Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 To Watch For In The AHL

Last week Guy threw out some names who might be WHL rookie of the year candidates. Today I have 5 players to watch for in the AHL who might vy for the top freshman award.

1. Michael Backlund-forward-Calgary Flames
The Swede was all over the map last year, playing for his home country, then staying in Canada after the World Junior Championship. Backlund, drafted 24th by the Flames in 2007, played one game with the big club before joining the Kelowna Rockets for their Memorial Cup run. Is Backlund ready for the NHL? I don't think so, but he's certainly ready to excel with Abbotsford of the AHL.

2. Thomas Hickey-Defence-LA Kings
Hickey was pencilled in on the shut down pairing with Colton Teubert at the WJC in Ottawa, but the pair struggled and the role fell to Keith Aulie and Tyler Myers. Despite that, Hickey is ready to say goodbye to the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds and join the perennial successful Manchester Monarchs. Hickey suited up for 7 games when the T-birds season wrapped up last year and netted 7 points. This after putting up 51 points in 57 games including 15 goals with Seattle. The Kings shocked everyone when they snagged Hickey 4th overall (ahead of Karl Alzner) in 2007, but some time in the AHL should get him ready to join the already impressive blueline in LA. Expect Hickey to see some action in the NHL next year.

3. Logan Couture-Forward-San Jose
4 years in the OHL is enough for the 9th overall pick of 2007. Couture averaged more than a point per game during his junior career including scoring 39 goals and 87 points in 62 games for Ottawa last year. I'm not sure why this guy has never been a player for Hockey Canada, but I think he'll make a good pro. After some seasoning with Worcester of the AHL that is.

4. Ryan McDonagh-Defence-New York Rangers
Will the Rangers as Mcdonagh to leave Wisconsin after 2 years and turn pro? That's what I'm banking on with him on this list. The blueliner was involved in the trade that send Scott Gomez to Montreal and New York might want to get his pro career started. With Bobby Sanguinetti likely graduating to the big club this year there will be an opening on the blueline with the farm.

5. Angelo Esposito-Forward-Atlanta
An injury derailed what was a pretty good season for Esposito. After a good first half with Montreal and a decent WJC Esposito was shut down in the 2nd half, ending up with 42 points in 35 games. He played one AHL the year before in Chicago. Atlanta's farm club is full of AHL veterans that would be a nice help in Esposito's development. That is if he doesn't blow the Trashers socks off in training camp and make the team.

Also watch out for a few other players like Keith Aulie in Abbotsford as it's not likely the Brandon Wheat King will get to participate in the Memorial Cup. Jonathan Blum was the top blueliner in the WHL and should start rising up the rankings in Nashvilles organization. How about Riley Nash? The Oilers prospect is pretty sure he's heading back to Cornell, but a lot could change between now and then. Physically he's probably ready for the AHL and I think it's better to struggle for the first half and succeed in the 2nd half of the AHL then have a good full season in college.


60min said...

Hey Dean, how strongly do you feel about the Rangers asking McDonagh to go pro? He was a flight risk at the end of the season, but after McBain left, it seemed like the rest of the Badger team settled down and everyone else was going to stay. But I suppose his situation has changed now that a different NHL team holds his rights. To be honest, I don't follow the Rangers at all -- I don't know anything about their needs, their player development philosophies, or how much they'd be itching to pull him out of college to develop in the AHL instead, etc.

I gotta tell ya, McD is one of the Badgers that I'm most looking forward to seeing play this year. Based on the way he stepped up his game at the end of last year, he should be a heck of a lot of fun to watch this year, and I'm pretty fired-up about him.

Thanks for the info.

(Btw, love your blog, you and Guy are fantastic. And thanks for linking No Alibis No Regrets as a Pipeline Pal -- very cool.)

Guy Flaming said...

No problem... it was all me though. Dean actually said he didn't want me to link to your Wisconsin blog because he only cheers for WCHA programs that alphabetically come before W.


I know the Rangers have a lot of solid looking defence prospects so i actually don't know if there would be a big rush to bring him out of college.

60min said...

Hey, thanks Guy -- for your opinion, and for the willingness to cheer for a WCHA team beginning with the letter "W", lol.