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AHL notebook: Eastern Conference affiliates to watch

Belleville's role in Senators' rebuild, Rangers' European forwards at Hartford among key storylines

by Patrick Williams / Correspondent

Here are four American Hockey League affiliates from across the Eastern Conference with intriguing storylines to watch this season:


Belleville (Ottawa Senators)

The Senators have embarked on a rebuild and will be counting on Belleville and new coach Troy Mann to play a significant role.

Mann came to Belleville from Hershey, where he molded several young prospects into valuable pieces with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. 

Ottawa needs forward Logan Brown, the No. 11 selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, to be a success. The 20-year-old (6-foot-6, 220) is playing his first full season of pro hockey. He started last season in Ottawa, playing four games, before returning to the Ontario Hockey League.

Forward Rudolfs Balcers (5-11, 175), a key piece of the Erik Karlsson trade to the San Jose Sharks, broke out as an AHL rookie last season when his 48 points (23 goals, 25 assists) in 67 regular season games led San Jose. The Sharks took Balcers, 21, in the fifth round (No. 142) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Forwards Gabriel Gagne ( team-leading 20 goals as a rookie last season in Belleville), Filip Chlapik, and Drake Batherson along with defensemen Christian Jaros and Christian Wolanin offer more hope for a successful rebuild in Ottawa.

Hartford (New York Rangers)

The Rangers have relied on finding college and European talent via free agency to offset draft picks lost through trades in recent seasons. This season, they add two forwards with high-end European experience, Mikael Lindqvist and Ville Meskanen.

Lindqvist (5-11, 175) is 24 and had 34 points (20 goals, 14 assists) in 33 games for Farjestad (Swedish Hockey League) as a rookie last season. The 23-year-old Meskanen (6-1, 188), had 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists) in 48 regular season games for Ilves Tampere (Finland).

Having already spent parts of three seasons in the SHL and been highly touted since being selected No. 7 in the 2017 NHL Draft, it can be easy to forget that forward Lias Andersson (6-1, 204) is 19. He started last season with Frolunda (SHL) before joining Hartford, where he played 25 regular-season AHL games with 14 points (five goals, nine assists), and seven games for the Rangers.

Andersson need look no further than Filip Chytil, another highly regarded teenager, to see that a season spent in Hartford can lead to Madison Square Garden.

Video: NSH@NYR: Chytil threads pass, Fast buries it


Providence (Boston Bruins)

Forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (6-1, 184) should make a push for full-time job in Boston soon, but he will spend some more time in Providence where he had 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in his rookie AHL season. Boston chose him in the second round (No. 45) of the 2015 NHL Draft. 

Providence has a pair of first-round picks among its defensemen. Jakub Zboril (6-0, 200) enters his second AHL season at 21; Boston selected him 13th in the 2015 NHL Draft. Urho Vaakanainen (6-1, 185) will have an opportunity, at 19, to take on regular AHL duty after Boston chose him No. 18 in the 2017 draft.

Forward Trent Frederic (6-2, 203) had a brief stint in Providence last season and was impressive five goals, three assists in 13 games) at age 20 after being chosen by Boston at No. 29 in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Zach Senyshyn (6-1, 192), is a 21-year-old forward starting his second AHL season after Boston selected him No. 15 in the 2015 draft. He had 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 66 regular-season games as an AHL rookie.


Syracuse (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Tampa Bay has shown a knack for finding undrafted talent and patiently developing it in the AHL. Lightning forwards Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson are two prime examples. Forward Alex Barre-Boulet (5-10, 170), the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year last season, could be next. Barre-Boulet had 116 points (53 goals, 63 assists) in 65 games for Blainville-Boisbriand of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Other highly regarded prospects include forwards Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh, Mitchell Stephens, Carter Verhaeghe, and Dennis Yan; defensemen Cal Foote, Erik Cernak, and Dominik Masin, and goaltender Connor Ingram.

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