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AHL Notebook: Eastern Conference free agency

Agozzino, Barber, Gilmour 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 a 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 Eastern Conference who have been on the move this week.

 

Andrew Agozzino, F, (Pittsburgh Penguins - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton)

The 28-year-old forward has been a fixture in the Colorado Avalanche organization, playing six of the past seven seasons in their system after they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

Agozzino played for the Avalanche for the first time since 2016 last season and had two points (one goal, one assist) in 11 games, and he was effective for the Colorado Eagles in the AHL, getting 60 points (26 goals, 34 assists) in 56 regular-season games and three goals in four playoff games.

He can help a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team that lacked a natural goal-scorer and missed the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons in 2018-19.

 

Riley Barber, F, (Montreal Canadiens - Laval)

The 25-year-old forward was not able to find a full-time role with the Washington Capitals, playing three NHL regular-season games in his four professional seasons. However, the Canadiens see potential in a player who trained in what has been one of the top development pipelines after he was selected in the sixth round (No. 167) in the 2012 NHL Draft by Washington.

Barber helped carry Hershey, Washington's AHL affiliate, through a difficult first half and continued to produce when the team got hot in the second half. He had 27 points (16 goals, 11 assists) in his final 30 regular-season games for Hershey, which was in last place in the league in late December before going 28-5-4-2 to end the regular season.

 

John Gilmour, D, (Buffalo Sabres - Rochester)

Since being selected by the Calgary Flames in the seventh round (No. 198) in the 2013 NHL Draft, Gilmour has progressed through four NCAA seasons at Providence College and three AHL seasons with Hartford.

Last season, the 26-year-old defenseman was named a First Team AHL All-Star after finishing second in scoring among defensemen with 54 points (20 goals, 34 assists) in 70 regular-season games. 

Gilmour, who had five points (two goals, three assists) in 28 games with the New York Rangers in 2017-18, will be in the mix for the Sabres to be a top recall option, especially with Zach Bogosian (hip surgery) and Lawrence Pilut (shoulder surgery) expected to miss the start of the season.

 

Andrew Hammond, G, (Buffalo - Rochester)

The 31-year-old goalie signed with Buffalo following one season in the Minnesota Wild organization, and he should establish himself as the No. 1 goalie with Rochester and provide the Sabres with a proven recall option.

Last season, Hammond helped Iowa, Minnesota's AHL affiliate, to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, going 19-12-2 with a 2.81 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 33 regular-season games. He split time in the regular season with Minnesota prospect Kaapo Kahkonen before taking over the job full-time in the playoffs, when he went 5-6 with a 2.46 GAA and .912 save percentage in 11 games.

 

Vincent LoVerde, D, (New York Rangers - Hartford)

LoVerde signed an AHL contract with Hartford that puts him in place to guide their young defensemen prospects, including Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, and Yegor Rykov.

Last season LoVerde had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 68 regular-season games and six assists in 13 playoff games for Toronto of the AHL, helping it advance to the Eastern Conference Final. The 30-year-old defenseman is a two-time Calder Cup champion, winning it with Toronto in 2018 and with Manchester, the Los Angeles Kings' AHL affiliate, in 2015.

 

Ben Street, F, (New Jersey Devils - Binghamton)

The 32-year-old forward plays an excellent two-way game and will be part of a remake after Binghamton finished 30th in the league with 63 points last season. 

Street is coming off a season in which he played an NHL career-high 21 games with the Anaheim Ducks, getting five points (three goals, two assists). He also spent time with their AHL affiliate, San Diego, and had 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 32 regular-season games.

A proven winner, Street helped San Diego advance to the Western Conference Final this season with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 16 playoff games, and he won the Calder Cup in 2017 with Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings).

 

Coach Mike Vellucci (Pittsburgh - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton)

Vellucci will play as big a role as any player.

Velluci and Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford have a relationship that dates to their days in the Compuware hockey program, and he will be tasked with getting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton back to the postseason after it missed for the first time in 17 seasons in 2018-19. 

Vellucci is coming off his second season with Charlotte, which won the Calder Cup championship after leading the AHL with a 51-17-7-1 record in the regular season. He also won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL's outstanding coach and developed several key prospects for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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