As the NHL is in lockout mode, we at Rotoworld have decided to do a weekly AHL report until such time as the NHL returns to action. A lot of players in the league could be members of NHL teams once a CBA has been signed as they will have been getting a significant amount of ice time while most third and fourth liners who played in the NHL last season, will be just practicing. When you add the fact that most of these AHLers will also be cheaper, then it is a good idea to look at the AHL right now to get a look at some of these potential NHL players. Also, there are plenty of high profile players that we will be looking at in the weeks to come who will eventually star in the NHL. Without any further ado, let’s look at five players who have had limited, if any, time in the NHL.
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Cory Conacher (LW) – The AHL’ s rookie of the year last season has been a force in the early going as Conacher was named the Player of the Week in the opening week of the season and is leading the AHL in scoring with nine points in just five games. Conacher was undrafted and signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning after a four year career at Canisus. He is on the small size at only five feet, eight inches but does not back down as shown by his 114 penalty minutes last season, to go with 39 goals and 80 points for the Calder Cup winning Norfolk Admirals. Look for Conacher to compete for a job with the Lightning when training camps open after the lockout.
Justin Schultz – (D) Schultz was the most sought after free agent on the market during the off-season after shunning the Ducks who selected him in the second round in the 2008 Draft. Sure, most UFA’s received more money than Schultz but his entry-level salary made him a must-get for most teams. The Oilers won the sweepstakes and he has shown in the first week-plus of the AHL season that he could be a future stud. The defenseman has four goals and six points in four games for the star-studded Oklahoma City Barons, including a pair of shorthanded goals and a plus-five rating on Friday. Schultz may have received a break with the lockout as he was allowed to start his professional career in relative anonymity with the Barons rather than under the NHL spotlight. He will be a top-four defenseman this season with Edmonton, as soon as the NHL year begins. He is definitely worth selecting late in deeper fantasy drafts and higher than that in keeper leagues.
Andy Miele – (C) Miele was the Hobey Baker winner in 2011 and subsequently signed on with the Phoenix Coyotes as an unrestricted free agent. The undrafted center hoped to crack the Coyotes lineup last season but started the season in the minors where he was the AHL’s rookie for the month of November. He played seven games but was held off the scoreboard, before being returned to the minors for the remainder of the regular season. He finished the season with 16 goals and 54 points. This season, he is off to a good start with two goals and four points in three games. The Coyote hope he can make the jump to the NHL this season as they could use some scoring, especially with the loss of their top scorer from last season, Ray Whitney who is now a member of the Dallas Stars.
Nino Niederreiter – (LW) Niederreiter put the Islanders in a difficult position last season in that he was too good to play in the WHL, not really good enough for the NHL and unable to play in the AHL. It showed as he managed a solitary goal and no assists in 55 NHL games with a horrendous minus-29 rating. He showed that he was ready for a lower level as the Islanders sent him to Bridgeport of the AHL last season on a conditioning stint and he managed three goals and an assist in six games. He is off to a good start thus far with three goals and five points in three games. Do not lose faith in Niederreiter based on his stats of last season as he has a big future ahead of him in the NHL as a former fifth overall pick.
Kyle Jean- (C) Jean is an undrafted center playing in his first professional season. He was signed by the New York Rangers after scoring four goals in four scrimmages during their development camp in late June. Jean certainly has the size to play at the NHL level as he is six foot, four inches and 212 pounds. He has been scoring in his brief AHL career with three goals and six points in the Connecticut Whale’s first four games. He has a chance to play in the NHL but will need at least a year in minors and probably longer than that before he gets a proper shot to make the big squad.