15 NHL Players Who Made The Most of the AHL During 2004-05 Lockout
NHL Players Who Gained From AHL Experience During 2004-05 Lockout
This week the NHL announced the cancellation of regular season games through Dec. 14, as the lockout has now dragged on into its third month. While many marquee players have headed overseas to play, a majority of young stars and prospects find themselves in the AHL, getting a valuable opportunity to hone their game while waiting to get back to the NHL. Future NHL stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and many others find themselves playing in the AHL this season, with their NHL teams hoping the experience gets them ready to contribute in the NHL on a nightly basis. While Hall and Eberle have seen a lot of NHL time with the Edmonton Oilers, players like Cory Conacher and Nino Niederreiter are showing they have the talent to be more than just fringe NHL players. The 2004-05 NHL lockout provided a similar opportunity, and players like Jason Spezza, Mike Cammalleri, Niklas Kronwall, Cam Ward and Eric Staal were able to gain valuable experience in the AHL, which made them ready for full-time NHL duty when the lockout was over. Spezza led the league in scoring, Cammalleri led the league in goals and Kronwall was named the AHL’s top defenseman. Ward and Staal would use their experience to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup Championship the following season after the lockout ended. As this AHL season continues, more future NHL stars may emerge, leading AHL teams in cities like Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Peoria and San Antonio before they see NHL duty in Edmonton, Detroit, St. Louis and Florida.
Rene Bourque had signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago Blackhawks before the 2004-05 NHL lockout, and had 33 goals and 60 points for the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals. He won the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the league’s top rookie. He would join the Blackhawks the following season and would later have three consecutive seasons of 20 goals or more for the Calgary Flames. He now plays for the Montreal Canadiens.
Josh Harding posted a record of 21-16-3 for the Houston Aeros during the 2004-05 season, and made his NHL debut for the Minnesota Wild the following season.
Mikko Koivu was also a member of the Houston Aeros during the 2004-05 lockout, making his North American debut. His 20 goals and 48 points showed the Minnesota Wild he was NHL-ready and he made his debut with them the following season. He was selected to his first All-Star Game in 2012.
2012 Stanley Cup champion Dustin Brown averaged nearly a point-per-game (29 goals and 74 points in 79 games) for the Manchester Monarchs during the lockout, showing the Los Angeles Kings he had improved his offensive skill set and was ready for full-time NHL duty.
Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was an Atlanta Thrashers prospect during the 2004-05 lockout, and used that AHL season to get more comfortable with the North American game. He posted a 38-17-2 record for the Chicago Wolves and would earn full-time NHL duty the following season.
Phoenix Coyotes backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera had one of the best seasons of his career during the lockout, winning 31 games with a 1.84 GAA for the Hartford Wolf Pack. He won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award (shared with Steve Valiquette), given to the team with the lowest goals against average.
Jay Bouwmeester had two NHL seasons under his belt before the lockout, but was forced to spend the season with the San Antonio Rampage. He struggled offensively, but was still named to the AHL All-Star team. When the Rampage were out of playoff contention, he was loaned to the Chicago Wolves and helped them reach the Calder Cup Finals.
Ryan Miller saw the bulk of the goaltending workload for the Rochester Americans in 2004-05, winning 41 games with a 2.45 GAA. He would get the starting job with the Buffalo Sabres the following season.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward was an AHL rookie in 2004-05, and showed he could stand up against top competition, posting a 27-17-3 record for the Lowell Lock Monsters. He became an NHL regular the following season (winning the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes), and frequently leads the league in games played by a goaltender.
The Detroit Red Wings are known for taking it slow with their prospects, and the 2004-05 lockout gave them a chance to let defenseman Niklas Kronwall develop in the AHL for a full season. He scored 13 goals for the Grand Rapids Griffins and won the Eddie Shore Award as the league’s top defenseman.
Eric Staal had a season of NHL experience when the lockout sent him to the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters. He would score 26 goals and add 51 assists in the AHL, and win the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes the following season.
Mike Cammalleri had been bouncing between the AHL and NHL in his first two professional seasons, but went on an offensive tear during the 2004-05 season and showed he was ready to be with the Los Angeles Kings every night. Cammalleri scored 46 goals and had 109 for the Manchester Monarchs.
Jason Spezza was coming off a 55 point season with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators when the 2004-05 season was cancelled. He led the AHL in scoring during the lockout, with 32 goals and 115 points for the Binghamton Senators.