The AHL scoring lead is held by a couple of defensemen that we have talked about over the last two weeks, Justin Schultz and Justin Faulk. It appears that to be a top scoring defenseman in the AHL, it helps if your parents name you Justin.
This week I will look at five players who should spend the bulk of the season with their respective NHL clubs, once of course the NHL is back in business.
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Roman Horak - (C) - The 21-year-old center is coming into his own this season as he is leading the American Hockey League in goals with 10 through the first month of the season. Horak struggled last season, his first as a professional, as he had three goals and 11 points in 61 games with Calgary and two goals in 14 AHL games with Abbotsford. Horak has really benefited from the lockout as he has honed his skills at the AHL level instead of continuing to struggle in the NHL. It will bode well for his NHL career. Horak was a fifth round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2009 Draft and was sent to the Flames as part of the deal that sent Tim Erixon to the Big Apple in June, 2011. He has a good shot of being a top-six forward as early as next year.
Drayson Bowman – (LW) - It’s starting to look like this column is about the top goal scorers in the AHL as Bowman is second with nine, trailing only the aforementioned Horak. Bowman was taken in the third round of the 2007 Draft and has bounced around between the NHL and the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL over the last three years, getting into NHL games three years ago, 23 in 2010-11 and 37 last season. He is on a two-way contract this season and a one-way deal next season, so look for him to make the final jump when the lockout is over. He’ll be a solid NHL player but could see a lot of time as a bottom-six forward in the foreseeable future.
Gustav Nyquist – (LW) – Nyquist is currently tied for fifth in the AHL scoring race with 11 points and all indications are that he will be given every opportunity to compete for a top-six job at forward for the Red Wings this season. Nyquist is another mid to late round selection that Detroit’s European scouts have uncovered as the 23-year-old was selected in the fourth round of the 2008 Draft. As a rookie, the left winger had a goal and seven points in 18 NHL games but lit up the AHL in scoring with 22 goals and 58 points in 56 games. He will battle Damien Brunner for the final spot on the top two lines although Mikael Samuelsson also has a shot to see top-six duty.
Brayden Schenn – (C) – This could be a breakout year for Schenn who was drafted fifth overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2009 Draft and was the centerpiece in the deal that sent Mike Richards to the West Coast. Schenn struggled in the regular season with 12 goals and 18 points in 54 games but the Flyers got a glimpse of his talent as he had three goals and nine points in 11 NHL playoff games. He got a boost in the off-season with the trade of his brother Luke to the Flyers and it certainly helped his cause when James van Riemsdyk went to Toronto in the deal and Jaromir Jagr took his talents to Dallas. The loss of two top-six forwards should allow Brayden Schenn to finally get the proper ice time needed to show his offensive prowess. The 21-year-old has four goals and 11 points, good for a tie for fifth place in American League scoring thus far. Do not forget about him on draft day.
Peter Holland- (C) – The 21-year-old center was the Ducks first pick, 15th overall, in the 2009 Entry Draft and he finally got his first cup of coffee in the NHL last season as he saw action in four games, garnering his first NHL goal, before Anaheim saw fit to send him to the minors for the remainder of his first professional season. He had 23 goals and 60 points in 71 games and has picked up right where he left off thus far with five goals and 10 points in eight games. Holland impressed coach Bruce Boudreau at prospects camp in July and should compete for a job with the Ducks once the lockout ends. Holland is a strong skater with good puck skills, decent size and exceptional agility. He may not be worth drafting this season but keep an eye on him.