Cut from the Philadelphia Flyers while on-site with the team prior to the start of their NHL season in Prague, prized prospect Joel Farabee looks to use his demotion to Leigh Valley as motivation to start his professional career with a spark.
Happy Hockey Season everyone! Welcome back to your second AHL report of the 2019-20 season. In the season’s first report last month, I highlighted 10 prospects who I believe were deserving of spending significant time in the AHL the coming season (in terms of their developmental trajectory)… well, safe to say my projections might have a been a little pessimistic! Five of the mentioned prospects (Cody Glass, Alex Texier, Adam Gaudette, Rasmus Sandin, and Jesper Boqvist) subsequently went on to have good – if not great – training camps with their NHL clubs and at least for the moment are NHL bound. As of the time this article was written, Texier is leading last month’s bunch with an average ice time of 15:48 per game, followed by Glass at 14:17. While time on ice, especially this earlier on doesn’t provide much of a sample size, it can however be used to gain a sense if insight into which prospects may or may not return to the AHL. For example, are the Toronto Maple Leafs really going to keep Sandin averaging just over 10 minutes per game on their bottom pairing versus sending him back to star for the Marlies? Only time will tell.
As the AHL season just kicked off on the October 4th, this is a time of great transition and uncertainty amongst AHL rosters. For this month’s report, I’m focusing on intriguing prospects who are debuting in the AHL or via hot starts to the season or impressive training camps, represent names to keep an eye on as the year unfolds.
Hartford Wolf Pack
While sometimes no news can be good news – this doesn’t appear to be the case. Once expected to be a lock to make the Rangers opening night, Kravtsov was one of the last cuts sent to Hartford to start the season. It is fair to assume this won’t be a season-long stint in the minors given Kravtsov’s skill and game-breaking abilities, however occurring this past Sunday (October 6) was the rather surprising development that Kravtsov was a healthy scratch for the Wolf Pack in game two. Although this may simply be a coaching tactic used by Wolf Pack’s coach Kris Knoblauch, it does seem a rather peculiar opening move for the rookie Head Coach merely two games into his AHL career. At the very least, Kravtsov will be a story to pay attention to over the coming month.
For many (including himself), a bit of a surprise cut for the Canadiens, having Poehling available for a waiver free call-up later in the season is in some sense a boon for Montreal. A concussion in an exhibition game may have played a factor in slowing Poehling’s momentum coming into the year after a strong, albeit brief introduction at the end of last season. Or Poehling may have simply lost his spot to the more offensively gifted Nick Suzuki. Having noted his dissatisfaction with the demotion, Poehling has struggled somewhat in his first two AHL regular season games. Regarded by Rocket’s coach Joël Bouchard as a player whose focus should be on developing his overall two-way game and pace, Poehling has accumulated a -4 throughout his first two showings with only one shot on net. Poehling has the tools to be a difference maker in the AHL level, and arguably has the potential to be a contributor for the Canadiens, however it may seem as though the Minnesotan centre is suffering from a bout of low confidence as he finds his way in professional hockey.
Leigh Valley Phantoms:
After having a very strong camp with Philadelphia, Joel Farabee only recently was sent down – in fact, he only arrived in Leigh Valley October 5th as he was oversees in Prague with the Flyers and thus, has not dressed for any AHL games. Despite showing his offensive tools alongside some of the Flyers top players, Farabee is still fresh out of the NCAA and spending some time down in the minors to play significant minutes and gain pro experience will only benefit him in the long-run. A winger with high IQ and natural two-way acumen, Farabee possesses above average hands that partner with a long-lasting motor that allows him to get in on the forecheck and wreak havoc. In Leigh Valley, Farabee will join several higher profile Flyers prospects to help make up what should be a fun core to watch grow over the course of this season. Adding Farabee to the likes of Morgan Frost, Issac Ratcliffe, German Rubtsov, and Matthew Strome presents an intriguing development curve for the possible future forward crop of the Flyers to develop chemistry early in their professional careers.
Former second-rounder Harkins has been quietly developing his two-way game over the last season and a half with the Winnipeg Jets affiliate. After posting career highs with 31 points in 70 games last season, Harkins looks to further develop the offensive side of his game. Known for being a hard-working pivot with good hockey IQ and an understanding for making the ‘right’ plays, Harkins hasn’t seemed to have found the right fit in opportunity or linemates thus far in the AHL. A pass-first centre, Harkins excelled playing alongside prototypical snipers over his WHL career and really hasn’t been able to click with anyone to a similar degree with the Moose. At 6’2 and 195 pounds, Harkins represents a potential Jets call-up should they need a forward to drop into their bottom six whom isn’t simply a grinder. While we can’t make assumptions based off two games, Harkins has already put seven shots on net (a vastly higher ratio than last season) – should this trend continue, he is one individual who might really benefit from adopting a shooters mentality to add more balance to the style of offense he can deliver at higher levels.
After seemingly making the Kings last season (before ultimately being sent back to Spokane of the WHL after five games), the mature Anderson-Dolan who plays a hard-working, 200 foot game that blends seamlessly with an above average offensive skillset was set on cracking the L.A. roster to start off 2019-20. While it may not have gone the way he wished, resulting in him being in one of the last group of cuts made by the Kings (along with fellow prized prospect Rasmus Kupari), Anderson-Dolan is set to take on a vital role with the Ontario Reign. Having been well regarded for his professional mindset thus far in his career, Anderson-Dolan has the potential for an explosive season in the AHL alongside a supporting cast of Kupari, Mario Kempe, Martin Frk, Kyle Clague, and the recently brought over Russian forward Nikolai Prohorkin. The forwards in this group seem to be in quite the battle to set themselves apart from their peers as the Kings do not exactly give off the vibe that their roster is good enough to be set in stone. Lacking talent (especially of the offensive variety) past their top 4-5 forwards, I would say the door is wide open for a prospect like Anderson-Dolan if he can show the same work ethic he has throughout his career with a newfound addition of scoring production at the pro level.
San Diego Gulls:
Strike Max Comtois down as one player I was not expecting to be sent back to the ‘A’ to start off the season. After showing strongly in his brief stint in the NHL (seven points in 10 games) to start last season, in addition to Anaheim’s depth (or lack thereof in terms of offensive wingers), Comtois seemed to be in an ideal position to secure a spot given his ability to play throughout the lineup. Looking ahead, I would be surprised if the former Canadian World Juniors Captain stays out of the NHL for long. That said, he will need to show he has the offensive production to make the jump. While his physical tools and power game project promisingly at the next level, the Ducks bottom six forward group already possesses plenty of big bodies who can grind. Thus, for Comtois to make the jump this season, he may just have to do so by proving he can light the lamp on a consistent basis.
At times viewed as more of an enigmatic prospect, Tippett has brought his shoot-first, ask questions later mentality to Springfield in a hurry. One of their more noticeable forwards through the first two games, Tippett might not have blown the doors open stats-wise, however has stood out as a player who makes things happen in the offensive zone and has exhibited creativity in his playmaking. While these are definitely good signs, make no mistake, Tippett still has a lot of developing to do to make his game NHL ready. If he can continue to build and make a difference on the scoreboard, expect a few cups of coffee with the Panthers in 2020 (or earlier if the injury bug hits hard!).
For the first few AHL Reports of the season I definitely want to focus and target players on each and every team in the league – however every now and then someone will catch my eye and their play will simply force themselves to get mentioned. Welcome Kole Lind.
Lind had himself a heck of a game this past Friday, posting three assists and displaying the vision and hockey sense that made him a 2nd round pick in 2017. Lind looked stronger and faster in camp with the Vancouver Canucks, however was a fairly early cut. That extra time to get re-acclimated back in Utica seems to have treated him well. In what was arguably his most dominant showing of his AHL career, Lind was making smooth one touch passes throughout the game and showed more acceleration off stand-still then we’ve seen in the past. Evidenced by his third helper of the night, Lind also displayed some great work against the boards, putting his 6’1 frame to use by engaging and winning more battles. Lind no longer looked like he was just a passenger on his line, but has begun to take charge and put his career back on the right track. Having seen a lot of Lind during his WHL time with Kelowna, here’s to hoping he can keep the momentum building and continue to show chemistry with his new linemate in proven AHL sniper Reid Boucher.
Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this month’s edition of the AHL Report! Have any questions or requests? Shoot me a follow and/or a DM on Twitter at @Kyle_AHL_Report!
Kyle Stewart is the author of Dobber Prospects ‘AHL Report’. Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., in addition to prospect scouting on the side, Kyle has a Masters degree in applied sport psychology and works with athletes of all levels as a Mental Performance Consultant in Ottawa, Ontario.
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