Most of the first month of the season in the American Hockey League is an experiment.
Anywhere from a third to a half of an AHL roster can turn over in a typical offseason. Combine that change with the inexperience of many of the players as well as the undefined roles they will fill and a fair bit of uncertainty becomes the norm.
Early conclusions about a team or player after the first month of the season must be made with caution.
However, while no NHL management team is willing to write off a player early in the season, a prospect can grab attention while the season is still young, pushing past other prospects in the organization with a strong start.
Here is a look at five AHL players, through the first quarter of the season, who have played their way to a prominent place on the NHL radar:
Danick Martel, Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers)
Flyers management took a very aggressive approach to building its AHL roster. Lehigh Valley looks to be a legitimate Calder Cup contender and owns some of the league's most dangerous offensive weapons. Martel is the poster boy for an AHL project; he was not drafted after playing for Blainville-Boisbriand in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He signed with Philadelphia on March 10, 2015 as a free agent. The forward has steadily progressed and had back-to-back 20-goal AHL seasons after turning pro. However, this season has been his breakout performance. His 14 goals lead the AHL and he is No. 4 in scoring with 19 points. He started the season with a hat trick Oct. 7 and had a streak of six consecutive games with a goal. Martel, 22, plays much bigger than his size (5-foot-8, 167 pounds) and will go to difficult areas of the ice to make plays happen.
Andrew Mangiapane, Stockton (Calgary Flames)
Calgary management has parlayed a sixth-round pick, No. 166, in the 2015 NHL Draft into a player tied for second in AHL scoring. Mangiapane, 21, has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) as part of a talented collection of Stockton forwards that has already sent Mark Jankowski to the Flames. He is sturdy (5-10, 190) and can handle the rough play generated by the intense rivalries of the AHL's Pacific Division. He had a 20-goal AHL rookie season after back-to-back seasons of 104 or more points with Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League.
Mason Marchment, Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs)
A deep collection of prospects has allowed Maple Leafs management to be patient at the AHL level. Marchment (6-4, 205), an undrafted forward, had limited OHL experience (115 games) when he was signed and spent much of last season in the ECHL, thanks in part to the deep collection of AHL talent assembled in Toronto. In his second pro season, Marchment, 22, has broken through a glut of players to create a position for himself in the lineup. He has 12 points (five goals, six assists) in 11 games.
Kevin Roy, San Diego (Anaheim Ducks)
Physical hockey has become a staple of San Diego hockey since the Ducks moved their AHL affiliation to the city in 2015 and installed Dallas Eakins as coach. But there has been plenty of skill making the trek north to Honda Center as well. Roy (5-10, 170), a fourth-round pick (No. 97) in the 2012 NHL Draft, arrived in San Diego last season after four NCAA seasons at Northeastern and had 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) in 67 games as an AHL rookie. At 24, he has shaken aside any concerns about his size and earned two recalls to the Ducks. He has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 11 AHL games. He is one of 12 players with San Diego roots to have spent time with the Ducks this season, scoring his first NHL goal during a five-game stay earlier this season.
Curtis Valk, Springfield (Florida Panthers)
Small (5-9, 170) and undrafted have been common themes for some of the fastest starters in the AHL so far. Valk, 24, played an overage season with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League and then parts of two seasons in the ECHL. Last season, the forward broke out with 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) with Utica while playing on an AHL contract. That earned him his first NHL contract when he signed with Florida on July 1, 2017. Springfield endured a 2-11-1-0 start but has shown signs of life lately with a four-game winning streak in mid-November. Valk has been significant part of the success that Springfield has had and has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 16 games. He made his NHL debut Nov. 14.