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Training camp preview: AHL players who can impact Stanley Cup Qualifiers

Defensemen Bouchard, Liljegren, forward Tolvanen among those to watch

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

With training camps set to begin on July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, NHL.com is taking a closer look at key storylines for each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. 

The Qualifiers will start on Aug. 1 with the top four teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a three-game round-robin, and the No. 5-12 seeds playing in eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the four teams from the round-robin.

Today, we look at 13 players (listed alphabetically with their AHL team in parentheses) who were in the minors before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and have the chance to make an impact in the Qualifiers. 
 

 
Jake Bean, D, Carolina Hurricanes (Charlotte)

The 6-1, 185-pound left-handed shot, chosen No. 13 in the 2016 NHL Draft, led Charlotte with 38 assists, 48 points and 142 shots on goal in 59 games. The 22-year-old played in two NHL games in 2018-19.

 

Evan Bouchard, D, Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield)

The 6-foot-3, 194-pound right-handed shot, the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, scored 36 points (seven goals, 29 assists) in 54 games. The 20-year-old ranked third among AHL rookie defensemen in points and led first-year AHL defensemen with four power-play goals. 

 

Joel L'Esperance, C, Dallas Stars (Texas)

The 24-year-old (6-2, 215) scored 30 goals as an AHL rookie in 2018-19 and scored 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists) in 58 games in 2019-20. He signed a two-year contract July 1, 2018 and can become a restricted free agent after this season.

 

Jake Evans, C, Montreal Canadiens (Laval)

The right-handed shot (6-1, 186) led Laval with 38 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 51 games; the 24-year-old was selected in the seventh round (No. 207) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

 

Morgan Frost, F, Philadelphia Flyers (Lehigh Valley)

The 21-year-old (5-11, 170) scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in 20 games as a rookie with the Flyers this season; the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft scored 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 41 AHL games.

Video: PHI@FLA: Frost scores beautiful goal in NHL debut

 

Martin Kaut, F, Colorado Avalanche (Colorado)

The 20-year-old (6-2, 190) scored 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 34 AHL games this season. Selected with the No. 16 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, he has scored 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 97 AHL games. 

 

Timothy Liljegren, D, Toronto Maple Leafs (Toronto)

The 21-year-old right-handed shot (6-0, 198) scored 30 points (five goals, 25 assists) in 40 AHL games this season. The No. 17 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft played 11 games with the Maple Leafs, with one assist averaging 10:18 in ice time per game.

 

Gerald Mayhew , F, Minnesota Wild (Iowa)

The AHL MVP, Mayhew (5-9, 166) led the league in goals (39), tied for second in power-play goals (13) and tied for third in points (61) in 49 games. The 27-year-old signed with Minnesota as a free agent on May 10, 2019.

 

Brennan Menell , D, Minnesota Wild (Iowa)

The 23-year-old (5-11, 177), a restricted free agent after this season, ranked second among AHL defensemen with 47 points (five goals, 42 assists) in 57 games. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with Minnesota on Sept. 26, 2017.

 

Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Carolina Hurricanes (Charlotte)

The second-round pick (No. 37) by Carolina in the 2014 NHL Draft finished 16-10-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and four shutouts in 29 AHL games this season. The 24-year-old (6-0, 189) is 2-2-1 with a 2.55 GAA and .907 save percentage in six NHL games (four starts).

Video: CAR@PIT: Nedeljkovic flashes the glove on Pettersson

 

Jack Studnicka, C, Boston Bruins (Providence)

Selected in the second round (No. 53) of the 2017 NHL Draft, he was third among AHL rookies with 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games. The 21-year-old (6-1, 171) led the league with seven shorthanded goals for Providence, which had the AHL's fourth-best penalty kill (85.9 percent).

 

Owen Tippett, F, Florida Panthers (Springfield)

The 21-year-old (6-1, 207) led Springfield with 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 46 games despite missing 15 games because of a wrist injury. The No. 10 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft has one goal in seven NHL games. 

Video: ANA@FLA: Tippett scores first NHL goal on the rush

 

Eeli Tolvanen, F, Nashville Predators (Milwaukee)

The 21-year-old (5-10, 191) scored 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 63 AHL games this season. The No. 30 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft scored seven power-play goals with Milwaukee and has a tremendous shot that could boost the Predators power play, which was tied for 24th in the NHL (17.3 percent) this season. Tolvanen has scored two points (one goal, one assist) in seven NHL games. 

Video: CHI@NSH: Tolvanen nets Smith's feed for first goal

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