Top performing prospects in the AHL

By Gregory Maker

Below is a look at the top performing prospects in the American Hockey League thus far this season.

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury
1st overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft (PIT)
Team: Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins

Forgotten a bit in the Sidney Crosby hype, Pittsburgh’s other first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury has been spectacular for Wilkes/Barre Scranton this season. His 1.49 GAA leads the AHL and his .938 save percentage has helped the Baby Penguins to a 13-0-1-0 start. Fleury has gone 7-1 in eight games, in his second year in the league.

Fleury was called up to Pittsburgh twice this season due to injuries, posting a 1-1-1 record and a .913 save percentage. But barring further injuries, Fleury is likely to play most of the season in the AHL. He needs a year of solid performances after playing only at a mediocre level last season. His partner in Wilkes-Barre is Dany Sabourin.

Drew MacIntyre
121st overall, 2001 NHL entry draft (DET)
Team: Grand Rapids Griffins

The sophomore goaltender from Charlottetown, P.E.I. returns to the AHL after 24 appearances in his rookie season. In six games, the 22-year-old MacIntyre has a 5-1 record with a 1.83 GAA, sixth among AHL netminders, while splitting time with fellow Red Wings prospect Jimmy Howard. MacIntyre has a .937 save percentage, up from .902 last season, compared to Howard’s .874 this year.

Pekka Rinne
258th overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft (NSH)
Team: Milwaukee Admirals

Pekka Rinne has been sensational between the pipes for the Milwaukee Admirals. In 10 games, Rinne ranks fourth in save percentage in the league at .931 as a rookie. The 23-year-old from Kempele, Finland has a record of 7-3-1 including a shutout.

Rinne played the previous three seasons for Karpat of the SM-Liiga. He will more than likely stick in the AHL as a starter this season, but he was recalled to Nashville on Nov. 10. He is performing much better than partner Brian Finley, who has a .857 save percentage in three games.

Al Montoya
6th overall, 2004 NHL entry draft (NYR)
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack

The 20-year-old rookie is 12th in the AHL with a 2.50 GAA but has the sixth-best save percentage at .929. He has five wins and only one loss on a Hartford team with an overall 7-4-1-1 record. Montoya set a franchise record with 51 saves in an Oct. 29 game against in-state rival Bridgeport.

Montoya is performing better than partner and fellow rookie Chris Holt, who has a .883 save percentage. Montoya’s chances of making it to New York for some games this season are pretty good, given the frequency of goaltenders’ injuries.

Defensemen

Aaron Johnson
85th overall, 2001 NHL Entry Draft (CLB)
Team: Syracuse Crunch

Johnson is in his third season of play in the AHL. The Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia native is sixth among defensemen in the league with 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists). Johnson played 29 games for Columbus in 2003-04 recording 8 points including 6 assists. Johnson played 77 games in 2004-05 recording 23 points including 17 assists. He stepped up his toughness last season with the Crunch recording 140 penalty minutes for Syracuse, a team that had eight players in double digits last season. Johnson has fought his way to 38 penalty minutes this season for a 6-7-0 last place Syracuse team.

Forwards

Jiri Hudler, LW
58th overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft (DET)
Team: Grand Rapids Griffins

Third-year pro Jiri Hudler is tied for first in scoring in the AHL with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 14 games, beside 26-year-old Erik Westrum. The Olomouc, Czech Republic native is in his third season with the Griffins. With an average of 1.93 points per game, Hudler has played a key role in putting the Griffins into first place in the North Division.

Hudler played 12 games for Detroit in 2003-04 scoring one goal and adding two helpers. He will likely see time with the Wings later this year as well.

Michel Ouellet, RW
124th overall, 2000 NHL Entry Draft (PIT)
Team: Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins

Ouellet is third in the AHL in scoring with 23 points. At 6’0 201 pounds, Ouellet came up as a sniper. His skating and defensive work were his biggest knocks, but he is improving nicely in both areas. He has also improved his passing over the last two seasons to be more of an offensive threat. He has almost twice as many assists this season than goals, 15 vs. 8. With five players already called up to Pittsburgh, Ouellet may be the next to enter play on a struggling Pittsburgh team.

Jason Pominville, RW
55th overall, 2001 NHL Entry Draft (BUF)
Team: Rochester Americans

Pominville played one game in Buffalo with the Sabres, but otherwise has been on fire in Rochester, scoring a league-leading 15 goals in 13 games. This is an unusually high scoring rater for the winger, who had 30 goals in the league last season in 78 games. His 20 total points place the soon to be 23-year-old fifth in league scoring.

Roman Voloshenko, LW
42nd, 2004 NHL Entry Draft (MIN)
Team: Houston Aeros

The 19-year-old rookie from Brest, Belarus is off to an incredible start for the first place Aeros. Voloshenko is tied for third in the league with 12 goals, and is third on his team with 18 points in 19 games. His performance is a surprise, having not played in any elite league last season. He is a +2. With a young team in Minnesota, Voloshenko might see some time this season, but looks to be in the AHL for most of it.

Geoff Platt, C
Undrafted free agent
Team: Syracuse Crunch

Platt’s scoring prowess at 20 years old in the AHL is surprising with 17 points in 13 games (12 of them goals), but what’s more surprising is that he is only under an AHL contract. At 5’9, 171 pounds, he’s not listed much smaller than league leader Jiri Hudler. If he keeps up the pace, the question won’t be which NHL team signs him, but when.

Peter Sejna, LW
Free agent signee of St. Louis
Team: Peoria Rivermen

The 26-year-old Slovakia native has rebounded this year in Peoria after a disappointing 38 points last season. In his third season, the 5’11 194-pounder leads the Rivermen in points (17), goals (7), power play goals (7) and points per game (1.42). The Colorado College product is +3.

Sejna earned a call-up earlier this season, playing two games for the Blues. Sejna scored a goal and added an assist for St. Louis. Sejna played 21 games for the Blues over the last two seasons with five points, including 3 goals.

Dustin Penner, F
Free agent signee of Anaheim
Team: Portland Pirates

Penner has improved his numbers tremendously from his rookie season in Cincinnati. Penner leads the Portland Pirates with 17 points including a team-leading 9 goals in 13 games. The Winkler, Manitoba was signed by the Mighty Ducks as a free agent after one season at the University of Maine and has been a great find. At 6’4 240 pounds, Penner is learning to use his size to play better. Penner was called up to Anaheim this season, but did not appear in a game.

Called up

Derek Roy (20 points in 8 games), Erik Christensen (19 points in 9 games), Kurtis Foster, first in points among defensemen with 15 (4 goals, 11 assists) in 19 games, and defenseman Ryan Whitney (14 points in 9 games).

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