The American Hockey League (AHL) is having a strange season, to say the least. Not even factoring in the shortened schedules, realigned divisions and no Calder Cup playoffs, the game on the ice is different. With the addition of the taxi squads in the NHL, AHL teams are missing many players who would fill up their top lines and defensive pairs.
However, because of a temporary change to the agreement between the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and NHL, there is an influx of recent draft picks suiting up and showing that they belong. There are quite a few youngsters who would be tearing it up in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) or Western Hockey League (WHL) in a normal season, but they are now making the best of their first opportunity to play at the pro level.
Jamie Drysdale’s Bringing the Offense
The San Diego Gulls became the first team in the AHL to win seven games with a 7-2 win over the Colorado Eagles on Saturday night. They lead the league in wins are and second in scoring with 28 goals. The Gulls currently have four players in the top 10 of AHL scoring, including Trevor Zegras who is tied for first with nine points (4 G, 5 A).
Right behind Zegras, is Drysdale, who has eight points through his first eight professional games. After assisting on Zegras’ second-period goal he found the back of the net himself, later in the third period.
Drysdale wasted no time in pulling the puck off of the wall and getting an accurate wrist shot off from the right point. Somehow, his shot found its way through very heavy traffic and in behind goaltender Parker Gahagen.
In addition to being second in overall all scoring, his three goals are tied for the most among all defensemen with Ryan Murphy of the Henderson Silver Knights and Calle Rosen of the Toronto Marlies. Drysdale is a special talent who won’t even turn 19 until April. Anaheim Ducks fans have plenty to be excited about.
Seth Jarvis Keeps Rolling
The Chicago Wolves are playing on a whole different level than most of the AHL. Because the Milwaukee Admirals, the league’s best team in 2019-20, opted out of this season, the Wolves have prospects from both the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators.
They flexed their collective muscle on Saturday night by beating up on the Iowa Wild 10-2 to improve to 6-0-0-0. Jarvis was one of three Wolves players to score two goals. He scored early in the second period from a near-impossible angle to give Chicago a 5-0 lead. He capped off his night with this shorthanded breakaway goal later in the middle frame.
Jarvis now leads the AHL with six goals and nine points. He has one more goal than Vinnie Lettieri of the Gulls and his teammate Rem Pitlick. The 19-year-old will have to return to the Portland Winter Hawks when the WHL’s U.S. Division returns to action in late March, so it will be interesting to see how much longer he will be in Chicago.
Zayde Wisdom Nets Another Pair
While Drysdale and Jarvis entered the AHL season with some fanfare by being high first-round draft picks, Wisdom flew under the radar. However, with the way he has been playing of late, the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2020 fourth-round (94th overall) draft pick is separating himself from the herd.
The 18-year-old has made an immediate impact with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He had his second straight two-goal game, on Saturday night, to lead the Phantoms to a 3-0 win over the Binghamton Devils in their home opener.
Wisdom scored the opening goal of the night, which proved to be the game-winner, by getting to the front of the net and banging home a rebound.
“It squeezed through his five-hole,” Wisdom said after the game. “Got ‘er home. Another grinder goal but can’t complain about that. They don’t ask how, they ask how many, right?”
In the third period, Wisdom scored the Phantoms’ first power-play goal of the season and increased their lead to 3-0. He now has four goals and an assist in his first four AHL games. If and when the OHL season gets underway, he will return to the Kingston Frontenacs, where he scored 29 goals and 59 points in 62 games in 2019-20.