While few — if any — would argue the American Hockey League is a developmental league many look to get a peak at tomorrow’s National Hockey League stars.
While that still could be true, success in the League dependent on a strong blends of rising stars and veterans to show them how to be true professionals.
The Hartford Wolf Pack, according to assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom, have that mix with players like Aaron Johnson, Danny Syvret, Darroll Powe and Arron Asham, who are working with young players like Dylan McIlrath, Danny Kristo and Conor Allen.
“In this league, it’s a developmental league, but the development comes with certain expectations, certain effort, work ethic,” Beukeboom told BlueshirtsUnited.com Friday. “When you have professionals such as Johnson, Syvret and Powe, that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about. They lead by example in practice and in games, on and off the ice.”
According to Beukeboom, that mindset is contagious among younger players who are in the early stages of their professional careers.
“For a young player, it just rubs off on them,” he said. “They see how they carry themselves and how their attitude is towards the game and how they approach the game. It makes things a lot easier for the coaching staff.”
Johnson currently has 15 points through 12 games while Syvret has eight assists during that same time frame. Johnson’s production has rubbed off on his partner, McIlrath, who has three goals and two assists in the 12 games this season.
“He’s maturing and his game is developing,” Beukeboom said of McIlrath. “He’s more confident with his health and ability. He’s got a good partner in Johnson. It’s a good fit. He’s developing the way he should and he’s probably a little bit ahead of the trend right now.”
While he may not play with either veteran defender, Beukeboom praised Allen, who also has five points through 12 games and has been getting quality minutes in all situations, including special teams.
“He’s gaining experience, which is very important,” Beukeboom said of the young defenseman. “You can’t say enough about how good of a skater he is and how much speed helps someone. He’s got a great attitude and his work ethic is very good.”
Beukeboom said all six defensemen play in nearly all situations, with four getting power play time and all six taking part in the penalty kill.
The Wolf Pack have run into their first string of adversity this season, dropping two straight against Springfield. They have the opportunity to bounce back with a home-and-home series against Providence, beginning tonight at the XL Center in Hartford.
“I except a competitive game,” Beukeboom said. “They’re a little younger than they were last year. It helps us being a little banged up and being a little younger than we were at the start of the start of the season. It should be a couple good games with a good effort from both sides and hopefully some of our young guys can step up and seize the opportunity.”