NHL Prospects

Top Prospect on every AHL team

Jon Litterine   |   @JonLitterine   |  4/21/2021  |  [hupso]

The 2020-21 AHL season is in full swing. There are countless players playing in the league who would be playing elsewhere this season under normal circumstances. With divisions and teams reshuffled due to the pandemic, it’s time to identify the best of the best that each AHL club has to offer.

Atlantic Division

Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders)

Samuel Bolduc, D

Height/Weight: 6’4, 215 pounds
Acquired: 2nd Rd (52nd overall), 2019 Draft

Bridgeport is probably the worst team in the AHL this season. They lack both impact prospects and serviceable veteran talent. Bolduc is a legitimate prospect, but he would probably fall outside my global top-150 at this point. He has all sorts of size and has put up points (nine in 14 games) in his first pro season but I think he settles in as more of a two-way, minute-eater than offensive threat for New York. Bolduc is a safer bet than Simon Holmstrom (23rd overall, 2019) who was and still seems to have been over-drafted at the time.

Honorable Mention: Simon Holmstrom (RW)

Hartford Wolf Pack (NY Rangers)

Morgan Barron, C/W

Height/Weight: 6’2, 188 pounds
Acquired: 6th Rd (174th overall), 2017

Barron began the season at wing before moving to center the past couple weeks. The Rangers wanted to get a look at him in both spots and he’s been equally productive offensively in his first professional season no matter where he has played. Barron has nine goals and 16 points in 16 games at the time of this writing and has been one of the best players on the ice seemingly every single night. Bank on him finishing the season in New York, especially if the Rangers get eliminated from playoff contention sooner than later. Barron, a former Hobey Baker finalist at Cornell, has been a home run for the Rangers scouting and development staff. Also helping his case for an NHL job is that Rangers’ fourth-line center Brett Howden has failed to take a step forward in his own progress.

Honorable Mention: Tarmo Reunanen (D)

Providence Bruins (Bruins)

Jack Studnicka, C

Height/Weight: 6’1, 176 pounds
Acquired: 2nd Rd. (53rd overall, 2017)

Studnicka has spent most of the season in Boston, playing just a handful of games with Providence. He has struggled to find his offensive stride at both spots (one goal, four points in 23 games combined), but he’s the best forward prospect in the Boston system and turned just 22 years of age this past February. A win-now team like the Bruins are better off letting Studnicka get a ton of ice time in the minors as opposed to giving him seven or eight minutes per game at the NHL level. The acquisition of Taylor Hall at the trade deadline could ensure Studnicka finishes the year in Providence.

Honorable Mention: Jakub Lauko (LW)

North Division

Binghamton Devils (Devils)

Nolan Foote, LW

Height/Weight: 6’4, 201 pounds
Acquired: Trade with Tampa Bay

Foote has been extremely consistent in his first pro season. He has 16 points in 20 games and posted a seven-game point streak earlier in the year. He has great size and terrific hands, with the one concern being a lack of straight-line foot speed. Foote showed enough after being drafted 27th overall by Tampa Bay in 2019 to be a headlining piece in the deal that sent Blake Coleman to the Lightning a season ago. New Jersey’s prospect pool has taken a major hit with the endless promotions to the parent club, but the acquisition of Foote has been a shot in the arm for an organization that needs all the talent it can find. He recently made his NHL debut and already has a goal and an assist in his first two games, so it’s doubtful he returns to minors this season.

Honorable Mention: Reilly Walsh (D)

Hershey Bears (Capitals)

Connor McMichael, C

Height/Weight: 6’0, 183 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (25th overall), 2019

It’s been feast or famine for McMichael in his first pro season, with all but one of his eight goals coming in a three-game span. He registered a hat trick against Wilkes-Barre in mid-February and even suited up for one game with the Caps. McMichael was drafted out of London in the OHL as a two-way sniper type and looks like a solid second-line center who can contribute at both ends of the rink.

Honorable Mention: Alexander Alexeyev (D)

Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Flyers)

Cam York, D

Height/Weight: 5’11, 174 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (14th overall), 2019

This is a bit of a cop out because York is yet to play a game for the Phantoms at the time of this writing, but he signed his entry-level deal with the Flyers last week and should be debuting with the club shortly. York had little to gain by spending a third year at the University of Michigan. He captained Team USA to a gold medal at the World Juniors and is probably a better player than a couple of the defenders the Flyers are currently icing on a nightly. Philadelphia’s season appears to be all but over, so they could either opt to give York a look over the final quarter of the season or just let him log a ton of ice time in Lehigh Valley. I expect to him challenge for a roster spot in the fall regardless of their decision.

Honorable Mention: Egor Zamula (D)

Rochester Americans (Sabres)

Jack Quinn, RW

Height/Weight: 6’0, 176 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (8th overall), 2020

In case you haven’t heard, things aren’t going well in Buffalo these days and the youth movement seems to be the strategy for the rest of the season. The selection of Quinn at No. 8 overall in 2020 was controversial at the time with guys like Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti and Anton Lundell on the board, and it’s still a bit controversial now. Nonetheless, with the OHL not playing, Quinn, who had 52 goals in 62 games for Ottawa a season ago, has two goals and seven points in 13 games for Rochester this season. The numbers are irrelevant given how young Quinn is, but he’s a player who relies on his shot and offensive instincts in order to score. His size is average and his skating has yet to look as impressive as it did in his run-and-gun junior league. Still, Quinn’s a top-tier prospect, but he’s got work to do to quiet the whispers that the Sabres should have looked elsewhere on draft night. They haven’t gotten much right the past few years and Quinn is going to have to perform before he gets the benefit of the doubt.

Honorable Mention: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (G)

Syracuse Crunch (Lightning/Panthers)

Grigori Denisenko, LW

Height/Weight: 5’11, 176 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (15th overall), 2018 (FLA)

Denisenko has looked pretty good in his first AHL campaign after spending his entire career in Russia. He got limited playing time during his KHL career at times and is adjusting to life in North America. It might take another season or two, but I see no reason Denisenko can’t develop into a useful top-six scorer for the Panthers. He’s always possessed an underrated offensive skill set and he’ll go to the difficult areas of the ice to make a play. He has seven points in his first nine games with Syracuse, including a very encouraging 23 shots on goal.

Honorable Mention: Gabriel Fortier (C) (TB)

Utica Comets (Canucks)

Jack Rathbone, D

Height/Weight: 5’10, 177 pounds
Acquired: 4th Rd (95th overall), 2017

Rathbone is a product of the Harvard defensive factory which has produced players such as Adam Fox and John Marino over the past couple seasons. Rathbone had 53 points in 61 games over the course of two years with the Crimson and has six points in his first half dozen AHL games. Like Fox, Rathbone wins with smarts as opposed to size and strength. I think he’s destined to become an NHL regular, but I acknowledge Rathbone’s range of outcomes is quite enormous.

Honorable Mention: Will Lockwood (RW)

Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (Penguins)

Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D

Height/Weight: 6’2, 161 pounds
Acquired: Trade with Arizona

I have never been the biggest Joseph supporter, but injuries forced him into 16 games (five points) with Pittsburgh earlier this year and he performed far better than I expected. Joseph is mobile and made smart decisions with the puck. My main knock on him has been a lack of long-term upside. And while I still don’t think he’ll ever generate a ton of offensive for the Pens, he might be a third-pairing regular as soon as next season and that’s a better outcome than I would have originally predicted.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Gruden (C/W)

Canadian Division

Belleville Senators (Senators)

Logan Brown, C

Height/Weight: 6’6, 228 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (11th overall), 2016

Although it’s not entirely his fault, Brown isn’t at the point of his development to shed the bust tag. Of course, the team has done a lousy job with his development and it doesn’t seem to be the least bit interested in putting him in a position to succeed. Compounding issues for the big center is the play of NHL’ers Tim Stutlze and Josh Norris — both being former first-round picks drafted after the Sens already selected Brown. I believe in Brown’s skill set – 6’6 centers with excellent hands and high-end playmaking skills don’t grow on trees – but I seriously doubt the light bulb is going to go off here without a trade. Brown would seem to be a prime buy-low candidate for lousy teams such as Detroit and Buffalo. He’s NHL-ready now.

Honorable Mention: Lassi Thomson (D)

Laval Rocket (Canadiens)

Cole Caufield, RW

Height/Weight: 5’7, 165 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (15th overall), 2019

Caufield won the Hobey Baker Award at the University of Wisconsin this past season, posting 30 goals and 52 points in 31 games. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Juniors and posted three points in hist four games with Laval immediately upon signing his entry-level deal with the Habs. Caufield has a cannon of a shot. It’s hard and accurate, and he’s the very definition of a sniper. Caufield could be a perennial 30-goal scorer based on his power-play production alone. If he can figure out a way to generate consistent offense at even strength, 40-plus tallies could be within reach.

Honorable Mention: Jan Mysak (C)

Manitoba Moose (Jets)

Cole Perfetti, C

Height/Weight: 5’10, 185 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (10th overall), 2020

Perfetti’s drop to No. 10 overall in 2020 remains to some a bit of a mystery, much like the construction of the Pyramids or the Bermuda Triangle. In terms of pure offensive talent, Perfetti is right up there with guys like Alexis Lafreniere, Tim Stutzle and Quinton Byfield. The main difference is that Lafreniere and Stutzle were viewed as more complete players with Byfield is a much bigger and a better skater. Winnipeg’s prospect pool is one the thin side and heavy on defensemen, so the addition of Perfetti gives them a potential top-line offensive threat down the road. He has 17 points in his first 24 games for Manitoba.

Honorable Mention: Dylan Samberg (D)

Stockton Heat (Flames)

Emilio Pettersen, LW

Height/Weight: 5’10, 180 pounds
Acquired: 6th Rd (167th overall), 2018

A native of Norway, Pettersen played youth hockey in Connecticut before spending two seasons in the USHL and then two more at the University of Denver. It was an unconventional route to the professional ranks for a European player who was twice named to the NCHC Academic All-Conference team. Pettersen really saw his stock soar in college. He has far more offensive talent than your typical sixth-round pick and also can play up and down the lineup.

Honorable Mention: Yan Kuznetsov (D)

Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs)
Rasmus Sandin, D

Height/Weight: 5’11, 181 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (29th overall), 2018

Sandin’s season has been derailed by a broken foot. To date he has played just two games this year, one with the Leafs and one with the Marlies. A calming presence who controls the game from the back end and can chip in offensively, Sandin would appear to have nothing left to learn in the minors. He could conceivably used as trade bait if Toronto GM Kyle Dubas wants to make a splash over the summer, but the Leafs always operate right near the salary cap and Sandin’s $894K cap hit is awfully attractive.

Honorable Mention: Timothy Liljegren (D)

Central Division

Chicago Wolves (Hurricanes/Predators)

Philip Tomasino, C

Height/Weight: 6’0, 183 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (24th overall), 2019 (NSH)

As a highly skilled center who can play up and down a lineup, Tomasino never should have fallen to No. 24 back in 2019. I’ve always felt he’s been underrated offensively simply because he does so many other things well. Tomasino has seven goals and 20 points in 18 games for Chicago this season, which are excellent numbers for a 19-year-old in his first year as a pro. I find it extremely difficult to envision a scenario in which Tomasino doesn’t turn into a productive NHL player in some capacity. He should be a full-time member of the Nashville lineup at this point next season.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Suzuki (C) (CAR)

Cleveland Monsters (Blue Jackets)

Liam Foudy, C

Height/Weight: 6’1, 181 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (18th overall), 2018

The consensus around the league was that Columbus reached in a major way when they spent a mid-first rounder on Foudy back in 2018. I felt it was a bit of a mistake, both then and now, but the Jackets still got a useful player. Foudy is an incredible skater who comes from a family of high-end athletes. He’s proven he can generate offense at both the minor and junior levels, but I still think he would be best served playing a bottom-six, complementary role for Columbus. I always advocate drafting for upside and I just didn’t feel Foudy provided enough of it, then and now. He’s still a nice player and probably sticks with the Jackets for quite some time..

Honorable Mention: Daniil Tarasov (G)

Grand Rapids Griffins (Red Wings)

Albin Grewe, LW

Height/Weight: 6’0, 176 pounds
Acquired: 3rd Rd (66th overall), 2019

Grewe spent the year playing in his native Sweden. He didn’t generate much offense (three goals, six points in 39 games) and would have been much better served spending the year with Saginaw had there been an OHL season. He has since joined the Griffins and picked up a pair of assists in six games. Grewe is a pain in the neck to play against. He is deceptively strong, his work ethic is excellent, and he excels at annoying the holy heck out of the competition. Grewe doesn’t have anywhere near the ceiling of the other players on this list but he is the type of player all winning teams need.

Honorable Mention: Jared McIsaac (D)

Iowa Wild (Wild)

Matt Boldy, LW

Height/Weight: 6’2, 195 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (12th overall), 2019

Boldy played well in his freshman season at Boston College but ran into a serious stretch of bad scoring luck and his offensive numbers (26 points in 34 games) suffered as a result. He returned to Chestnut Hill for his sophomore season and was one of the most productive players in the country, posting 11 goals and 31 points in 22 games. Boldy was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and averaged a point-per-game for Team USA’s gold-medal-winning World Junior team. He signed with the Wild in late March and has since posted five points in his first five AHL games. The blossoming Wild system used to lack depth, but Boldy gives Minnesota another high-end talent to pair with Kirill Kaprizov, possibly as soon as next season.

Honorable Mention: Calen Addison (D)

Rockford Icehogs (Blackhawks)

Ian Mitchell, D

Height/Weight: 5’11, 173 pounds
Acquired: 2nd Rd (57th overall), 2017

Mitchell has only played five games with Rockford this season, spending most of his first professional campaign in the NHL. He’s been less effective than I would have anticipated at both spots, posting a combined two goals and five points in 39 games. Mitchell is undersized and gets by on skill and smarts. He should be getting consistent power-play time for Chicago because I’m not sure how much use he’s going to be if he isn’t helping offensively. I remain optimistic considering Mitchell turned just 22 years of age this past January.

Honorable Mention: Evan Barratt (C)

Texas Stars (Stars)

Thomas Harley, D

Height/Weight: 6’3, 190 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (18th overall), 2019

An absolute horse who can log a time of minutes and skate like the wind, Harley is performing well (16 points in 29 games) in his first AHL season. Harley consistently improved over the course of three OHL campaigns. He may never be a true power-play guy, but he does so many other things well that I like his chances of being an impact player for the Stars as soon as the 2021-22 season. There are very few defensive prospects with such a complete game.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Kawaguchi (RW)

Pacific Division

Bakersfield Condors (Oilers)

Raphael Lavoie, C/W

Height/Weight: 6’4, 198 pounds
Acquired: 2nd Rd (38th overall), 2019

The baffling draft-day slide of Lavoie was one of the 2019 NHL Draft’s most puzzling storylines. He was viewed as a potential late lottery pick and somehow fell out of Round 1 and early into Round 2. The Oilers couldn’t announce the pick fast enough and they now seem to have a future middle-six center on their hands. Lavoie has a massive frame and a big shot. He’s a little in and out with his effort level at times but that has improved the past couple years. He was loaned to Vasby in Sweden’s second division for the season and posted a whopping 23 goals and 45 points in 51 games. He has four goals and seven points in eight games since arriving in Bakersfield. There’s clear risk here, but Lavoie possesses a skill set virtually no forward in the Edmonton system can match.

Honorable Mention: Ryan McLeod (C/W)

Colorado Eagles (Avalanche)

Alex Newhook, C

Height/Weight: 5’10, 190 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (16th overall), 2019

NHL teams should be doing whatever is necessary to ensure the Avalanche don’t add to their ridiculous young talent pool, but 15 other clubs decided to pass on Newhook and Colorado again came out smelling like roses. Newhook played two seasons at Boston College, posting 26 goals and 58 points in 48 games. He possesses the foot speed, explosiveness and skill to make opposing defenders look silly. He’s been a personal favorite of mine since before he was drafted and I’m glad Newhook signed because having him torch collegiate goaltenders for a third year would have been totally pointless. I haven’t updated my universal prospect rankings yet this year, but I imagine Newhook is in the top 10-15 at this point.

Honorable Mention: Sampo Ranta (RW)

Henderson Silver Knights (Golden Knights)

Jack Dugan, LW

Height/Weight: 6’2, 209 pounds
Acquired: 5th Rd (142th overall), 2017

At 23 years of age, Dugan is older than most of the players on this list but that doesn’t concern me in the least because he’s NHL ready right now. Dugan lead the NCAA in both assists (42) and points (52) a year ago at Providence and has been excellent (five goals, 22 points in 25 games) in his first season with Henderson. Dugan’s hockey IQ is exceptional. He always manages to find space in the offensive zone despite his massive frame. He’s a brilliant passer and underrated finisher. My lone concern is that he’s not a great skater. Still, they said the same thing about Jason Robertson and look what he’s doing for the Dallas Stars in his freshman campaign.

Honorable Mention: Lucas Elvenes (RW)

Ontario Reign (Kings)

Quinton Byfield, C

Height/Weight: 6’4, 215 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (2nd overall), 2020

It would have been extremely interesting to see what the Kings would have done with Byfield had the OHL had a season. He wouldn’t have been old enough to play in the AHL, so the options would have either been Los Angeles or a return to Sudbury. Byfield’s statistics are irrelevant considering how young he is, but he has managed an impressive 19 points in 28 games. The minus-11 rating is ugly, but Ontario has countless young kids in their lineup, so Byfield gets a pass there. He’s a true physical specimen and some argue he has the highest ceiling of any player taken in the 2020 NHL Draft. He’s a linebacker on skates with the ability to take over a game in an instant. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

Honorable Mention: Alex Turcotte (C)

San Diego Gulls (Ducks)

Trevor Zegras, C

Height/Weight: 6’0, 170 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (9th overall), 2019

Zegras’ season began at the World Juniors where he was the best player in the tournament by a wide, wide margin. He led all players in assists (11) and points (18) while helping Team USA win the gold medal and being named Tournament MVP in the process. His vision and playmaking skills are off the charts. It’s hard to explain just how insanely talented the native New Yorker is, and you can probably count on one hand the number of NHL players who possessed his vision and creativity at the same age. Zegras makes so many things on the ice look routine. He spent time in Anaheim this season playing the wing, but the team eventually returned him to San Diego to get additional reps in the middle.

Honorable Mention: Jacob Perreault (RW)

San Jose Barracuda (Sharks)
Ryan Merkley, D

Height/Weight: 5’11, 175 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (21st overall), 2018

Merkley’s story is well known at this point. He’s a top-tier offensive defenseman who was plagued by some character concerns earlier in his career. To Merkley’s credit, those concerns seem to have subsided the past couple seasons. Merkley was named OHL Rookie of the Year in his first OHL season and all OHL rearguards in assists his final two years. He will never be the type to log heavy defensive minutes, but he’s a massive asset with the man advantage and his nine points in 23 games (with 25 shots) are acceptable numbers for a smaller puck rusher in a tough league like the AHL. His minus-10 rating, however, is the worst on the squad.

Honorable Mention: Ivan Chekhovich (LW)

Tuscon Roadrunners (Coyotes)

Barrett Hayton, C

Height/Weight: 6’1, 190 pounds
Acquired: 1st Rd (5th overall), 2018

The Coyotes have overachieved this season, but it’s a little concerning for Hayton that he has spent more time in the AHL than NHL. I thought he would have a full-time gig locked down at this point, but it’s important to remember he won’t turn 21 years of age until June. I see no real reason he can’t turn into a productive second-line center (think 50-60 points) and he’s just about NHL-ready. Although his AHL season has been abysmal from a statistical standpoint (1 goal, 5 points, minus-9 in 17 games), Hayton still has the potential to be a difference maker on or off the puck. He would have a ton of trade value if Arizona ever soured on him.

Honorable Mention: Victor Soderstrom (D)

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