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NHL prospects shining brightly going into Calder Cup Playoffs third round

Young talent leads way for Texas, Rockford, Lehigh Valley, Toronto

by Patrick Williams / Correspondent

Four American Hockey League teams head into the third round of the Calder Cup Playoffs this weekend featuring rosters packed with NHL prospects.

The Eastern Conference Final will feature the top two teams from the regular season. Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs), the regular-season champion for the second time in the past three seasons with a league-best 54 wins and 112 points, faces Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers), a 104-point team in the regular season. The series starts at Toronto on Saturday.

In the Western Conference Final, Texas (Dallas Stars) will host Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks) in Game 1 on Friday.

Here is how the young talent has fared for the remaining teams:

Lehigh Valley

Goaltender Alex Lyon (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) has excelled in the playoffs. In seven games, the 25-year-old is 6-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .959 save percentage. He made 94 saves in a 2-1 in a five-overtime Game 4 win at Charlotte, the longest game in AHL history. In four playoff games against Charlotte, the highest-scoring team in the regular season (3.45 goals per game), he had a 0.73 GAA and .979 save percentage.

Undrafted out of Yale University, he played in 11 games for the Flyers in the regular season and was 4-2-1 with 2.75 GAA and .905 save percentage.

Two young forwards have helped to drive offensive production. Danick Martel (5-8, 167), 23, has seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games. His 25 goals ranked second on the team in the regular season. Oskar Lindblom (6-1, 198), 21, has seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven playoff games.


A pair of late-seasons additions from the Swedish Hockey League have prospered in the playoffs.

Forward Carl Grundstrom (6-0, 194), 20, was a second-round pick by Toronto in the 2016 NHL Draft. After scoring 17 goals in 35 regular-season SHL games with Frolunda, he has six points (four goals, two assists) in nine AHL playoff games.

Pierre Engvall (6-4, 200) has seven points (three goals, four assists) in nine playoff games. The Maple Leafs selected Engvall, 21, in the seventh round (No. 188) of the 2014 draft.

Garret Sparks, the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award winner this season as the AHL's top goaltender in the regular season, has continued that excellence in the playoffs. Sparks (6-3, 194), 24, is 6-2 with a 2.22 GAA and .920 save percentage in eight playoff games.

A seventh-round pick (No. 190) by Toronto in the 2011 draft, Sparks could contend for a full-time job with the Maple Leafs next season.


Forward Chris DiDomenico leads the AHL in playoff scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 11 games.

Forward Victor Ejdsell (6-5, 214), 22, leads the AHL in rookie playoff scoring with eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games. Chicago acquired him from the Nashville Predators before the NHL Trade Deadline in the Ryan Hartman trade.

Collin Delia (6-2, 200), 23, an undrafted rookie goaltender, took over the No. 1 job from veterans Jeff Glass and J-F Berube and carried that through the playoffs. Thanks in part to his 7-0 record and 1.64 GAA and .948 save percentage in seven playoff games, Rockford has a league-best 1.86 goals-against per game.

Rockford has the No. 1 power play in the postseason (37.5 percent) and second-best penalty kill (92.9 percent).


Veteran goaltender Mike McKenna is 7-2 with a 1.65 GAA and .952 save percentage in the playoffs.

Forward Roope Hintz (6-3, 205) has five points (one goal, four assists) in nine playoff games. Chosen by Dallas in the second round (No. 49) of the 2015 draft, the 21-year-old had 20 goals in the regular season as an AHL rookie.

Another forward, Denis Gurianov, has four points (two goals, two assists) in nine playoff games. The 20-year-old had 19 goals in his second AHL season after being selected 12th by Dallas in the 2015 draft.

Undrafted defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (6-1, 195), 24, has continued his strong rookie season. After having 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 71 regular-season games, he has four points (one goal, three assists) in nine playoff games.

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