Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Sabres' AHL Prospects Rule

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


In this week's edition of In The Crease I'll be taking a closer look at a few players who have made a name for themselves with their play in the American Hockey League this season. I'll be limiting this piece to upwardly-mobile players who I think can be fantasy assets in the NHL next season, so veteran AHL scorers like Darren Haydar, Jason Krog and Brian Willsie won't be appearing on this list. Without further ado, here are a few players I'll be keeping an eye on for next season:

Mark Mancari – Despite the fact that he's been plying his trade in Buffalo since early March, Mancari remains fifth in AHL scoring with 64 points in 56 games. Although he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 Entry Draft and has now played six seasons in the AHL, Mancari profiles as a late bloomer with the size to compete in the NHL at 6'4" and 225 pounds. The knock on him in years past has been an unwillingness to use his big frame to play a physical style, but he's playing with more of an edge during his most recent stint in the bigs. I'm guessing he decided he's had enough of the minor leagues and will do whatever it takes to remain a regular in the NHL. He's starting to finally turn a few heads and stands a very good chance of sticking with the club next season.

Tomas Tatar – With many of the Red Wings' top players at the NHL level now past their physical prime, it's time to familiarize ourselves with the next wave of talent making its way through the pipeline. As we know, Detroit has a history of striking gold in the draft and it seems that their 60th overall selection in 2009, Tomas Tatar, is another example of this. Tatar chalked up 32 points in 58 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins as a rookie in 2009-10, but he has taken his game to a new level with 55 points in 61 contests this season. With seemingly nothing left to prove at the AHL level, look for Tatar to spend the bulk of 2011-12 playing games in the Motor City.

Marc-Andre Gragnani – With 58 points in 60 games, Gragnani is enjoying the best of his four AHL seasons and is currently the highest scoring defenseman in the league. With a deft passing ability, Gragnani has displayed a proven ability to register points and this has led to a few cups of coffee with the Sabres. In total, he has suited up for nine career games in parts of three seasons, but has never stuck with the big club. It's difficult to for me to predict that he will suddenly come into favor with Buffalo management, but I think he's capable of contributing in the NHL, whether that happens with the Sabres or some other club in need of a puck-mover. Blueliners with this kind of offensive up side don't grow on trees, which is why I'm confident that his time will come. Remain patient.

Luke Adam – Of the three Portland Pirates appearing on this list, Adam undoubtedly has the highest ceiling. In his rookie season in the AHL, Adam has managed to score at better than a point-per-game pace with 53 points in 46 contests and has impressed the Sabres' brass enough to earn 19 games with the big club. The former second round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft casts an imposing shadow and has no obvious weakness in his game that could prevent him from making the jump permanently. Buffalo season ticket holders should get used to seeing him take the ice at HSBC Arena. Based on the damage he's been inflicting on opponents, I don't think he's long for the AHL.

Brett McLean – Arguably the top prospect in the Coyotes' system, MacLean had registered 50 points in 51 games with the San Antonio Rampage this season before being recalled by the Coyotes on March 4th. The former Oshawa Generals standout has spent three seasons toiling in the AHL, but has now proven he's ready to contribute at the NHL level. Although his role with the Desert Dogs is a limited one as of this moment, he should be a regular with the club in 2011-12.

Zach Boychuk – With 56 NHL games under his belt, Boychuk is on the cusp of becoming a significant contributor for the Hurricanes. The former first round pick has registered 49 points in 51 games with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL this season and also acquitted himself very well with the big club during his 23 game stint earlier this year. He hasn't been a fast mover through the Carolina system, but Boychuk still profiles as a solid second line center and could be a useful addition in fantasy leagues as early as next season.

Mark Dekanich – The Nashville goaltending machine is known for churning out useful netminders with regularity and Dekanich, with his 2.02 GAA and .931 save percentage with the Milwaukee Admirals, is just the next of many the system has produced. Both he and current Predators backup Anders Lindback possess the skills to be NHL regulars, but Pekka Rinne is firmly entrenched in the team's number one spot. Despite the embarrassment of riches in Music City, I recommend drafting talent over opportunity in fantasy leagues, so pick him up in your league with the hope that he eventually gets his shot to show what he's made of.








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