I was recently checking ou the AHL's official website and seeing which of my keeper league players were playing well and who wasn't when I came across several interesting items that I felt were worth keeping an eye on this year.
Here now are my top 5 AHL stories of interest that I'm going to follow as I'm not sure how they will end.
5. Jesse Joensuu – The big Finn was highly touted early on in his draft year but by June of 2006 his stock had fallen so far that the NYI eventually selected him at the end of the 2nd round (60th overall). A lot of Euros in his situation may have been content staying back home but give credit where its due; Joensuu is now in Bridgeport - can the 6’4, 210 lb forward reach the potential many had initially expected? So far he’s got 7 points in 13 games.
4. Russians in Syracuse – Maxim Mayorov and Nikita Filatov are bucking the stereotype of Russians who aren’t willing to come over and play in the AHL. Thus far the pair have 17 points together and are a +4. Can the yougn Russians keep their hot start going or will they fizzle out like many Europeans do in their first North American season, around Christmas time when they've got 35-40 games under their belt? Keep in mind that in Europe, they play much lighter schedules.
3. Johnny Boychuck was once a top prospect for the Colorado Avalanche who drafted him in the 2nd round of 2002. After a strong WHL career in Calgary and Moose Jaw he was a bust with the Aves organization. He was dealt to Boston and is now ripping it up for their farm team the Providence Bruins. Boychuck, now a more mature 24-year-old, has 15 points so far which is tied for tops amongst AHL blueliners. Is this a case of a late bloomer, lighting in a bottle or just a guy who needed a change of scenery and is making the most of it?
2. Remember Danny Syvret? The Edmonton Oilers drafted him as a 20-year-old after a fantastic season with the London Knights but he soon disappeared into obscurity in the minors. He was so bad that Edmonton willingly lent him to play in the Spengler Cup just to try and kick start his flatlining career. Last summer he was traded to Philly for Ryan Potulny, well this year he’s leading the AHL in blueline scoring (tied with Boychuck) with 15 points. The Phantoms seem to have rejuvenated his career as he leads the team in scoring as well. 2 months ago, Oiler fans didn't even care that Syvret had been dealt. It will be interesting to see who goes on to have a better career now - Syvret or Potulny.
1. Pint sized power in Portland – Tim Kennedy and Nate Gerbe may have butted heads at the 2007 NCAA National title game between Michigan State and Boston College but are teammates now with the Buffalo Sabres AHL affiliate. Together the pair is ripping it up on the farm and have combined for 32 points. Both forwards are of the 'highly offensive but tiny' variety. Gerbe barely tips the scales at 5'6 and 160 lbs while Kennedy checks in at 5'10 and 170 lbs. With the way they are playing one has to wonder what will come first – a reality check or a promotion to the NHL?
Definitely worth keeping tabs on!