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AHL Notebook: Western Conference free agency

Carr, Jurco, Brown among players on new teams to keep an eye on

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Correspondent

Depth is critical in order to build a successful NHL team, and general managers have been busy this week restocking their rosters.

Each season, players who have had lengthy American Hockey League stints have gone on to find full-time NHL roles, and free agency is a place where some of those intriguing possibilities can be found, players who need a second chance or a fresh start.

Here is a look at some of the top AHL players in the Western Conference who have been on the move.

 

Daniel Carr, F, (Nashville Predators -- Milwaukee)

Is there a spot in the Nashville lineup for a crafty forward who won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL's most valuable player in 2018-19?

The 27-year-old signed a one-year, one-way contract and certainly hopes he can secure that spot.

Carr packed a lot into an eventful season in the Vegas Golden Knights organization, spent mostly in the AHL with their Chicago affiliate. 

Carr, who scored one goal in six NHL regular-season games last season, tied for third in the AHL with 71 points (30 goals, 41 assists) in 52 regular-season games. He missed nearly two months with an injury sustained March 5 before he returned for the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. He scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 15 games and helped Chicago reach the Cup Final.

"I'm just looking for an opportunity," Carr said in June before signing with Nashville. "Nothing's ever going to be given to me, and I get that. I think I'm just looking for someone who's willing to give me a chance to show I can play in the NHL. I know I can do it. I've done it.

"I understand that you've got to keep getting better in pro hockey. No opportunity ever stays the same and I think I've done a pretty good job of that. I've definitely gotten better at making plays and understand that [teams] need [that]. If you can make plays you can play [in the NHL]. I think I showed [in 2018-19] that I can do that."

 

Tomas Jurco, F, (Edmonton Oilers)

Jurco bet on himself and it paid off with a one-year contract with the Oilers.

The 26-year-old and new Oilers general manager Ken Holland are familiar with each from their days together with the Detroit Red Wings, which selected Jurco in the second round (No. 35) of the 2011 NHL Draft. Jurco won the Calder Cup with Detroit's AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids, in 2013 and played 159 regular-season games for the Red Wings, scoring 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) from 2013-17. 

But Jurco continued to be plagued by back problems. He had surgery in 2016 after sustaining an injury working out in his native Slovakia. 

"In September [2018], doctors in Slovakia told me I might not play anymore," Jurco said June 8. "It really scared me."

He sought another opinion with a specialist in Los Angeles and had a second surgery.

"I've seen a lot of guys with bad back injuries come back so, yeah, I always stayed positive and I knew I could do it," Jurco said. "It was tough to come back, but I worked really hard with my strength and conditioning coach to come back and be ready."

The rehabilitation process kept him out until January, and he signed an AHL contract with Springfield (Florida Panthers). When Springfield fell out of playoff contention Jurco was traded to Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) on Feb. 25. He clicked immediately with top prospect Martin Necas and finished his AHL regular season with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 33 games between Springfield and Charlotte.

Jurco won the Calder Cup with Charlotte, tying for second in AHL playoff scoring with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 18 games. Putting himself through that two-month playoff grind left him feeling positive at the end of the season.

"I feel better than I've ever felt before, so it's just a good sign for me going forward," Jurco said. 

 

Patrick Brown, F, (Vegas Golden Knights -- Chicago)

Brown signed a two-year contract with the Golden Knights after he captained Charlotte to the Calder Cup championship.

The 27-year-old two-way center had a breakout season with Charlotte, scoring an AHL career-best 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) in 70 regular-season games. His NHL break came in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he played eight games with the Carolina Hurricanes.

He returned to Charlotte for the Eastern Conference Final and finished with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 11 AHL playoff games.

Brown should be a contender for a roster spot with the Golden Knights, and would be a top recall option should he start with season in the AHL with Chicago.

 

Andrew Poturalski, F, (Anaheim Ducks -- San Diego) 

Poturalski will arrive fresh off a productive spring with Charlotte. He won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the Calder Cup Playoffs after he had an AHL-high 12 goals and 23 points in 18 games.

The 25-year-old had three strong seasons with Charlotte and played two regular-season games for the parent Carolina Hurricanes in April 2017. 

Poturalski had 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in 72 regular-season games for Charlotte in 2018-19 and could offer the Ducks a shifty, deceptive forward who knows how to find open ice with and without the puck.

 

READ: AHL Eastern Conference free agency

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