AHL Prospects are Proving Their Worth
The Stanley Cup Final has begun, and the playoff heroism stories of various Hurricane and Oiler players can be found in any newspaper or hockey website.
I’m not going to add to that here. You can read about Mike Peca, Ryan Smyth, Cam Ward, and Rod Brind’Amour and how well they have done thus far somewhere else – if you really are suffering from lack of information on that. There are many other trophies that can be won in this great sport, and not enough recognition is given. Those in deep fantasy keeper leagues are curious as to how some of their prospects have been doing, and what better indicator of potential than a fine performance in a Memorial Cup Tournament? Or a Calder Cup Tourney, for that matter.
Calder Cup and AHL Playoff Heroes
Last week, I started off the Memorial Cup rundown with a future Nashville Predator (Alexander Radulov). This week, I’m afraid I have to do it again. Pekka Rinne has raised his stock astronomically, changing from a promising young goaltender to perhaps making Chris Mason expendable. Mason is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and with the way Rinne has played, Nashville certainly feels less pressure to sign him (even though he, himself, played phenomenally to end the year). Rinne, 23, has backstopped his Milwaukee Admirals into the Calder Cup final. While I am not ready to suddenly anoint him as a future starter in the NHL, he has really solidified his case to back up Vokoun in the fall. Going 10-1 with three shutouts does that for a guy.
Darren Haydar and Simon Gamache have much in common. The Milwaukee wingers are both highly-talented offensively, they both put up big numbers everywhere they go, and they are both held back by their size. With a combined weight of under 350 pounds, these two barely get a sniff in the NHL. In fact, Gamache signed to play in Switzerland next season. This has not stopped either of them from dominating the AHL playoff scoresheets.
Washington prospect Tomas Fleischmann, acquired in the deal for Robert Lang, has picked up the Hershey Bears and carried them on his lanky shoulders into the final. A highly intelligent player, the knock on Fleischmann has always been the lack of bulk that covered his 6-1 frame. He has gained a little weight this year, and looks to crack the Capitals lineup in the fall. His clutch performance here in June will certainly help.
Jiri Hudler of the Grand Rapids Griffins certainly improved his chances of finally cracking the Detroit lineup for good in the fall with his playoff play. At least up until the third round when he ran into a wall known as Pekka Rinne. Prior to that semi-final matchup, the high-flying, diminutive winger had 21 points in just 12 contests. There’s a spot for the 22-year-old on the roster this fall, he just needs to take it.
Anaheim traded Petr Sykora to get this guy and he didn’t disappoint. Maxim Kondratiev had 17 points in 37 regular season games for the Hartford Wolf Pack and later the Portland Pirates. In the playoffs it was another story. The offensive rearguard posted 14 points in 13 games en route to an appearance in the Calder Cup semi-finals and pushing Hershey to the very brink of that series. There is room in the No.6 spot for him in Anaheim.
And finally, how about this story – Ryan Shannon was never drafted (it happens all to often to players who are just 5-8). He was a star in college, and received a tryout for the Ducks last fall. Assigned to Portland, Shannon put up more than a point per game. This led Anaheim to sign him to a two-year entry level contract. His offense never slowed in the playoffs, as Shannon posted 11 goals and 22 points in 19 games for the Pirates.
More fantasy hockey tips from Dobber at www.dobberhockey.com