AHL Has Had A Major Impact On The Hawks
05/25/2010 9:37 AM - Mike Peck
Trivia Time: Name the only three players on the Blackhawks roster to never have appeared in an American Hockey League game.
(Answer later in this post)
I’m sure hockey fans in Rockford don’t need any further proof on the impact the AHL has on the NHL. In case you do, consider that 20 of the 23 players that have appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Blackhawks have spent time in the AHL.
There are guys who have played as little as three games (Brent Seabrook) in the AHL to as many as 246 contests (Tomas Kopecky). Of the 20 players to have played in the “A”, 10 of them played in at least 100 games, and that doesn’t include Niklas Hjalmarsson who appeared in 99 tilts with Rockford.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a high first-round selection like Andrew Ladd (#4 overall by Carolina who played 37 games between Lowell and Albany) or undrafted like Jordan Hendry (191 career AHL games with Norfolk and Rockford.) The road to the show goes through the AHL.
Chicago’s roster has 2,527 games of AHL experience on it, an average of nearly 110 career AHL games played by each player. In the age of the salary cap, it is a necessity for teams to keep replenishing the organization with young talent to stay competitive year-in and year-out.
I know fans are always getting antsy about top prospects and their development process, like Jack Skille and Corey Crawford. But looking at the number of games played in the AHL by current Blackhawks skaters, Skille (189) and Crawford (253) are following the common path to the NHL. Both these players should be ready for a solid opportunity in the NHL next fall.
How about the Philadelphia Flyers? They’ve had 26 different players appear in a Stanley Cup Playoff game this spring and 22 of them have skated in the AHL at some point during their professional career.
The number one goalies in this series, Chicago’s Antti Niemi and Philly’s Mike Leighton, both were blocking pucks in the AHL within the last two seasons. Niemi, of course, was in Rockford in 2008-09 and Leighton has 266 AHL games played, most recently in Albany in 2007-08. We’ll have more later this week on this goalie match-up, as there are a couple of really good storylines behind these backstops.
Drafting and developing well is a double-edged sword. As players get better and turn into stars, they will demand higher salaries forcing teams to either commit to high-paying, long-term contracts or into letting players leave via free agency.
This is another reason why I am reluctant to get too excited for “next season” or the “future” as a sports fan. If a team has an opportunity to win, they need to do everything possible to win now. Yes, the Blackhawks have a great core of players locked up for the foreseeable future. But the team won’t be able to retain all of its players from this year’s club, meaning even next season the dynamic of the Hawks will be a little different.
Trivia Answer: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa
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