Thrashers AHL prospects update

By Aubrey Chau

The Chicago Wolves are presently sixth in the seven-team West Division of the AHL. They currently have nine of the Atlanta Thrashers top 20 prospects.

Spencer Machacek, RW

Machacek had a strong start to his second pro season with the Wolves, where he has been playing on the first line with AHL veteran and Wolves leading scorer, Jason Krog. In early November, Machacek had a one-day call-up to Atlanta. At that point, he was tied for the lead in Wolves scoring. Since then, his scoring has tailed off slightly, as he now sits fourth in team scoring with five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 25 games. Machacek brings grit to the table as well.

Angelo Esposito, C

Bad luck and a bad knee has ruined another season for Esposito. In late November, he tore the ACL in his right knee, which ended his season.  This is the same knee that he injured and last February while he was playing for the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL. Coming back from last year’s injury, he had a very slow start this fall and with only four assists in 12 games with the Wolves. 

kstyle” id=”HFlink” href=”/prospects/riley_holzapfel”>Riley Holzapfel, C

Despite playing a checking line role behind centers Krog and Johnny Pohl, Holzapfel’s second full pro season has so far been a disappointment offensively. In 22 games with the Wolves, Holzapfel has not yet scored a goal and only has seven assists. Although this 21 year-old’s main role this year is to provide defense, he should be able to play a supporting offensive role given his skill set.

Rylan Kaip, C

Also in his second season with the Chicago Wolves, Kaip has already topped his point totals from last season with two goals and three assists for five points in 23 games. Last season, he had a modest three points in 42 games. Kaip has filled a role as a defensive player and penalty killer. 

Boris Valabik, D

After injuring his ankle in practice with the Thrashers in early October, Valabik was sent to Chicago on a conditioning stint. He played six games with the Wolves and recorded 10 penalty minutes. He has since been recalled and is now back on the Thrashers roster, but has not yet seen any NHL action this season.

Arturs Kulda, D

Kulda has been strong this season and despite missing some time due to injury, currently sits second in scoring among Wolves defensemen behind his defensive partner and future Hall of Famer, Chris Chelios. Kulda has definitely benefitted from playing with Chelios and now leads all Wolves players in plus/minus with +13. The young Latvian is progressing nicely and could still get a trip to Atlanta if there are any injuries to the Thrashers defense.  

Grant Lewis, D

Lewis is still adjusting after suffering season-ending knee injury last March. With only two assists in 18 games, he has struggled to retain his modest offensive output from last season. Lewis’ game is geared more towards offense than defense, so the lack of output is a concern.

Paul Postma, D

Postma’s rookie pro season has been marred by an upper-body injury. He has been unable to carry over his strong offensive performance that he displayed with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. In 14 games with the Wolves, Postma has recorded only one goal and three assists. If he can stay healthy, Postma should be able to get more ice time, specifically on the power play to find his groove and begin to contribute more offensively. 

Michael Vernace, D

Vernace has had a very quiet start to his fifth AHL season, his first with the Chicago Wolves. Four assists in 20 AHL games is pretty disappointing output for a defenseman who was signed to possibly provide defensive depth for the Thrashers. Signed over the summer and now with this his third organization, Vernace has some offensive potential that has yet to be realized.