I’d be fine with that, if the team itself wasn’t so woefully constructed. Even for a team that might feature “NHL prospects” it’s a bit of a laugh.
Today, the AHL named a team of 20 players who will compete against SHL team Farjestad BK. Perhaps ignited by the Olympics, the AHL wants to showcase that its players can compete against a team from one of the best European leagues. As such, they wanted to provide only the best AHL players against Farjestad. It doesn’t look like that. I’m going to break down each player and tell you why I think they do or do not belong. We’ll start with forwards.
Brett Connolly, Syracuse
The Crunch are not having a year by the standards they bought and shipped upstate in late 2012. A good deal of injuries sent younger prospects to parent club Tampa, depleting some scoring and coupling it with unreliable goaltending. At the beginning of the season, the team was on fire with contributions from stellar young Russians Nikita Kucherov and Vladimir Namestnikov and 2nd-year pro JT Brown. They got called up.
Brett Connolly is a bit of a lost prospect for Tampa, a guy who spent his rookie season in the NHL before finally landing as an AHL regular the past few years. He’d been harped on for his production early on, though he has respectable numbers right now. All in all, I think he’s a very good candidate to be traded by Tampa for a veteran defenseman.
We’re talking about the AHL, though. In 24 games, Connolly has 24 points. Compare that to the Admirals’ Emerson Etem, who has 23 points in 14 games. I’m going to contradict myself later if I include Etem, though. Rickard Rakell has been with the team for the majority of games, and has 29 points in 26 games. I struggle to see why Connolly is included compared to Rakell, especially when they’re both highly-regarded NHL prospects. I’ve made my piece for one Admiral forward to be included, so I’ll try not to rely on that argument.
Brian Gibbons, WBS
Gibbons has 27 points in 22 games for the WBS Pens. While that’s very impressive, other players ahead of him have posted better numbers. One such example is Tomas Jurco of the Grand Rapids Griffins, who has 29 points in 30 games.
Mike Hoffman, Binghamton Senators
Hoffman is 2nd in scoring. I am fine with his selection.
Jason Jaffray, St. John’s IceCaps
As the IceCaps are hosting the event, I get this move. It is largely ceremonial, and a way to thank the people of St. John’s for their continued support of their AHL team. I don’t think he’s the only IceCap that should have been named to the team.
Travis Morin, Texas Stars
Morin’s inclusion makes total sense. He’s the league’s leading scorer right now, and very likely the league’s MVP.
Brandon Pirri, Rockford IceHogs
Brandon Pirri was the league’s leading scorer–last year. He has all of ten points this year and has played most of the season in the NHL. Again, what a way to screw over Jurco.
Colton Sceviour, Texas Stars
Sceviour is part of Texas’ high-scoring duo, along with Morin. He is currently third in points (behind Morin and Hoffman), along with leading the league in goals. Good choice.
Colton Sissons, Milwaukee Admirals
Sissons is in his first pro year and has 23 points in 33 games. I think the AHL got the #wrongAdmirals on this one. You see, there’s a guy named “Rickard Rakell” in Norfolk. He’s pretty great!
Ryan Spooner, Providence Bruins
Ryan Spooner has spent a similar amount of time in Providence (21 games) and Boston (16 games). While his run in the AHL was impressive–23 points in those 21 games–I think another P-Bruin is more deserving. I’d go with Carter Camper, who is 19th in scoring in the AHL. Perhaps the league is turned off by Camper being 25, compared to the 21-year-old Spooner. Manchester’s Jordan Weal could have been included.
Ben Street, Abbotsford Heat
Street is currently the 6th leading scorer in the AHL. I’m okay with this pick.
Ryan Strome, Bridgeport Sound Tigers
A conundrum, here. After Nikita Kucherov had been called up to the NHL, Strome had appeared to take hold of the AHL Rookie of the Year race. He was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal team, which is something you can say about different players in the Islanders organization. While he still leads the league in rookie scoring, he has been called up to Long Island. Fellow Sound Tiger Anders Lee would be a good choice, as he is 3rd in rookie scoring.
Vey has 19 points in 17 games thanks in part to being a call-up to the parent club Los Angeles Kings. A perfectly suitable replacement on his Manchester team would have been Jordan Weal.
Chad Billins, Abbotsford Heat
Billins is 4th in scoring among defenseman, so this isn’t that bad of a pick.
T. J. Brennan, Toronto Marlies
Brennan is the only defenseman to have at least 10 goals and leads all blue-liners in scoring. Sure, I’ll take it.
Cody Goloubef, Springfield Falcons
Springfield needed to have someone represented on the team. Goloubef isn’t it, especially with 15 points in 34 games played. Providence’s Joe Morrow might have been a nice addition here.
Alexey Marchenko, Grand Rapids Griffins
Marchenko has 16 points in 33 games. He’s surpassed by teammate Ryan Sproul, who has 21 points in 36 games. I wonder if coaching had anything to do with this.
Brayden McNabb, Rochester Americans
McNabb has 15 points in 19 games for the Amerks. Between AHL and NHL play McNabb has appeared in 24 games, as I’m not including the Spengler Cup. Why is he being named to an All-Star team? A good replacement would be St. John’s own Brendan Kichton, who is the third-highest scoring defenseman.
Frederic St. Denis, Springfield Falcons
St. Denis is 7th in scoring from the blue line on arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference. I’m not too mad at his inclusion. My problem is why not include the 2nd best scorer, Adam Clendening of Rockford?
Oh, now it gets real.
Martin Jones, Manchester Monarchs
Martin Jones is an incredible goalie and performed admirably during his call-up with the Los Angeles Kings. He’s been successful at an AHL level for a while now, and yes, deserves some recognition. Here’s the problem, though: he hasn’t put up the minutes others have. His teammate, JF Berube, set a record for consecutive starts. Berube did not put up magnificent numbers and is not my choice.
I’m going with the home team and netminder Eddie Pasquale. The IceCap is constantly among the league’s most worked goalies (1,2, and 3 always revolved around Norfolk’s John Gibson, Toronto’s Drew MacIntyre, and Pasquale) and has managed to put up the sixth best save percentage and eight best GAA. I can think of no better way to honor this team’s workhorse than to give him an all-star nod.
Want to go off of stats alone? How about Adirondack’s Cal Heeter? The Philadelphia prospect currently leads the league in save percentage AND GAA and all he gets is…no thanks? Damn.
Jake Allen, Chicago Wolves
You’ve got to have a backup and I’m fine with picking a net minder from the Western Conference. Allen is a respectable 9th in save percentage and 4th in GAA. Dustin Tokarski is currently fifth in both save percentage and goals against average. The problem is I think Tic has moved from “NHL prospect” to “AHL Starter, possible NHL backup” at this stage in his career. I’m okay with this choice.
The AHL really screwed up when it came to the selection of this team. A few players have been rewarded for years past and not their current production. Unfortunately, the AHL has yet to announce any transparency. The committee was a selection of “coaches and general managers” which does not prevent the elimination of bias, nor were any qualifications set forth. I hope this does not continue in the future.