This week on the AHL Report I am going to concentrate on goaltenders. There are veteran goalies trying to show their respective NHL teams that they still have something left, while young goaltenders are trying to prove that they have what it takes to play in The Show.
It seems strange that a lot of AHL teams are not necessarily playing their young goalies but are going with veterans in an attempt to win rather than develop. There’s an interesting situation in San Antonio, the AHL home of the Florida Panthers farm team. Jacob Markstrom is considered the best goalie not playing in the NHL, but the Rampage have used the 30-year-old Dov Grumel-Morris eight times, while Markstrom has only played in seven. Of course Markstrom’s 2-5-0 record with a 3.61 GAA and .881 save percentage could have something to do with the 22-year-old Swedish goalie sitting on the bench more often than not.
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Martin Jones – The undrafted netminder is third on the Los Angeles Kings depth chart, but with Jonathan Bernier possibly on the trade block once the lockout ends, Jones could find himself as the backup to Jonathan Quick should that happen. He is off to a good start with the Monarchs as he is 6-5-1 with a 2.20 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Jones is the number one goaltender in Manchester after the departure of Jeff Zatkoff. Should Bernier remain a King, then look for Jones to spend the remainder of his third professional season in the AHL.
Jeff Frazee – Frazee is off to a very good start in goal for the Devils farm team in Albany where he is sharing the net with Keith Kincaid (who is not the son of Reuben). Frazee has allowed 13 goals in six games for a 2.12 GAA. He has a .921 save percentage to go with a 3-1-2 record. Frazee was once seen as the Devils goalie of the future but at the age of 25, the former second round pick of New Jersey in 2005 has been playing in the minors for a long time and still is the third goalie on the depth charts at best as aging veterans Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are ahead of him. Kincaid has played in seven games for Albany this season after playing in 42 last season. Frazee is in the last year of a two-way, two-year deal.
Dan Ellis – Ellis signed a contract with the Charlotte Checkers during the last week of September after playing parts of six seasons in the NHL. The 32-year-old netminder was with the Anaheim Ducks last season but a torn groin muscle ended his season in early January. The Ducks subsequently signed Viktor Fasth to back up Jonas Hiller, leaving Ellis a free agent. He is hoping to return to the NHL and has been terrific with a 1.67 GAA and an eye-popping .947 save percentage, to go with a 4-2-2 record. It could be hard for Ellis to get another job in the NHL given his age, but if he continues to thrive in the AHL, some team could give him a chance.
Robin Lehner – The Senators goalie of the future has been outstanding thus far with a 6-2-1 record to go with a 1.77 GAA and a .945 save percentage for Binghamton. Lehner has played 13 games in the NHL over the last two seasons despite turning 21 in July. While most assume that Ben Bishop will back up Craig Anderson in Ottawa once the NHL season resumes, don’t overlook Lehner, who may be ready for the starting job as early as the 2013-14 season.
Braden Holtby – The future metminder of the Washington Capitals has been fine thus far despite a less than stellar record of 4-5-0 as Holtby has a 2.53 GAA and a .927 save percentage. While his save percentage is good, his GAA is only 20thbest in the AHL. Holtby sparkled in the 2012 NHL playoffs leading the Capitals to an opening round series win as they upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and he almost upset the New York Rangers as Washington took them to a seventh game. Holtby had a 1.95 GAA and a .935 save percentage in the post-season for Washington and holds the inside track for the starting gig in net, ahead of Michal Neuvirth at this time.