We’re a little over one week into the AHL season and I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some commentary on players making an impact during the early going.
- Marcus Foligno has picked up right where he left off in the NHL last season with Buffalo, scoring 5 goals during his first 5 games of the season for Rochester to lead the AHL in goals. 3 have came on the power play, but at regular strength he’s been a force no matter where he’s been placed in the lineup (shuffled up and down the throughout the top 3 lines). Cody Hodgson has also looked good, notching 7 assists, while T.J. Brennan leads all AHL defensemen with 7 points (though his -5 +/- does not look good).
- Cory Conacher is once again dominating, this time for Syracuse. He currently leads the AHL in scoring with 9 points through 5 games and appears to be a lock for NHL duty once Tampa Bay are back in business. He’s still undersized, but at this point he deserves a shot and it’s not like undersized guys have never worked in the NHL. Tampa Bay even has experience in this area with Martin St. Louis.
- Mikael Granlund, who many had picked to win the Calder Trophy in the NHL this season, is doing great in his first taste of North American hockey, leading Houston and all AHL rookies in scoring with 7 points. Marco Scandella has also been solid, pitching in 6 assists from the backend and proving he may have what it takes for a top 4 spot with Minnesota.
- Justin Schultz has been a force in the early going for Oklahoma City, recording 6 points, a +6, and logging tons of ice-time. He’s had a few defensive miscues, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from a rookie. His fellow future Edmonton stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle haven’t been hitting the scoresheet much as yet (just 3 points combined so far), but they’ve been generating tons of chances and should start piling up the points soon.
- Sami Vatanen has been great so far for Norfolk, with 6 points through 4 games. He’s Anaheim’s best defensive prospect and although undersized he’s adjusting well to the North American game and may be running the power play in the NHL soon enough. Fellow Anaheim prospects Kyle Palmieri and Peter Holland are also doing well and making a strong case for NHL duty.
- Sven Baertschi has been excellent for Abbotsford, again proving worthy of a spot with Calgary ASAP. He was a man amongst boys in the WHL and hasn’t had any problem adjusting to the professional game. Easily Calgary’s best prospect since Jarome Iginla.
- Calvin Pickard has been rock solid for Lake Erie thus far recording back to back shutouts since allowing 3 goals in the season opener (in which he was still quite good). He’ll likely spend the next two seasons in the AHL for the most part, but should push for duty in Colorado during the 14/15 season.
- Robin Lehner has been ridiculous for Binghamton, allowing only 6 goals through 5 games. I’m still not sure why Ottawa traded for Ben Bishop when they have this guy banging on the door, but I guess depth in goal is important when you’re Ottawa (a team with a history of goaltending trouble rivaling that of Philadelphia).
- Dan Ellis managed to snag a position with Charlotte as their backup goalie, but to this point he’s easily outplayed Justin Peters. If Brian Boucher isn’t ready to go for Carolina once NHL play resumes, look for Ellis to make the jump and be backup to Cam Ward.