HOCKEY IS BACK (well, almost…)!
For starters, thank you all for coming to check out our new AHL Report for the 2019-20 season! Although we’re still a ways away (regular season begins October 4, 2019), the next month has a lot in store in terms of AHL talent – be it prospect camps, NHL camps, or simply trying to crack the pro rosters after coming overseas. To those of you whom frequent our various league reports across the site, you may recognize me from last season’s Swedish Hockey League (SHL) Report – I’ve made the transition over to the AHL this season and couldn’t be more excited to dive into some of the most NHL-ready prospects around, many of whom are destined for both lengthy pro careers and several cups of coffee with their parent clubs this very season.
For our pre-camp report I’ll delve into 10 intriguing prospects who caught my attention as we head into training camps and prospect tournaments. While certainly not all of these players will play a pivotal role in the AHL (e.g. NHL promotions; clauses to send back to Europe etc.) this season, the focus will be on players who are either likely to play a significant role in the AHL, or potentially move up and down to the NHL throughout the season. If you’re organization’s AHL club team isn’t mentioned, don’t fret, more coverage will be on its way in the coming weeks!
The big playmaking centre reportedly is feeling the best (and fittest) of his entire life coming into training camp season. We all know the Senators aren’t exactly wealthy in terms of offensive options, however Brown should have something to prove (and spots open to grab) if he can show the work ethic and drive that occasionally, have been known to be absent in his game. Looking to gain an edge for camp by his involvement in the Rookie Showcase, this is going to be a big month for Brown. While his offensive tools and size are appealing, he likely needs to mature his overall game still before making serious contributions in Ottawa. Seemingly he would benefit from another season in the AHL – but sometimes I wonder if most of the Senators roster would as well.
Covering the SHL last season, I was fortunate to get a ton of viewings of Jesper Boqvist, the 36th overall pick of the New Jersey Devils from 2017. One of the unique players on this list who contractually, can go back to Brynas if he doesn’t crack New Jersey out of camp, Boqvist could make things interesting given his smooth skating and creative playmaking style game. New Jersey may have welcomed a wealth of offensive talent over the last few months, however a strong camp could open doors for the six foot, 180lbs Swedish centre to add a little bit more scoring punch. Last season for Brynas, Boqvist was always noticeable on the ice and begun to show a maturing two-way game. His 35 points in 53 games naturally doesn’t blow anyone away, however I believe it is time he transitions to North America regardless of which Devils line-up he ends up on. Given he’s played over 100 SHL games (regular season/playoffs) over the past 3 years, developing in Binghamton with the option of some big-league cups of coffee might just be what is in the best interest for Boqvist to continue to make strides into the top six forward New Jersey projects him as.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers:
A lot of the training camp attention will (once again…) be focused towards where Josh Ho Sang and Michael Dal Colle end up, however a potential sleeper (can we call an 11th overall pick a sleeper?) might just be Wahlstrom. After a bit of a tumultuous season where he left Boston College mid-way through to join Bridgeport, Wahlstrom never seemed to quite get his footing. The pure puck skills and overall offensive package is undeniable however and you can never count someone that talented out of any line-up given the unknowns regarding chemistry (i.e. if Barzal and him click early and often in pre-season, expect him to be there opening night). That said, the more likely landing spot after camp will be in Bridgeport. He didn’t set the AHL on fire in his brief time last season, so perhaps a more patient approach where they groom him into an offensive leader at this level will be the best long-term approach. That said, it’s safe to say if he lights enough lamps in the ‘A’ it won’t be long before Trotz gives him a real look on Long Island.
Another good puck moving defencemen in the Hurricanes system, despite only signing in mid-August Priskie stood a fair chance of making the Canes out of camp (all assumed this was part of the motivation in his signing), and is definitely likely to see significant call-up games if he falls back to the Checkers after the pre-season. After captaining Quinnipiac while leading all Division 1 defencemen in goals last season, Priskie is likely one of the more NHL ready “prospects” who could play a significant role this season. Given the depth on the blue line in Carolina, where in my opinion the top five spots are already written down in a permanent marker and the existence of other young solid defensemen (e.g. Bean, McKeown, etc.) expect Priskie to be a leader for the Checkers and help run what currently projects to be a very dangerous power-play unit.
EDIT: Mid-writing this report, Carolina signed Jake Gardiner to a four year contract ($4.05). Naturally this only further suggests Priskie will be bound for the Checkers provided no more subsequent transactions take place.
This might be a slightly more controversial one. Many Vegas supporters would expect Glass to crack the Knights line-up from day one and fulfill his billing as their first drafted prospect ever. Despite a very strong showing (15 points, 22 games) in the AHL Playoffs for the Wolves, personally I don’t see Glass starting the season with the Knights (or if he does, not staying there at least). Arguably, a player with Glass’ hockey IQ and ability to play an up-tempo two-way game could survive in the NHL in a bottom-six role quite easily. However at the end of the day, a 6th overall pick isn’t meant to just survive, he’s meant to thrive. Given the depth up front in Vegas, the likely scenario is Glass spends time in the ‘A’ to continue maturing his play and adapting to a pro game. Will he last long? Probably not. I’d like to see him play considerable minutes in big situations for the Wolves as simply put, there’s too many top-six calibre forwards ahead of him on the big club. Realistically though, I can’t imagine he spends more than a couple months in Chicago before Vegas brass make room.
Texier found himself all over the map last season, splitting time between KalPa, Team France, Cleveland (AHL), and of course his regular season and playoffs debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although he didn’t necessary burst onto the scenes, Texier had a good introduction to NHL hockey – especially after getting dressed for eight playoff games. While he will surely play his tenacious style once camp hits, I foresee Blue Jackets brass sending Texier back to Cleveland to continue to progress in his offensive game rather than play a bottom-six role in the show. In seven games with the Monsters Texier posted seven points – suggesting he has the tools to be a lead offensive contributor. Expect him to get action in with Columbus sooner than later, perhaps even sticking once he gets the call should it come a few months into the season.
The staggering 6’8 Russian defender who spent last season bouncing between the AHL and ECHL in addition to dealing with his share of injury woes will be looking to make a statement in training camp. A defensive minded rearguard, Sosunov skates decently well for his size and can make the first pass, however has not shown much in terms of offensive potential since coming to North America. All the same, he may be a name to keep an eye out for in Syracuse this season. Knowing Tampa Bay’s current defensive outlook, he could very well get a few call-ups over the course of the season if he can show a comfortability at the American league level.
Simply put, Sandin had a great rookie season last year for the Marlies. Improving throughout the year and ending the regular season with 28 points in 44 games, Sandin arguably developed into the Marlies most important blueliner. Despite what his offensive production might suggest, Sandin isn’t a purely offensive defenceman in the ‘dynamic puck rushing’ sense. He possesses a very solid two-way foundation that goes along with top notch skating skills and excels in the transition game. After having reportedly put in a great summer leaving him feeling stronger and faster, I’d put my money on the idea that Sandin will play in the NHL this season. Perhaps not to start off the season, but we’ll soon find he will have passed several of the more experienced defencemen on the Leafs depth chart in short order.
If you followed my SHL Report last season, you know that I love me some Victor Soderstrom content. The smooth skating, puck transitioning two-way defenceman could very well make the ‘Yotes from day 1. While I’m not sure of his current contractual status, my hope is that if he doesn’t impress enough in camp, he’s open to exploring his options with the Roadrunners. Soderstrom didn’t get a lot of press last season given where he was playing in addition to some key injuries during major international events, however he very much fits the mold of yet another puck moving Swedish defencemen who’s single best attribute might just be the plain fact he can process the game and outthink his opposition. I believe his game is more NHL ready than most on this list, even if perhaps physically he isn’t quite there yet. This won’t be a defencemen coaches will have to “worry” about.
Gaudette ends up on this list more due to circumstance than anything else. The Vancouver Canucks already will be entering camp with a very crowded crop of forwards on one-way contracts (and that’s without Brock Boeser being signed at the moment). Unfortunately for Gaudette, he represents one of the few contracts that the team can send to the AHL to start the season that doesn’t risk waivers. All in all, this really isn’t a bad thing. Analytics will tell you Gaudette struggled last season and doesn’t appear to be ready to fulfill the third line centre role where he projects to be for the Canucks in the future. How he has strengthened his game and developed over the off-season will be interesting to watch – can he push the envelope enough to force Jim Benning and Travis Green in rewarding him a roster spot? Or perhaps the more difficult question will be, can they? Perhaps more prominent is that there’s several million dollars and two very defensive minded centres blocking Gaudette’s way into the Canucks’ bottom six.
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, Kyle has a Masters’ in sport psychology and works with athletes of all levels as a Mental Performance Consultant in Ottawa, Ontario.
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