the Sound Tigers will miss the playoffs this season, meaning Ho-Sang's season will abruptly come to an end following the AHL regular season. The Islanders are an interesting file in several ways going into the summer, but Ho-Sang's wild-card status makes it anyone's guess where he'll start next fall.



2. Lawson Crouse

November Summary: After being prematurely cast as an NHL-caliber player with the Coyotes a season ago, the newfound depth in the desert allowed for Crouse to be appropriately placed within the organization for some much-needed development time.

Review: Crouse received a brief recall around Christmas time in which he provided a lackluster performance for the Yotes. In Tucson, the 20-year-old has averaged well below half a point-per-game – much below the expectations of a former 11th overall pick. Brad Richardson and Zac Rinaldo are both playing on expiring contracts for Arizona – Crouse is a hybrid type player of the two and therefore could still be suitable for an NHL position in the final year of his ELC, albeit, primarily in a checking role.



3. Anthony Deangelo:

November Summary: After a brief audition with the Rangers at the beginning of the season, Deangelo was getting blasted in his own end. After his demotion the Rangers became the hottest team in the NHL… but we all know how that's ended.

Review: The Rangers didn't stay hot for the rest of the season, but Deangelo was recalled. Was it all his fault? Certainly not, but the offensive defenseman still has plenty of room for improvement in his own end. Deangelo's relative Corsi is 5.55% above the Ranger average, and best among Ranger defensemen. With a sample size similar to fellow rookies O'Gara, and Pionk, Deangelo's possession numbers actually look outstanding, if the Ranger's rebuild is on the fly, DeAngelo should benefit greatly from Ryan McDonagh's departure.



4. Ivan Barbashev

November Summary: An Ice cold start after being hyped throughout the summer was not what the top-ranked Blues prospect had in mind for the 2017-18 season. Ivan was swiftly sent to Chicago for an attempt to bolster his confidence.

Review: Barbashev's demotion lasted twenty games, primarily throughout the month of November where he contributed 10 points with the Chicago Wolves. Looking back, the density of the Wolves schedule through the month of November could have been a factor is Barbashev's demotion, thinking that the youngster's development would benefit from as much ice time as possible in the month-and-a-half long stretch. Since being recalled again in December he's remained a disappointment as far as his pre-season expectations are concerned, totaling 13 points in his 53 games since December 10th at a mediocre rate of 1.21 points/60.



5. Kevin Labanc

November Summary: His demotion to the Barracuda was a very welcome surprise… that is for the Barracuda. Unfortunately, it left the rest of us dazed and confused as Labanc's first few games had seemed to have been going great.

Review: Well, the surprise didn't last long. Labanc joined the Barracuda on November 5th, and immediately turned his frustration into production. He tallied three assists against the Texas Stars that nights, and then scored a goal six nights later against the Manitoba Moose – he was recalled the next night and hasn't looked back since. His 39 points in 72 games is good for fifth among Sharks forwards (excluding Evander Kane's small but impressive sample size) in points per game, as well as fourth in points/60, again excluding Kane.


Other mentions throughout the season


Filip Chytil | November 14th, 2017 – Hot Start


Back in November we looked at Chytil's hot start with the Hartford Wolf Pack after an impressive preseason with the Rangers. Fast-forward four months and Chytil is back in Manhattan suiting up for the Blueshirts now that they've been mathematically eliminated from post-season action. In 45 games of AHL competition, the 18-year-old was a consistent producer totaling eleven goals and twenty assists for the Pack. He and fellow 2017 first-round-selection Lias Andersson were recalled from the Wolf Pack together and were immediately productive, with both earning a single point in their opening game against the Capitals. With recent rumors of the Rangers being in contention to sign Ilya Kovalchuck in his return from the KHL, Chytil and Andersson could look forward to being mentored by the veteran pro as they make their transition to the NHL.

Warren Foegele | February 20th, 2018 – Under-owned
The rookie AHLer broke into the pro league only a few months removed from missing out on a Memorial Cup with the Erie Otters in Windsor. On the stacked Otters roster, Foegele ranked sixth in points-per-game. Foegele made the transition to the AHL seem inexplicably easy by most player's standards, ignoring the fact that he's a former third-round-pick. In his brief recall between March 26th and 28th, he'd been exceptional for the 'Canes, scoring two goals, and adding an assist in his first two games. With a healthy prospect pool looming in the Tar-heel state, Foegele will certainly be disputed in his challenge for a roster spot next fall, but so far he's done everything to prove that he is entirely prepared to drive offense as a responsible NHL player.


****


The AHL playoffs begin on April 15th with the North Division playoff teams having been locked in for some time now. Only five teams remain in limbo, all which can be rounded out with Rockford winning in Iowa tomorrow, and San Diego beating Tucson in one of their final three games. Milwaukee, Stockton and San Jose each stand an extremely thin chance of beating out one of the aforementioned teams in the ultimate positive outcomes of their and their competitors remaining schedule.

The Toronto Marlies clinched the AHL's Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy with a shootout loss to the Utica Comets on Friday night. The AHL's equivalent to the President's Trophy guarantee's that the Marlies will have home ice advantage as long as they advance in the AHL playoffs.


****

Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of the Humboldt Broncos players, staff, and Bolt FM staff. I grew up in a town 50km south of Humboldt, and currently live in an apartment where my kitchen window looks out at the Elgar Petersen Arena. I was lucky enough to make it to a few Bronco games this season – a tenacious and passionate group of kids that made it extremely easy for the community of Humboldt to rally around and be passionate for. The heart-pounding image of Kaleb Dahlgren (who is stable, but battling severe injuries in hospital) flicking his wrist and raising a leg as he celebrated past the Broncos bench after a goal seems to keep coming back to me as one of the most passionate moments I witnessed this season.

 

My youngest brother plays hockey in town as well – nearly every game, it seemed, we would see 8-10 players from the junior team sitting in the stands watching with us. With how supportive in the community, and amongst the many minor hockey teams the boys were, it's easy to forget what other priorities they could have had. On Friday morning, my wife watched out the window and mentioned to me that the bus was at the rink loading up for their trip to game 5 in Nipawin, their vehicles sitting at the arena even after last night's vigil are a painful reminder of the tragedy that will not be forgotten by the community of Humboldt, as well as the entire hockey community. Hockey is truly an afterthought right now. I hope and pray that the all of the friends and family are able to find some peace and solace in knowing what a profoundly positive impact their sons, brothers, and fathers have had on an the entire community.

 

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the families of the victims here<https://ca.gofundme.com/funds-for-humboldt-broncos>.