With the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend set to arrive in San Jose, the focus for front offices throughout the NHL turn to the stretch drive of the 2018-19 season.
For many, the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 25 is seen as the major path to improving a team. But for organizations with strong farm systems or top prospects, a promotion from the American Hockey League can have a noticeable impact as well.
Here is a look at some top AHL prospects who could make the move to the NHL in the second half:
Lias Andersson, Hartford (New York Rangers)
The forward was recalled Nov. 6 and had four points (one goal, three assists) averaging 10:23 of ice time in 21 games with the Rangers before he was returned to Hartford on Dec. 28. New York selected Andersson (6-foot-1, 204 pounds) with the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and he is a big part of their future.
Video: OTT@NYR: Andersson nets goal on deflection
The 20-year-old has four points (one goal, three assists) in 10 games since returning to Hartford and 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 24 AHL games. The Wolf Pack are six points out of a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. A strong performance from Andersson in the coming weeks would boost Hartford and set him up for a potential late-season return to New York.
Ville Meskanen, Hartford
If the Rangers also recall Meskanen, it won't be a surprise.
He has handled the adjustment to North America after arriving from Ilves in Liiga, Finland's top league. Meskanen (6-1, 188) has an excellent shot and is the lone forward to have dressed for each of Hartford's 42 games. The 23-year-old's work has earned him top-six minutes, and his 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) are third on the Wolf Pack.
Drake Batherson, Belleville (Ottawa Senators)
The center (6-3, 187) ended a nine-game pointless streak with two assists in Belleville's 5-2 win at Utica on Jan. 19. There's still every reason to believe the Senators have found a bargain in Batherson, a fourth-round pick (No. 121) in the 2017 draft who has 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in 29 AHL games this season. Ottawa assigned the 20-year-old to Belleville on Dec. 18 after he had eight points (three goals, five assists) in his first 17 NHL games. Amid a crush of roster changes and player movement to and from the Senators, Belleville remains in the North Division race.
Dylan Sikura, Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks)
Sikura (5-11, 166), taken by Chicago in the sixth round (No. 178) of the 2014 NHL Draft, attracted considerable attention last season as a Hobey Baker Award finalist at Northeastern University. The forward had 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in 35 games before signing with the Blackhawks on March 25, 2018.
The Blackhawks assigned the 23-year-old to Rockford out of training camp and kept him there until recalling him Dec. 12. He had three assists in 11 games before going back to Rockford on Jan. 5. Since returning to the AHL, Sikura has five points (two goals, three assists). He loves to shoot the puck; his 107 shots (an average of 3.2 shots per game) lead the IceHogs.
Rockford remains in the Central Division race but has lost 11 of its past 13 games.
Sheldon Rempal, Ontario (Los Angeles Kings)
The forward signed as a free agent with the Kings on March 31, 2018, after two seasons at Clarkson University, where he had 69 points (34 goals, 35 assists) in 78 games.
Rempal (5-10, 165) has earned two recalls to the Kings, going without a point in seven games. The 23-year-old has been with Ontario since Dec. 4 and has eight points (two goals, six assists) in 16 games during that span.
Ontario is last in the AHL in points (30), wins (12), and point percentage (.405). But Rempal's 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games tie him for fifth in AHL rookie scoring and earned him a selection to represent Ontario, along with defenseman Sean Walker, at the AHL All-Star Classic.
Cal Petersen, Ontario
The goalie (6-1, 185) spent seven weeks with the Kings earlier this season when Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell were recovering from knee injuries.
With Quick and Campbell healthy again, Petersen was returned to Ontario on Dec. 31 after going 5-4-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 11 games. The 24-year-old is 4-8-3 with a 3.68 GAA and .896 save percentage in 17 AHL games this season.
Video: LAK@VGK: Petersen shuts door on Bellemare and Reaves
Chosen by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round (No. 129) of the 2013 NHL Draft, Petersen instead signed with the Kings as a free agent out of Notre Dame on July 1, 2017, and is an important part of the goaltending future in Los Angeles.