November 19, 2012
Obviously the NHL lockout has brightened the spotlight on the AHL, and the prospects of the parent teams. Ever wondered about those players that dominate in the AHL yet have little impact in the NHL? Most scouts say that the biggest difference between the AHL and NHL game is skating. While that certainly means that NHL players skate faster and with more agility, it also means that the play moves faster and players must read and react much quicker.
Another consideration, especially important in terms of fantasy, is opportunity. Analyzing organizational depth without considering the possibility of a change in scenery, of course, isn't always going to be the case but that's what fantasy owners must do. In this edition of Ramblings I will compare similar prospects in the AHL and give my prediction on their potential success in the NHL, when (if?) play resumes.
Brandon Pirri vs. Jordan Schroeder - Pirri is currently the leading scorer for the Rockford Ice Hogs with six goals and seven assists in 13 games. Pirri, who has shown steady improvement and is now in his third professional season,is equally adept at setting up or finishing a play. The Blackhawks also have a void at second-line center which Pirri will have an opportunity to fill, meaning that likely he'll have at least one of Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane or Marian Hossa as a linemate.
Schroeder is also in his third full AHL season, scoring 28 and 44 points in his first two, and currently has eight points in 14 games for Chicago. Not lacking in any physical skill (unless size is considered a skill), Schroeder seems to lack anticipation and that tends to negate his speed to a certain degree.
I would take Pirri over Schroeder, which doesn't mean I'm saying Pirri will be an All-Star and Schroeder will be a bust, simply that right now I'm more optimistic about Pirri's future as a fantasy performer.
Peter Holland vs. Jacob Josefson- Holland is in his second season as a pro, and the 21-year-old looks ready to take the next step. Holland has 14 goals in 14 games so far, after collecting 60 points in 71 games as a rookie. He may have to start on the third line in Anaheim, but will work his way up. Holland definitely has top-six, if not top line, talent and will produce in the NHL when his time comes.
Josefson, also 21, leads Albany in scoring with 10 points in 13 games after shuttling between Albany and New Jersey last season. Besides the NHL experience, the slick Swede also has played well in the WJC, netting six points in six games. While Josefson has opportunity with the parent Devils, inconsistency and injury history make me nervous.
Given the choice, I would take Holland in a keeper league. I think he is a bit underrated as a prospect and I foresee a nice career there. Josefson needs to get stronger and find consistency to be an impact player.
Marcus Foligno vs. Luke Adam- The "book" on Foligno is that he is a physical winger who can chip in some occasional offense, and he is doing his best to re-write that book. Foligno totaled 13 points in 14 games for the Sabres last season, and has racked up 16 points in 15 games for Rochester in the A. He has good size, soft hands, and drives to the net and finishes when he gets there.
Luke Adam posted 62 points in 57 AHL games in 2010-11, en route to being named AHL Rookie of the Year. He managed 13 points in 27 contests last season, along with 20 in 52 games with the Sabres. Just five points in 14 games in Rochester could indicate a slow start, a lack of confidence, or something else.
I believe that Foligno is for real, not a point-per-game player, but that he will develop into a productive NHL power forward. I'm thinking 55-65 points a year. Adam, on the other hand, must improve his skating if he is to become a point producer in Buffalo.
Mark Barberio vs. David Rundblad- Mark Barberio is a defense prospect in the Tampa Bay organization, who at age 22 still has not played a regular-season NHL game. Drafted out of the QMJHL, where offense is emphasized, Barberio was naturally weak defensively. While still not a shutdown defender, he has improved his play away from the puck, as his plus- 28 for Norfolk last season would indicate. He also posted 64 points in 71 games, adding 11 in 13 so far in 2012.
Rundblad, a former 1st-round pick of the Ottawa Senators, has 16 points in 30 games for Portland last season after being traded to Phoenix. He has eight point (all assists) in 13 games for the Pirates as his adjustment to North America continues for the talented Swede. Rundblad appears lost defensively at times, but his puck skills can not be denied.
I own Rundblad in a keeper league, and have offered him even-up for the less heralded Barberio. Rundblad will play on an NHL power play, but unless his defense improves his even-strength minutes will be limited. I think, though relatively close, that Barberio will wind up with more career points five years from now than Rundblad.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave questions or comments, or tweet them to @RichDillon17