As many readers on Twitter pointed it out to me — my original list of 20 NHL-Caliber AHLers to Keep an Eye on During the Lockout omitted a few important names of rising & soon-to-be NHL stars. When I compiled the original list I knew this would be an issue because I was only going to have a list of 20, or the equivalent of a game-night roster. Almost immediately after submitting my story, I began thinking of players I left out and thanks to my friends & followers I was reminded of others and felt the strong urge to write a sequel.
@DRdiabloTHW thanks for ignoring the Sharks prospects. (So much more impressive to see Sharks catch unsuspecting victims from below.)
— GJ Berg (@LadyStanley) October 10, 2012
If there ever is an NHL season in 2012-13, you can bet that the majority of the 40 players I have mentioned here will have an impact. Players come and go in the NHL, generations phase out, passing the torch down the ranks and with the salary cap (as well as outrageous player salaries) younger (and cheaper) players will become more and more prevalent in the ever-evolving league.
With the AHL season a week old, many of the players that made both lists are already making noise throughout the league.
Chris Kreider (New York Rangers/Connecticut Whale) Kreider jumped right into the NHL playoffs after winning the NCAA championship with BC and impressed immediately: five goals in 18 games. Expect a top-6 spot to be reserved for him with the Rangers once the NHL is back in action.
Watch Kreider score his first NHL goal in just his fourth NHL game, Game 6 of the ECQF in Ottawa:
Landon Ferraro (Detroit Red Wings/Grand Rapids Griffins) Ferraro had a great season leading into his draft year, and was considered a steal for Detroit late in round 2 of the 2009 draft. The Wings will be watching Ray Ferraro’s son closely in Grand Rapids during the lockout.
James Sheppard (San Jose Sharks/Worchester Sharks) Sheppard has missed a lot of time due to injuries and the former 9th overall pick (2006) is probably the oldest player on this list. Looking to rediscover his game in the AHL, he has had a strong start to the 2012-13 campaign.
Jordan Nolan (Los Angeles Kings/Manchester Monarchs) Nolan is entering his third AHL season, but he enters it with a Stanley Cup ring. His size makes Ted’s son a formidable player that could stick in LA for the next few years once he fine-tunes his game a bit more.
Michael Granlund (Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros) Granlund already created a buzz with his 4-goal performance during the preseason. He put up 51 points in 45 games last year with HIFK Helsinki and is widely considered the best player yet to step foot on NHL ice.
Here is Granlund scoring an amazing goal vs Russia, lacrosse style; the accompanying music is kind of creepy:
Patrice Cormier (Winnipeg Jets/St. John’s Ice Caps) Cormier was the centerpiece of the Atlanta-New Jersey trade that saw Ilya Kovalchuk come to the Devils. He’s only played 30 NHL games (1g, 1a) and Winnipeg needs him to fulfill the promise that made him such a highly thought of prospect.
Nazem Kadri (Toronto Maple Leafs/Toronto Marlies) Kadri will always have the weight of expectations in the fishbowl known as Toronto. Eight goals in 51 NHL games isn’t bad for a player that hasn’t seen nearly enough ice-time to make a huge impact. Perhaps he will get more chances under Randy Carlyle’s tutelage.
Brandon Saad (Chicago Blackhawks/Rockford Ice Hogs) Saad tore up the OHL in his two years with Saginaw (61 goals in 103 games). After a cup of coffee with the Hawks last season, the Pennsylvania-native will look to crack the line-up in 2012-13, as he works on his game with the Ice Hogs.
Charlie Coyle (Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros) Coyle has a lot of expectations on him as the Wild move into a new era, and he & Granlund will be looked at as the pillars of the future there. His postseason numbers with the Sea Dogs last season show us that he could be a prime-time player one day in the Twin Cities.
Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets/Springfield Falcons) Johansen numbers with Portland in the WHL were ridiculously good. He had a typical rookie season last year (67 games, 21 points) and it will be interesting to see how the pivot develops without Rick Nash around to pass to in Columbus.
Johansen’s first NHL goal is here, a smartly played, bank-shot off of Detroit ‘tender Ty Conklin:
Devante Smith-Pelly (Anaheim Ducks/Norfolk Admirals) Smith-Pelley had seven goals with the Ducks in 49 games last year and will be looking for more playing time this year. He already has tallied three helpers in 2 games with the Admirals this season.
Cody Eakin (Dallas Stars/Texas Stars) Eakin was a key part of the deal that saw Dallas trade Mike Ribiero to Washington. Eakin is considered to be NHL-ready and has potted two goals in two game with the baby Stars. He should be a 2nd-3rd line NHL center.
Jared Cowen (Ottawa Senators/Binghamton Senators) Cowen already has a full season of NHL experience under his belt, appearing in all 82 of the Sens games. He & Erik Karlsson will be the foundation of whatever future successes Ottawa has. In his first three AHL games this year he has 3 assists.
Slava Voynov (Los Angeles Kings/Manchester Monarchs) Voynov, like Nolan, enters this AHL season with a Stanley Cup ring. His development allowed LA to trade Jack Johnson to Columbus for Jeff Carter and we all know how that worked out.
Ryan Ellis (Nashville Predators/Milwaukee Admirals) Ellis has 32 NHL games already under his belt, but from now on every game he plays will probably be trying to replace Ryan Suter on the Nashville blueline in their fans’ eyes. His development will be key if the Preds hope to seamlessly move on and continue to make the postseason.
Dylan Reese (Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins) Reese has already appeared in 74 games with the Islanders and has appeared in a plethora of AHL games over his career. He hopes to suit up for the Pens, his hometown team, as Justin Glock pointed out a few weeks ago on THW.
Calvin de Haan (New York Islanders/Bridgeport Sound Tigers) de Haan was a high draft pick and the Islanders are desperate for him to make the club when the NHL decides to return. If he doesn’t show any progress he could find himself as trade bait.
Tim Erixon (Columbus Blue Jackets/Springfield Falcons) Erixon didn’t want to be part of the Calgary organization, forcing a trade to NY. Well, then they decided to send him to Columbus as part of the Nash trade. I’m guessing Calgary doesn’t seem so bad these days; having said that he’s off to a good start with 2 assists in 2 games.
Matthew Hackett (Minnesota Wild/Houston Aeros) Hackett has 3 NHL wins already and is the heir apparent to Nicklas Backstrom’s crease in Minnesota. He’s already had some good seasons in the AHL, but is off to an 0-2 start so far this year with the Aeros.
Alex Stalock (San Jose Sharks/Worchester Sharks) Stalock is important to the Sharks franchise, especially because they seem to have a plethora of goaltending injuries. For more on Stalock check out Toli Metter’s story on him for THW.
Like last time, I’m sure I will think of more players once this story gets posted. I’m also sure my smart and wonderful readers will remind me of others that I neglected. Feel free to help me compile another list of 20 and maybe we can make this a three-parter.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.