NHL/AHL: Top prospects off to a great start
This past summer, one of most sough after free agents was a young defenseman that had never played an National Hockey League game. That player of course is Justin Schultz, who was signed by the Edmonton Oilers to a two-year entry level contract on July 1st.
With the NHL lockout still ongoing, Schultz is one of many young players that was slated for NHL action, that is still eligible to play in the American Hockey League, without having to deal with waivers. The Oilers farm team, the Oklahoma City Barons, is stocked with great young talent including Schultz, Jordan Eberle, 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and now set to return from injury, 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall. Now Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall of course, are already full time NHL players, but again they are still eligible to play in the AHL, without having to clear waivers.
Getting back to Schultz, the 22 year old defenseman is thus far leading the entire AHL in points, with 12, in just 7 games. He is causing a lot of excitement for Oiler fans, who can’t wait to see the youngster make his NHL debut, once the lockout ends.
A couple other young players that are off to strong starts in the AHL are Minnesota Wild forward prospects Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle, who of course are playing on the Wild’s farm club, the Houston Aeros. Detroit Red Wings forward prospect Tomas Tatar, playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins, is also off to a nice start offensively with 8 points in 7 games. Calgary Flames 2011 first round draft pick, winger Sven Baertschi, also has 8 points in 7 games, playing with the Abbotsford Heat. Baertschi scored 3 goals in 5 games last season with the Flames, after he was an emergency call up. His continued development is crucial for the organization, as most of their star players are aging, and their farm system is relatively thin at the moment.
There are a lot of other great young players that are playing well in the AHL. Many that are prospects, like most of the players above, and some of course, that are already full time NHL players, that are still eligble to play in AHL without having to clear waivers, like the Oilers trio mentioned earlier.
Despite the NHL lockout, the future of hockey as a whole is extremely bright. Hopefully the lockout is resolved here by December, so perhaps we can still see a 60 game NHL season.