This week, three of the five players that I look at were sixth round picks in the NHL draft, but are currently scoring at a steady pace in the AHL.
The other two are a former first overall pick (Taylor Hall) and an undrafted scorer out of the Quebec League who likely would have been drafted but for his height, or lack thereof.
While the lockout continues, a lot of AHLers are getting the experience needed and could be in line to take over plenty of third and fourth line spots up front and as fifth and sixth defensemen on the blueline.
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Tim Kennedy –(C)- Tim Kennedy is currently third in scoring in the AHL with 12 goals and 26 points. He is a journeyman who played 78 of his 111 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008-09 season. He is now property of the San Jose Sharks after he was dealt in January for Sean Sullivan, a deal of minor leaguers. Kennedy was the player of the week for the week ending December 2, scoring five goals in three games. He could play some for the Sharks if they have a multitude of injuries but at age 26, he is more of a career minor leaguer.
Cam Atkinson – (RW) – Atkinson is the hottest player in the AHL in December with five goals and eight points in the first four games. Atkinson, like Kennedy, was a sixth round pick, but he has a good chance to make a contribution in the NHL and fantasy hockey. He made his NHL debut last season and was a pleasant surprise with seven goals and 14 points in 27 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets including 10 points in his last eight games. He has picked it up again this season with 25 points in 22 games for Springfield. He will be worth looking at in very deep NHL drafts when play resumes.
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault -(LW)- The undrafted left winger is currently tied for fifth in AHL scoring with 25 points. The diminutive Audy-Marchessault had 40 goals and 95 points in his last year with the Quebec Ramparts in 2010-11 and then followed it up with a team-tying 64 points playing for the Connecticut Whale. He signed a three-year/entry level deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 1 and has been a very good offensive player for Springfield all season. He likely needs more time in the minors but could find a spot in Columbus in the near future as they have a lack of scoring punch at the NHL level at this time.
Taylor Hall -(LW/C)-The number one selection in the 2010 Draft, Hall was sent to the AHL this season to play during the NHL lockout after undergoing off-season surgery on his left shoulder. He only played 61 games last season, due to injuries to his eye, shoulder and a concussion. Still, he managed 27 goals and 53 points as he continued to show that he is a star in the making. Hall has 17 points in 14 games thus far in the AHL. The Oilers still have thoughts of making him a center and will give him an opportunity to play there this season, but wherever he plays, he deserves to go fairly high in pools as he has the potential to be a 50 goal scorer.
Ben Smith-(RW)-The third of the sixth round picks in this column, Smith made a name for himself with an outstanding 2011 NHL playoff when he managed to score three times in seven games. He has only played in 19 regular season NHL games, also scoring three times. Strangely enough, he has not had an assist at the NHL level but has 10 goals and 10 assists in 25 AHL games thus far. He is coming off March surgery to repair a tear in his hip and he also needed hernia surgery, so the extra time in the minors is not hurting him. Smith is a bottom six NHL forward at best, and likely is best selected as a waiver wire pick in deep pools when he plays in the NHL.