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Wild vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

AHL Prospects Waiting for Opportunity

Wednesday, 12.08.2010 / 3:28 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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AHL Prospects Waiting for Opportunity
With the Hurricanes and their top prospects in Charlotte of the American Hockey League, an apparent stroke of good luck can work both ways.

In what’s been a remarkable run in Raleigh (knock on wood), the Canes have lost just four total man games to injury – two to Sergei Samsonov, who did not make the trip to Helsinki for the European Premiere, and two more to Joni Pitkanen, who sat for two contests in early November.

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The opposite has been true in recent years, when player after player, many of them key to the team’s success, hit the training room with ailments both routine and bizarre. When two players miss significant time after being cut by opponents’ skates in the same season, as was the case with Joe Corvo and Cam Ward in 2009-10, one has to wonder if there’s an end in sight.

This year’s change of pace has been welcome one for General Manager Jim Rutherford and the Hurricanes, although at the same time, recent history suggested that they would have been able to get a better look at some of the top prospects at the NHL level by now.

“Normally their opportunity would come due to injuries, but it just hasn’t happened yet,” said Rutherford. “We’re looking forward to seeing them when it does.”

While the entire Checkers squad has been playing well of late, having won 10 of their last 13 games, a trio of offensive names stand out. They are Zach Boychuk and Jerome Samson, who have been with the Checkers all season and are currently in a five-way tie for third in league scoring, and Zac Dalpe, who has been red hot ever since his initial assignment back in October.

As the last player cut from the roster prior to the Hurricanes’ season-opening trip to Europe, Boychuk may have the inside track on a recall, particularly when one considers his pedigree as a first-round draft pick and 33 games of NHL experience. The 21-year-old was snakebitten to start the season, but now has 28 points (10g, 18a) in 26 games.

Samson, 23, is building on his breakout 2009-10 season with Albany by posting 14 goals and 14 assists thus far. The right wing, who saw his first seven games of NHL action last season, has led the AHL in shots on goal virtually from day one, having taken an average of 4.7 per game for a total of 123. As a tireless worker down low, the undrafted Samson may be a better fit on a grinding role than some of the Hurricanes’ other top prospects.

Dalpe, the 21-year-old center who was taken one round after Boychuk in 2008, has been on an absolute goal-scoring tear ever since he joined the Checkers following a seven-game stint to start the season with Carolina. Having played 10 fewer games than the likes of Boychuk and Samson, he can’t be found among the AHL’s scoring leaders but his pace certainly suggest that he belongs. He has 10 goals in 16 games with the Checkers this season to go along with five assists, with his two most notable strikes coming 11 seconds apart in the final minute of a 4-3 victory at Norfolk.

“They get closer as each week goes by,” said Rutherford of their ability to make it as NHL players. “The development process has been really good. Any time a guy gets sent down they’re disappointed, but they’ve been doing what they have to do.”

While those three seem to have come to the forefront, others such as Chris Terry (23 points), Oskar Osala (22 points) and Drayson Bowman (13 points in 16 games), have certainly made their case. If their parent club had even a little bit less luck with injuries, any one of them is capable of earning an NHL role right now.

Short of an injury creating an opening for any current AHL player, Rutherford said that he would consider making room on the NHL roster should his team falter through an important month of December.

“Our team seems to be (traditionally) strong in the second half, and we need to hold our own until after the holidays,” he said. “We don’t want to be in a position where we fall further back than we did a year ago.”

Of course, those in Charlotte will have to continue to play well enough to potentially win the jobs of those in Raleigh. Until they get their chance, their NHL-readiness will be hard to ascertain.

“They’re ready for the opportunity, is a better way to put it,” he said. “You don’t really know if a guy is ready until you see him try it at a higher level.”


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 61 12 28 -16 40
E. Staal 56 18 19 -10 37
E. Lindholm 60 11 16 -16 27
J. Skinner 56 16 10 -16 26
R. Nash 58 7 15 -9 22
N. Gerbe 57 7 15 -11 22
V. Rask 59 8 12 -16 20
J. McClement 61 6 12 3 18
J. Staal 25 4 12 -2 16
A. Nestrasil 33 4 10 4 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 17 19 4 .913 2.37
A. Khudobin 7 11 3 .906 2.60