February AHL Report

by Kyle Stewart on February 17, 2020

Gabe Vilardi happy to be back in hockey after back injuries threatened his career. Photo Courtesy of https://mayorsmanor.com/

 

Welcome back to the AHL Report! For our February edition, we are going extend upon our January report by taking a special focus on “standout” players. Now a month further along in
the AHL season, what we commonly see arise during this time of year is a changing of the guard atop the AHL leader boards. As teams’ NHL counterparts find themselves slipping out of
contention, or oppositely, entering heated races where they are looking to gain an edge, we often see more players called up in January and February. Teams are willing to give new players a
fresh look in the show where their current lineups are not meeting expectations or are hoping some competition for roster spots might add a needed push. How this changes the AHL landscape is that many top scorers and premier players are at the very least, seeing spot duty in the NHL and thus reducing their AHL action. This edition we will focus on players within the
Central and Pacific divisions who have either taken a big step developmentally or a player who has only continued to shoulder the load of responsibility for his team. As always, there is a
certain level of subjectivity that comes into play, however, my focus will be on the players I’ve managed to see in-game action and who stand out as a difference-maker both in-game and
statistically.

 

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Central Division


Milwaukee Admirals
G Troy Grosenick & G Connor Ingram


Yakov Trenin would have likely earned this selection if he had remained in the AHL, however, since proving a fairly seamless fit with the Predators, it is unlikely he returns to the
Admirals. Grosenick (25GP) and Ingram (26GP) have been splitting starts for Milwaukee and both have performed beyond expectations. Oddly enough, these two goaltenders were posting
near-identical numbers until the past month. With a recent hot streak, Ingram is sporting a 0.931 save percentage to go along with a 1.99 GAA, edging out Grosenick’s 0.921 and 2.24
respectively. Milwaukee leads the AHL Standings and when we see the standout performances of both their goaltenders, one no longer has to wonder why.

 

Iowa Wild
RW Gerald Mayhew


While the Wild don’t lack standout candidates (e.g. Sam Anas; Brennen Mennell), no one has lit the lamp like Mayhew has this season. His 35 goals place him atop the league goal-scoring
leaders as he surpassed his prior career-high of 27 already. With 11 goals since our last report, Mayhew just continues to keep scoring for the Wild and has a fairly secure nine-goal lead of
Reid Boucher’s 26.

 

Chicago Wolves
C Lucas Elvenes


Although having slowed down from a torrid pace at the start of the season, Elvenes’ rookie AHL campaign has been a very successful transition over from Sweden. The playmaker
still needs to refine some inconsistency out of his game, however, he has shown promising signs of top-six potential at the NHL level.

 

Rockford Ice Hogs
LW Brandon Hagel


Fairly slim pickings in Rockford, however, credit to rookie forward Hagel who has put up 17 goals so far this year after having a brief eight-game stint in 2018-19. After not being signed
by the Sabres only for the Blackhawks to snag him, Hagel appears to be showing some promise and future potential as a middle-six forward.

 

Texas Stars
LW Jason Roberston

The rookie winger has had an up and down adjustment to professional hockey, however, once he grasped his footing at the AHL level, Roberston has been filling the net for the Texas
Stars at a notable rate. Thanks to a shoot-first mentality and great instincts in the offensive zone, Robertson is up to 20 goals in 48 games.

 

Grand Rapids Griffins
C Michael Rasmussen


Although a mid-November injury took him off what was looking like a great start to the season, the 6’6 center returned on January 10th and has slowly been getting caught back up to
speed. In addition to a hard release and above-average hands, Rasmussen has really begun to show a proclivity for using his large frame more effectively in board battles and in protecting the
puck before making setting up his teammates. Since returning, Rasmussen’s 8 points in 12 games might not scream off the page, however, it is looking as though he is getting much-needed reps in
the AHL level after perhaps being rushed to Detroit last season.

 

Manitoba Moose
G Mikhail Berdin


Until his NHL run, this should have been 100% Jansen Harkins’ article who was having an absolute gem of a breakout season before joining the Jets in December. Since the lifeblood of
Manitoba’s first half the season is there no longer, I’ll give an honorable mention here to rookie goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Without Harkins, the Moose are not a very competitive team and
although that reflects poorly on the stat lines, the 21-year-old Russian has performed admirably (280GAA, 0.914SAV%). As a sixth-rounder (2016), Berdin is not as large of a goalie as are so
common in today’s NHL, however in combining his 6’2 frame and athleticism with a good-sized workload where he’s facing many shots, perhaps Berdin can continue to be a bit of a late
bloomer.

 

Mikhail Berdin tracks the puck in action for the Manitoba Moose. Photo Courtesy of https://www.tsn.ca/polopoly_fs/1.1284196!/fileimage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/mikhail-berdin.jpg


San Antonio Rampage
LW Nathan Walker


The Australian national and former third-round draft pick of the Capitals is having somewhat of a breakout season for the Rampage this year at age 26. Surpassing his prior career-high of 17 goals (19 in 42 games thus far), Walker is one of the few bright spots on a down year in San Antonio which languishes near the bottom of Central division. The move from Hershey
appears to have been a much-needed transition for Walker.

 

Pacific Division


Bakersfield Condors
LW Tyler Benson


Benson has been an offensive leader for the Condors all season – one their most notably skilled playmakers, he has thrived off threading passes through traffic both on the rush, and
setting up Bakersfield’s power play. Dressing for his first two NHL games on Feb. 6th and 8th, Benson was ultimately held pointless in very limited ice time and returned to the Condors.

 

Colorado Eagles
G Adam Werner & G Hunter Miska


The Eagles are an intriguing team. While they play above average at both ends of the ice and sport a +19 goals differential, no one on the team would be mistaken for an AHL star. Hence
giving this one to their two goalies. While Hunter Miska has played seven fewer games than Adam Werner, it is Miska who has arguably been the biggest difference-maker with a 0.935 save
percentage. Without a whole lot of offensive options, the Eagles goalies combine for a very competitive 26-12-3 record.

 

Ontario Reign
F Gabriel Vilardi


Now that’s a name I have not heard in a long time, a long time. At this point in his career, it feels as though Vilardi has (A) been around forever, and (B) forever been injured. The
Kingston, Ontario forward has had more than his fair share of challenges to face before starting his professional journey, however, it seems he is finally hitting his stride. A skilled forward whose best moments often come below the hash marks, Vilardi has a very respectable 21 points in 29 games in his rookie AHL season. Currently riding a hot streak with three goals and seven
points in his last four games, Vilardi could be a name to watch as both the AHL and NHL seasons come to a close in the coming months.

 

San Diego Gulls
G Anthony Stolarz

Perhaps no longer a prospect, Stolarz has been the backbone of the Gulls this season. A pivotal factor to the Gulls 9th ranked penalty kill. While making the playoffs, or even further, a deep
stretch is likely out of the question with the Gulls current roster, Stolarz 0.921 SAV%, and 18-10-4 record represents a small glimmer of hope.

 

San Jose Barracuda
C Maxim Letunov


Certainly, this mention could have been split with Joachim Blichfeld, given the latter’s recent mention in December, let’s highlight the Barracuda’s point leader thus far into the season.
Letunov has bounced around a fair bit since coming to North America as a young teenager to play Tier-1 hockey in Dallas and in the USHL, however, the 2nd year AHL pro is playing with
more poise and confidence than his rookie year and this has shown both on and off the scoreboard. Statistically, he’s already set career highs in goals and assists with significantly less
games played (than last year), while the ‘eye test’ is identifying that Letunov has been making a concerted effort to be more engaged in the corner and net battles, while also taking a step in his
skating and explosiveness.

 

Stockton Heat
C Alan Quine


Not the biggest player on the ice, Quine has been one who you always notice while taking in Stockton games given his speed and excellent acceleration. After a couple of decent seasons in Bridgeport, Quine has been a major contributor for the Heat, producing at a clip well over a point per game. His 41 points in 32 games this season has him at the second-highest points
per game in the entire AHL amongst regular skaters.

 

Tucson Roadrunners
LW Brayden Burke

Although Burke is a rather diminutive forward, Burke has been the offensive leader for Tucson after a mediocre rookie season last year. Currently eclipsing a point per game with 45 in 43, Burke has been a particular threat on the man advantage where he has scored 11 of his 19 goals. While he has been called up by Arizona, he has yet to dress in an NHL game, however, it would
seem it will only be a matter of time for the offensive winger.

 

Brayden Burke in action for the Tuscon Roadrunners. Photo Credit to https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKVexzfU4AAb7P8.jpg


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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 DM on Twitter at @Kyle_AHLReport!
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.