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AHL Notebook: Eastern Conference affiliates with deep prospect pools

Alexeyev comfortable as first-year pro in Hershey; Providence building core of young defensemen

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

Top selections from several different NHL Drafts populate the rosters of American Hockey League teams, but the talent runs much deeper than those blue-chip prospects.

Here is a look at five teams from the Eastern Conference in the NHL that have deep prospect pools at the AHL level. Next week, a breakdown of the top Western Conference AHL affiliates.

Hershey (Washington Capitals)

Since the Washington-Hershey affiliation began in 2005, it has sent wave after wave of talent to the NHL. The Capitals had 14 Hershey alumni on their 2018 Stanley Cup championship team. Goalie Ilya Samsonov is the latest Hershey graduate to move on to Washington as the backup to Braden Holtby this season.

Rookie defenseman Alexander Alexeyev (6-4, 210), a first-round pick (No. 31) in the 2018 NHL Draft, scored in his season debut last weekend and the 19-year-old looks comfortable as a first-year pro.

Another pick in Hershey from the 2018 draft, defenseman Martin Fehervary, moved to North America after a strong season with HV71 (Swedish Hockey League). The 20-year-old (6-2, 200) is a second-round pick (No. 46).

Forward Brett Leason (6-5, 210), who had 89 points (36 goals, 53 assists) in 55 regular-season games for Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League, is an intriguing addition. The 20-year-old was passed over twice in the NHL draft before the Capitals took him in the second round (No. 56) of the 2019 NHL Draft after his breakout season.

The Capitals also signed Joe Snively (5-9, 175), from nearby Herndon, Virginia on March 18 after four seasons at Yale University. The 23-year-old debuted in Hershey's top-six forward group.

 

Providence (Boston Bruins)

Optimism begins with a young group of defensemen that already includes Urho Vaakanainen, 20, Jakub Zboril, 22, and Jeremy Lauzon, 22.

Undrafted Cooper Zech (5-10, 165), had an impressive freshman season at Ferris State University with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 36 games before turning pro as a 20-year-old.

The new talent continues at forward, where Jack Studnicka (6-1, 171) is starting his rookie season after Boston selected him in the second round (No. 53) of the 2017 NHL Draft. The 20-year-old had 83 points (36 goals, 47 assists) in 60 games between Oshawa and Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League last season.

The Bruins may also have a find in 21-year-old Oskar Steen (5-9, 188), their sixth-round pick (No. 165) in the 2016 NHL Draft. He broke out in the Swedish Hockey League last season for Farjestad with 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 46 games.

 

Syracuse (Tampa Bay Lightning)

The Lightning have long had a knack for finding overlooked talent, much of it not selected in the NHL Draft.

Two undrafted forwards have joined the prospect pipeline this season, each a product of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. 

Peter Abbandonato (5-10, 194) led the QMJHL in scoring with 111 points (29 goals, 82 assists) in 68 games for Rouyn-Noranda, the Memorial Cup champion. The Lightning brought the 21-year-old into the organization with a two-year AHL contract.

Jimmy Huntington (6-0, 204) had 92 points (40 goals, 52 assists) in 66 regular-season games for Rimouski. He will turn 21 on Nov. 18.

 

Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs)

The Maple Leafs have made heavy use of their AHL affiliate since Kyle Dubas, now the general manager, arrived in the organization in 2014.

Forward Egor Korshkov (6-4, 214) is playing in North America for the first time since the Maple Leafs chose him in the second round (No. 31) of the 2016 draft. The 23-year-old was limited to 19 games last season with Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League.

The Maple Leafs also signed defenseman Teemu Kivihalme (6-0, 181) to a one-year contract May 7, 2019. The 24-year-old was selected by the Nashville Predators in the fifth round (No. 140) of the 2013 NHL Draft and played three seasons at Colorado College before playing with Karpat Oulu in Finland's top league for two seasons. 

 

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh Penguins) 

Pittsburgh management overhauled its AHL roster during the offseason.

Forward Kasper Bjorkqvist (6-1, 198) turned pro after three seasons at Providence College. Pittsburgh chose the 22-year-old in the second round (No. 61) of the 2016 draft. 

Pittsburgh also brought in a pair of Finland-born prospects. Undrafted 27-year-old forward Oula Palve (6-0, 176) had 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 53 games for TPS Turku. Defenseman Niclas Almari (6-1, 168) was Pittsburgh's fifth-round pick (No. 151) in the 2016 draft and the 21-year-old is coming off a strong season for HPK in Finland's top league.

Defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph (6-2, 185), arrived as a key piece in the Phil Kessel trade with the Arizona Coyotes on June 29. Arizona selected the 20-year-old in the first round (No. 23) of the 2017 draft.

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