Ten AHL Players To Watch During NHL Lockout
10 Players In The AHL To Keep An Eye On During NHL Lockout
As the NHL lockout continues, just about every other league on the planet has started off at this point, whether on this side of the Atlantic or the other. For those craving North American hockey, the AHL has officially begun and there is no shortage of excitement going on at the “Triple A” level.
There is no shortage of young talent at the AHL level. Some clubs, perhaps more wisely sent their rising stars to their minor league affiliate rather than letting them go off to Europe. Surprisingly, names like Tyler Seguin and Gabriel Landeskog won’t be skating AHL minutes. Seguin went to Switzerland and Landeskog has yet to go anywhere.
Regardless, there is plenty to keep an eye on down in the AHL. There are some very big names to watch, as well as some names that will be big within the next few years. In some cases, junior stars are going to be making their professional debuts. This should introduce them to a wider audience, as they haven’t been seen on anything more than a local level with their junior club.
As frustrating as this lockout is, it is benefitting the AHL. There is some high quality hockey to be seen in the minors this year. It will help some players adjust to the professional level, and help others to hone their skills before the NHL starts up again.
Without further ado, here are 10 potential stars who are worth watching at the AHL season gets underway, and the NHL lockout continues.
Andrei Loktionov - Manchester Monarchs
Andrei Loktionov has been seen briefly at the NHL level, with the Los Angeles Kings, but not enough to make any sort of judgement on him. There was some concern over whether or not he'd try and bolt for the AHL, but he'll be with Manchester during the lockout. He's a future top six center with a deadly accurate shot and solid playmaking abilities.
Adam Larsson - Albany Devils
Adam Larsson was one of just a few rookies last year to play the entire season at the NHL level. He wasn't without his struggles throughout the season, and did serve as a healthy scratch on more than one occasion, but he has "elite" written all over him from the blue line. He's a future star and will have some extra time to build up his skill set with Albany.
Sean Couturier - Adirondack Phantoms
Sean Couturier was a big surprise for the Philadelphia Flyers last year and was/is a guy that a lot of teams are coveting in trade talks for a defenseman. But the Flyers are refusing to budge and it's easy to see why. He's a versatile player, capable of playing both on the wing and in the middle. He's going to be a top two-way forward in the league, and we've already seen plenty of his potential on the defensive end of that.
Eddie Lack - Chicago Wolves
The main reason for the Vancouver Canucks shopping Roberto Luongo is the emergence of Cory Schneider behind him. But Eddie Lack also has great potential and would likely slide into the backup slot behind Schneider should they deal Luongo at some point. He's put up pretty consistent numbers in two years in the AHL, but with an opportunity to prove he belongs in the NHL, he could be in for a big year.
Brayden Schenn - Adirondack Phantoms
Brayden Schenn is going to be a huge part of the 2012-2013 Philadelphia Flyers. Without much depth down the middle, Schenn is likely going to have to step up in a top six role this season. He's one of the top offensive prospects in all of hockey and looked very impressive when he was healthy last season. He has the potential to be an elite center in the league and now will have time for a little extra seasoning with the Phantoms.
Nazem Kadri - Toronto Marlies
Nazem Kadri is an interesting case. He's long been a prospect in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, but hasn't been able to crack the NHL lineup on a regular basis. He showed up to camp in disappointing shape and now will have his work cut out for him to shake this 'bust' label that is starting to take over. That starts with the Marlies, where Kadri will be a focal point.
Most of the Oklahoma City Barons
There is absolutely no shortage of talent on this Oklahoma City Barons club. They may be the most loaded team in the AHL, as far as NHL-level talent goes. Names like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are already familiar to fans, while they'll be joined by the likes of Magnus Paajarvi and top defensive prospect Justin Schultz. They also have one of the top AHL goaltenders, in Yann Danis.
Chris Kreider - Connecticut Whale
Chris Kreider exploded onto a national stage with a very impressive postseason run with the New York Rangers. His regular season NHL debut will have to wait, but fans can catch him with the Connecticut Whale. His fantastic combination of size and speed has him set to become one of the very best power forwards in the NHL at some point in his career.
Brandon Saad - Rockford Icehogs
Brandon Saad was a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Blackhawks, after he was drafted in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft in 2011. He made the team out of camp, was sent back to juniors, dominated with the Saginaw Spirit, and rejoined the Hawks at the end of the year. Some extra seasoning with the Icehogs would have been a good idea anyway, so this time should help him in the long term. He already has the size and smarts to be an effective player. It's just a matter of how long it might take him to reach his potential.
Tyler Toffoli - Manchester Monarchs
Tyler Toffoli hasn't seen any NHL action outside of the preseason. But he's been an absolute monster in juniors, with the Ottawa 67's. He's coming off back-to-back 100 point seasons and should be able to make an impact for a Kings offense that was very anemic last year, prior to the postseason. This is his first professional action and could be the most intriguing player to watch of any in the AHL.