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AHL Notebook: Reclamation projects earning second look from NHL teams

Carr, Gurianov, Pirri among players who've put themselves back on radar

by Patrick Williams / Correspondent

The American Hockey League has a well-earned reputation for developing hockey's top young prospects. But the AHL also has become a place for reclamation projects to put themselves back into contention for NHL work.

Here is a look at players whose performances this season already have put them back into the NHL and others who may not be far behind:


Daniel Carr, Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights)

Carr has picked up more of the slack in Chicago since Brandon Pirri was promoted to the Golden Knights.

The 27-year-old forward (6-foot, 193 pounds) is in his first season in the Golden Knights organization. He signed with Vegas on July 1 after four seasons in the Montreal Canadiens organization where he divided his time between spot duty in the NHL and a regular role in the AHL.

This season Carr leads the AHL in scoring with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) in 42 games, including 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in his past 20 games. His 25 goals are second in the AHL, one behind Joel L'Esperance of Texas (Dallas Stars), and his 35 assists are tied with forward Jeremy Bracco of Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs) for the AHL lead. He can drive play in the offensive zone and has at least one shot on goal in 39 of his 42 games.

He earned a six-game recall to the Golden Knights in late November and scored one goal.


Denis Gurianov, Texas (Dallas Stars)

Gurianov was a healthy scratch for Texas in five of seven games during the 2018 Calder Cup Final against Toronto. That concluded a difficult playoff run for the forward, taken by Dallas with the No. 12 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

However, the 21-year-old has rewritten his script this season after several offseason changes to the Texas roster. Gurianov (6-2, 195) had a six-game goal streak from Oct. 10-26 that prompted a recall to Dallas.

He continued to divide time between Dallas and Texas but went back to the AHL on Jan. 4. He has six points (four goals, two assists) in 10 games, earning his most recent trip to the NHL. Gurianov has four points (one goal, three assists) in 18 games for the Stars to go with 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 33 AHL games.

Gurianov has more work to do to establish himself as an NHL regular, but he's come a long way in eight months.


Logan Shaw, Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets)

Shaw could not find an NHL opportunity after he had 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 72 games split between Montreal and the Anaheim Ducks last season.

"Stress-wise, it wasn't easy," Shaw said of his offseason.

A training-camp tryout with the Calgary Flames did not lead to an NHL job, so the 26-year-old forward had to settle for an AHL contract with San Diego (Anaheim); he quickly took advantage of it with five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games. That did attract interest from an NHL team, and the 26-year-old forward signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets on Nov. 11. The Jets assigned him to Manitoba, where Shaw (6-3, 208) has 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists) in 35 games.


Curtis Lazar, Stockton (Calgary Flames)

Lazar (6-foot, 205) has taken something of a reverse path from many of his peers.

The Ottawa Senators selected the forward with the No. 17 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, and he played 245 regular-season games between Ottawa and Calgary from 2014-18.

However he never found a role for himself with regular ice time. He had 13 AHL games in four pro seasons, so Calgary decided to make up for lost development time with the 24-year-old.

Lazar has taken the opportunity in Stockton and run with it. He plays in all situations, has taken a leadership role and is producing offensively with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 46 games.


Jordan Binnington, San Antonio (St. Louis Blues)

Binnington began the season as a 25-year-old backup goalie to top prospect Ville Husso with San Antonio.

After Husso was recalled by the Blues on Oct. 29, Binnington (6-1, 174) stepped in and turned San Antonio's season around. That earned him a promotion to the Blues, where he has excelled in his first extended NHL stint.

He was named NHL First Star of the Week on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average, a .954 save percentage and one shutout. It was the second time in five weeks that Binnington won the honor.

Binnington is 10-1-1 with a 1.75 GAA and .930 save percentage in 14 NHL games.

Video: Jordan Binnington on recent success in St. Louis


Brandon Pirri, Chicago (Golden Knights)

Pirri spent four seasons in the NHL, playing at least 40 games in each, and scoring 22 goals with the Florida Panthers in 2014-15. However he ended up back in the AHL with Chicago in 2017-18, playing two games with Vegas at the end of the season. The 27-year-old forward was returned to the AHL again this season and had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in his first 20 games with Chicago before being recalled briefly by the Golden Knights.

Pirri (6-foot, 186) was sent back to Chicago and had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in nine AHL games before Vegas recalled him again Dec. 18. He scored seven goals in his first eight games with the Golden Knights and has 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 18 NHL games. He has cooled recently but has shown that he can get hot quickly.

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