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AHL Notebook: Eastern Conference defensemen in spotlight

Capitals 2019 first-round draft pick Alexeyev among those with potential to play in NHL

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

In a continuing look at the crop of new prospects coming into focus in the American Hockey League, the attention turns to defensemen, who face a challenging learning curve.

 

Mastering the up 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.

Each of the past two weeks featured a look at some of the top young goaltending prospects in the American Hockey League.

Here is a look at five AHL Eastern Conference defensemen with ample NHL potential. A breakdown of some of their Western Conference counterparts will follow next week.

 

Alexander Alexeyev, Hershey (Washington Capitals)

The Washington-Hershey affiliation has produced plenty of NHL defensemen in its 15 seasons, highlighted by John Carlson. Alexeyev (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) could become the next one after he was taken by the Capitals in the first round (No. 31) of the 2018 NHL Draft.

He had 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 49 regular-season games with Red Deer (Western Hockey League) in 2018-19 and six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games for Russia at the IIHF 2019 World Junior Championship.

Alexeyev, who turned 20 on Nov. 15, has eight points (one goal, seven assists) with Hershey through his first 18 pro games and is seeing time on the power play.

 

Jake Bean, Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes)

Carolina selected Bean (6-1, 186) in the first round (No. 13) of the 2016 NHL Draft, and he had a rookie pro season to remember. Charlotte won the Calder Cup and Bean earned a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team after finishing with 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) in 70 regular-season games. From there he played heavy minutes during Charlotte's run to the Calder Cup, finishing with five points (one goal, four assists) and a plus-10 rating in 15 playoff games.

The 21-year-old has continued his progress with Charlotte, where he has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 13 games for new coach Ryan Warsofsky.

"[Bean] is coming along," Warsofsky said. "We're just getting him to play a little bit faster, and he's getting it. He's a smart, smart hockey player. High-end hockey IQ, sees the ice at an extremely high level. He's getting there, and I think he's going to be a really good one."

 

Andrew Peeke, Cleveland (Columbus Blue Jackets)

The 21-year-old plays a modern-day game centered on mobility.

Peeke (6-3, 194) was selected by the Blue Jackets in the second round (No. 34) of the 2016 draft. He elected to turn pro after his junior season at Notre Dame and signed with Columbus on April 1, 2019.

The step up to the AHL level has provided him with his next career challenge, but he has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 16 games.

Peeke finished his final season at Notre Dame with 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in 40 games. His three NCAA seasons featured a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 2016-17, a Big Ten championship in 2017-18, and a third-place finish with the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Cleveland coach Mike Eaves has used Peeke on the power play and penalty kill; three of his 10 points (one goal, two assists) have come shorthanded with Cleveland's fourth-ranked penalty kill (88.1 percent).

 

Chase Priskie, Charlotte (Hurricanes)

Bean is not alone in Charlotte, where the Hurricanes still have several strong prospects after NHL promotions and offseason departures.

Washington originally selected Priskie (6-0, 185) in the sixth round (No. 177) of the 2016 draft. The 23-year-old finished four NCAA seasons at Quinnipiac University, where he was captain his final two seasons, before he elected to become a free agent and signed a two-year contract with the Hurricanes on Aug. 17.

In his senior season, Priskie led NCAA defensemen with 17 goals and had 22 assists for 39 points in 36 games. Ten of his goals came on the power play, which also led all NCAA defensemen. He was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as well as an ECAC First-Team All-Star.

Carolina sent Priskie to Charlotte to get heavy playing time, and he has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his first 14 pro games.

 

Rasmus Sandin, Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Sandin started the season with the Maple Leafs before they opted to return him to the AHL for further seasoning.

He has taken that decision in stride and has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in nine AHL games for Toronto, which is tied with Rochester (Buffalo Sabres) for the North Division lead. Sandin had two assists in six games for the Maple Leafs, who picked him in the first round (No. 29) in the 2018 draft.

The 19-year-old (5-11, 183) is far ahead of most of his age group. Injury issues interrupted a portion of last season, but he made up some of that time as Toronto went to the Eastern Conference Final. He finished with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 44 regular-season games along with 10 assists in 13 playoff games.

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