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Cullen: AHLers that may score if given the call

Scott Cullen
12/9/2010 1:14:38 PM
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Rare is the NHL team that has too many goal-scorers.  Across a 30-team league, there are always openings for players that can put the puck in the net.

Recently, some have been promoted from the AHL, getting a chance to prove they can score at the next level. 

This group includes San Jose's Benn Ferriero, who has three goals in seven games since getting called up from Worcester of the AHL, where he had 10 goals and 16 points in 16 games.

Ottawa called up Bobby Butler, who had 15 goals and 23 points in 25 games at Binghamton, but he's gone scoreless in a couple of NHL games, playing just 7:25 on Saturday night against Montreal.

Tampa Bay hasn't exactly found a primo line for him yet and he played fewer than eight minutes per game, but Johan Harju has points in the last two games and had 13 goals and 23 points in 17 games with Norfolk.

A second-round pick in 2008, Buffalo's Luke Adam scored his first NHL goal in the Sabres' last game. He's not getting a lot of ice time and has two points in eight NHLg games, but Adam started his pro career with 11 goals and 19 points in 17 AHL games with Portland; he'll be able to contribute more if given the chance.

But there are invariably players that come up from the AHL to make some difference in the NHL.

Last season, players like Logan Couture, Tyler Bozak, Ryan Potulny, Dan Sexton, Matt Beleskey, Shawn Matthias and Colin Wilson made the jump after some seasoning in the A.  Okay, not the most overwhelming talent, but certainly some young guys with offensive upside. 

How about 2008-2009, when Bobby Ryan, Claude Giroux, Chris Stewart and Blake Comeau got the call? That group is a little more promising.

It's not like every minor-league scorer is a star-in-waiting for the National Hockey League, or results may not be immediate, but if a prospect can produce in the AHL, they are at least worth considering for an offensive role when they get to The Show.

Here are some that are off to good starts in the AHL this season that might be able to help out their NHL team offensively, if given the chance:

Max Pacioretty, LW, Hamilton - 2007 first-rounder caused a bit of a stir when he said he'd rather stay in Hamilton so that he could develop into a top-six forward when he is eventually recalled to Montreal, but there was logic behind that assertion.

Pacioretty was rushed to the NHL after being lured out of the University of Michigan after his freshman season and he scored just six goals in his first 86 NHL games. With 15 goals and 29 points in 25 AHL games this season, Pacioretty could be ready to help the Habs if they need a big winger who can provide secondary scoring.

Linus Omark, LW, Oklahoma City - A fourth-round pick in 2007, Omark was already a YouTube sensation before joining the Oilers in training camp this year and was definitely disappointed not to open the season with the big club.

He raised his profile with a five-goal game a month ago and, after 26 points in 26 AHL games, has just been called up to help the Oilers' injury-depleted forward ranks.

Mats Zuccarello, RW, Connecticut - Diminutive Norwegian was a big point producer in the Swedish Elite League (104 points in 90 games over the last two seasons) and is starting to come on; after two points in the first 12 games, Zuccarello has eight goals and 16 points in the last 15 games.

Dustin Jeffrey, C/LW, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - Considering Pittsburgh's lack of scoring punch on the wings, it appeared that Jeffrey, a sixth-round pick in 2007, would have a good opportunity to make the team this year, but he's back in the AHL for his third season. 

With 13 goals and 30 points in 25 games, he's likely ready for a challenge at the next level, should the Penguins have any needs for a forward with a steadily improving offensive game.

Linus Klasen, LW, Milwaukee - 24-year-old winger scored a point-per-game in 51 Swedish Elite League contests last season and did get one game with the Predators at the end of October, but 12 goals and 21 points in 23 games is an indication that he may be able to help an offensively-challenged squad if given the chance.

Jerome Samson, RW, Charlotte - The undrafted 23-year-old may just be a minor-league scorer but, after 78 points in 74 AHL games last year, he's notched 14 goals and 28 points in 26 games this year.

The Hurricanes have a number of young wingers challenging for spots, making it even harder for Samson, but he's scoring enough to get a chance.
 
Zach Boychuk, LW, Charlotte - A first-round pick in 2008, Boychuk was likely disappointed to be heading to the AHL this season after playing 31 games in Carolina last year, but with 10 goals and 28 points in 26 games, he's making a case to get another opportunity.

Mark Olver, C, Lake Erie - A fifth-round pick in 2008, who scored 122 points in 121 games in three seasons at Northern Michigan, Olver managed two points in fewer than 14 minutes of ice time (over four games) at the start of the season before getting sent down.  He's responded by leading the Monsters with 19 points in 23 games.

Brett MacLean, LW, San Antonio - In his third AHL season, the 2007 second-round pick has established his offensive credentials in the AHL, scoring 65 points last season and opening this year with 12 goals and 23 points in 26 games. In the right situation, he may be able to score in the NHL too.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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