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AHL Update

Canadiens prospect Hudon shines in first AHL season

Friday, 12.12.2014 / 12:36 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

The Montreal Canadiens have made 50 fifth-round draft selections in their franchise history.

Mike Busniuk won a record five Calder Cups playing in the American Hockey League and a sixth as an assistant coach. Bill Nyrop won the Stanley Cup three years in a row during the Canadiens dynasty in the 1970s. Mikhail Grabovski was a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs' 2007 Calder Cup title team who has played more than 450 NHL games. And current Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher has become a rising star in the League.

Charles Hudon joined that impressively productive group as pick No. 122 in the 2012 NHL Draft, and after four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he is quickly making a mark as a professional rookie with Hamilton.

"It's tough to really follow [players after they're drafted], especially during the season, other than going on the Internet and see how they're doing. Maybe give their coach a call once in a while," Bulldogs coach Sylvain Lefebvre said. "But I knew of Charles, and I knew what he could do on the ice."

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Senators forward a Prince of a prospect

Friday, 12.05.2014 / 12:22 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Hockey is a game. A fun, fast-paced, emotional game. But at its core, it is also a way of life.

Early morning practices, long drives to tournaments across state lines, and giving up a lot in order to gain even more somewhere down the line. Shane Prince, the Ottawa Senators’ second round pick (No. 61) of the 2011 NHL Draft, especially knows this to be true.

“As a kid, I always envisioned [making it]. I wasn’t in hockey just for the fun of it,” Prince said. “My dad was very passionate about it, and he sacrificed a lot to make me as good of a player as I could possibly be, and I obviously sacrificed a lot, too. It ended up paying off, and it’s been awesome.”

The 22-year-old Spencerport, N.Y. native played major junior in the Ontario Hockey League with Kitchener and Ottawa. He put up 42 points in 128 games over his first two seasons, and then recorded a total of 178 points in 116 games during his final two years, finishing fourth in the OHL in scoring in 2011-12.

Now playing for the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., Prince says that hunger to produce still drives him each night on the ice.

“Everyone wants to score goals, but he’s really driven by scoring goals,” Binghamton Senators coach Luke Richardson said. “He’s a real competitor, and that’s a good thing. You can coach systems, and positions, and even a little technique, but you can’t coach emotion. He’s got it.”

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Blackhawks pick Hartman honing game in Rockford

Friday, 11.28.2014 / 12:32 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Ryan Hartman's name floated in the world of hockey long before he laced up for his first professional game eight months ago.

He was ranked 16th among North American skaters in the Central Scouting final rankings in his draft year, going on to fulfill expectations when the Chicago Blackhawks chose him No. 30 in the 2013 NHL Draft. Though the wing was born in South Carolina, he grew up in Chicago, making an already memorable day that much more surreal.

"It probably took until a couple weeks after [to sink in]," Hartman said. "After the draft, I went down to South Carolina for two weeks with my family to relax and get away from hockey and celebrate a little bit. When I got back to Chicago, it definitely sank in that I was drafted."

It's something every athlete dreams of: Spending their formative years idolizing the local team and molding their game after the greats, only to one day be able to have the chance to wear that same jersey. Hartman, 20, is hoping to join players like Chris Chelios and Ed Olczyk as Illinois natives given the chance to eventually skate for the Blackhawks rather than just cheering from the stands.

But before Hartman can officially introduce himself to the Madhouse on Madison, he is practicing the right steps that will lead him to the next level with Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

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Syracuse poised to set American attendance mark

Friday, 11.21.2014 / 12:17 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

The number 28,138 is an important one in the world of professional hockey.

On April 23, 1996, the fans who filled the building now known as Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., to watch the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals set a record for the largest indoor crowd ever to see a professional hockey game in the United States.

On Saturday that record likely will be eclipsed by the Lightning's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, when they play their in-state rival, the Utica Comets, inside Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

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Unusual road has Kerdiles on cusp of reaching NHL

Friday, 11.14.2014 / 11:56 AM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

If you trace it back a few years, the ice hockey timeline for Nicolas Kerdiles seems pretty standard.

A stint with the United States National Team Development Program, a few international appearances, some college hockey, and now his rookie season in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals after his first National Hockey League training camp this past September.

Before all that, before the call to the USNTDP, before going No. 36 to the Anaheim Ducks in the 2012 NHL Draft, Kerdiles' road to professional hockey began 20 minutes from the Honda Center on a suburban street in Irvine, Calif., with a neighbor who needed an extra in a game of roller hockey.

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Mazanec continues North American adjustment in AHL

Friday, 11.07.2014 / 11:39 AM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Though there's no definite number, Oxford Dictionaries estimates there are over 250,000 words in the English language. That's not including slang, technical or scientific terms. For those who grow up with English as their native tongue, it's often hard to fathom just how vast the language really is, and how so many of the "rules" are broken on a sentence-by-sentence basis.

Marek Mazanec, a sixth-round pick (No. 179) of the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Draft, knew just a handful of those 250,000 -- if that. After three seasons backstopping HC Plzen of the Czech Extraliga, the highest level of hockey in the Czech Republic, Mazanec split the 2013-14 season almost evenly between the Predators and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.

The adjustment was twofold.

"Everything was new for me last year. Different country, language, people, hockey style," Mazanec said. "The hardest part was my bad English. I got lucky [with] the people in the Predators organization. Everyone tried to help me, so they made it little easier for me."

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Flyers' Laughton impressive early in Lehigh Valley

Friday, 10.31.2014 / 3:55 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Scott Laughton has been a first-round NHL draft pick, debuted in the NHL at 18 years old, and left a lasting impression on many of the sport's biggest decision makers.

But it's not his age that sets him apart anymore. In a league full of younger players looking to reach the NHL, it's the poise Laughton, the 20th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, has shown on the ice in tough situations that is helping differentiate him from his peers.

Beginning his first pro season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, Laughton, now 20, has made an early statement.

"He makes a lot of plays that generate a lot of space for himself," Phantoms right wing Andrew Gordon said. "You'll think the defense has him cornered but he'll be able to open himself up and find six feet of space to get that next play made. That's a sign of maturity in his game, his ability not to panic and to make something out of nothing."

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NHL taste with Avalanche has Hishon eager to return

Friday, 10.24.2014 / 12:06 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

From the moment they first step on the ice, every kid playing hockey has, at one point, dreamed a dream of throwing on the jersey of their hometown NHL team. They can lead their youth or amateur program in goals, or post shutout after shutout, but the harsh reality is that a very small percentage of players actually make it to the pro levels of the sport. But as always, there are exceptions to every rule.

Joey Hishon is one of those exceptions.

Naming Colorado Avalanche legend Joe Sakic as one of his favorite players growing up, Hishon donned their burgundy and blue at the end of last season during an emergency recall in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was a Wednesday, and I was told I'd be playing on Thursday in Minnesota," Hishon said. "It happened really quick, which I think was good for me because I didn't really have too much time to overthink it. I just kind of got thrown into the fire. It was a lot of fun."

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Capitals defense prospect Carrick has bright future

Friday, 10.17.2014 / 1:14 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

While Connor Carrick was waiting to hear his name called at the 2012 NHL Draft, his younger brother, Hunter, was sitting beside him, listening to hundreds of names he didn't recognize.

Joining in with the spirited crowd in Pittsburgh, Hunter began playfully booing each team that was called, eliciting a warning from his older brother that he'd better not boo when a team took him.

Five rounds later, Carrick was shaking hands with George McPhee, then the general manager of the Washington Capitals, and letting his new team in on a secret.

"I ratted my brother out," Carrick said. "I let them know, 'Hey, this kid was booing your staff.' He was as red as a goal light."

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Defending AHL champ Texas Stars a model of stability

Friday, 10.10.2014 / 12:58 PM / AHL Update

Kinsey Janke - Special to NHL.com

Perhaps the only guarantee in the world of sports is there are no guarantees. Players get injured, coaches get fired, and general managers trade away the past in order to make the future better.

In the American Hockey League, the stability of it all is often so precarious that many teams are unable to get out from under it. For the Texas Stars, a season removed from winning the franchise's first Calder Cup, stability is something they have in spades.

Of the 28 names recently engraved on the Cup, 18 are returning to Cedar Park for the start of the 2014-15 season, which begins Friday. This core knows not only how to win, but how to win together, a luxury not many other teams can tap into.

"It was a great experience for everyone last year, and it gives everyone that much more confidence and that much more experience getting to go on a big run like that," said second-year pro Curtis McKenzie. "Now everyone knows we can be champions."

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Quote of the Day

That was something I've been dreaming of, something I've told myself before the third period I was going to do ... It was an amazing feeling. It's hard to describe. I didn't believe it went in at first but when I saw all the reaction and all the fans going crazy and my teammates going crazy, it's just an unbelievable feeling. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know whether to jump or just skate and do a Theo Fleury. I don't think I'm the same caliber player he is so I couldn't do it.

— Flames forward Mikael Backlund on scoring the overtime winner against the Ducks in Gm. 3