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AHL Notebook: Western Conference forwards in spotlight

Flames prospects Phillips, Gawdin among those with potential to play in NHL

by Patrick Williams / Independent Correspondent

In a continuing look at the crop of new prospects coming into focus in the American Hockey League, the attention turns to forwards.

Mastering the ups and downs that come with the transition to the top developmental league in the world is a must for those who hope to find success at this level and, eventually, promotion to the NHL.

The first two weeks of this series featured a look at some of the top young goalie prospects in the AHL. Each of the two installments that followed looked at five of the top defenseman prospects in one of the two conferences.

After a look at the best Eastern Conference forwards last week, here are five from the Western Conference with ample NHL potential to conclude the series (statistics are through Monday):


Jason Robertson, Texas (Dallas Stars)

Like the rest of his Texas teammates, Robertson is starting to figure out the AHL.

Texas had a 12-game losing streak (0-11-0-1) in November, but a 6-0-1-0 run has pushed it back into the Central Division race. 

The 20-year-old has a team-leading 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in 25 games, fifth in AHL rookie scoring, and leads Texas in goals. Not bad considering he had eight points (four goals, four assists) in his first 18 games.

The left wing (6-foot-3, 213 pounds) was named CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the week ending Dec. 8.

Dallas chose Robertson in the second round (No. 39) of the 2017 NHL Draft, and he has progressed. He led the Canadian Hockey League in scoring last season with 117 points (48 goals, 69 assists) in 62 games between Kingston and Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League. He also helped the United States to a second-place finish at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.


Jansen Harkins, Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets) 

Harkins, who leads the AHL in assists, is a textbook example of Winnipeg's patient approach to development.

The 22-year-old is third in AHL scoring with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 26 games for Manitoba, but his climb has been a slow one.

The Jets selected Harkins (6-1, 182) in the second round (No. 47) of the 2015 NHL Draft. He went through a 2017-18 rookie pro season that included an assignment to the ECHL and had 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 46 regular-season games for Manitoba.

Last season, Harkins had 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 70 regular-season games.


Brayden Burke, Tucson (Arizona Coyotes) 

The undrafted 22-year-old (5-10, 165) has pushed his way into a ninth-place tie in AHL scoring with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 23 games. He is two goals shy of his total as a rookie last season.

Arizona signed Burke as a free agent March 2, 2018 after he was passed over in the NHL Draft three times. He had 109 points (27 goals, 82 assists) with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League in 2015-16 and 113 points (31 goals, 82 assists) for Moose Jaw in 2017-18.

He has at least one point in 18 of his 23 games. 


Matthew Phillips, Stockton (Calgary Flames)

Calgary has shown a knack for finding unheralded players and then putting them through a patient development process.

Phillips bears a few similarities to Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane, who was selected by Calgary in the sixth round (No. 166) of the 2015 draft. Phillips also went in the sixth round (also No. 166) in the 2016 NHL Draft. Like Mangiapane (5-10, 184), the 21-year-old has had to face questions about his size (5-7, 140). Like Mangiapane, Phillips is putting up AHL numbers that make him increasingly difficult to overlook -- the Flames called ihim up on Tuesday.

Phillips was tied for seventh in AHL scoring with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 22 games before he was recalled by the Flames on Tuesday. He's also been consistent; he has not gone more than one game without a point. Last season, he had 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 65 regular-season games as a rookie.


Glenn Gawdin, Stockton

Gawdin (6-1, 191) was chosen in the fourth round (No. 116) of the 2015 draft but played an over-age season in junior before turning pro. In that 2017-18 season, Gawdin was second in WHL scoring with 125 points (56 goals, 69 assists) in 67 regular-season games. He helped Swift Current to the 2018 Memorial Cup with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 24 playoff games and was named WHL most valuable player in the postseason.

The 2018-19 season, Gawdin's first in the AHL, proved to be a significant jump, but he had 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) in 64 regular-season games.

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