Welcome back to part two of our special edition prospect review series. In the first installment, I looked at the top fantasy hockey prospects of the KHL.
This week we’ll take a tour through the AHL. There’s no shortage of blue-chip prospects or storylines in this league. The AHL is the real training ground for NHL prospects. Hopefully, there will be a name or two in here that you’ve either forgotten about or that surprises you.
Now, I need to give a quick disclaimer. I am not a prospect expert. Nor am I pretending in any way to be one. I am simply a collector and sharer of information. The purpose is to bring my observations to your eyes and allow you to uncover a hidden gem.
Let’s dive in.
AHL Fantasy Hockey Prospect Review:
Logan Stankoven, C/RW, Dallas Stars
Drafted 2021, 2nd Round, 47th Overall
All this kid does is produce. There will always be critics of smaller players. Yet, Stankoven just keeps blowing the doors off expectations. After a dominant 2022-23 season in the WHL (97 points in 48 games), Stankoven’s transition to the AHL has been seamless. As a 20-year-old rookie, he is tied for the scoring lead with 26 points in 19 games. Oh, he also leads the league in goals with 14. Yes, that’s 14 in only 19 games.
The Stars are a deep team, so expect him to spend the majority of the year in the AHL. He should get a few games in the second half of the year, but with a team as deep as the Stars, there’s just little room unless there’s an injury.
It’s at least another year’s wait for his impact to be felt When he hits though, he’s going to hit. He’s a firecracker just waiting for his moment to be let loose. Stank is the real deal.
Mavrik Bourque, C, Dallas Stars
Drafted 2020, 1st round, 30th Overall
Meet the player tied with Stankoven for the AHL scoring lead. The Dallas Stars have been one of the best drafting teams of recent years and Bourque is another gem in the pipeline. Less of a scorer than Stankoven, Bourque also offers top-six upside.
He’s an injury away from a call-up but faces the same circumstances and roadblocks as Stankoven. 2024-25 is a more likely impact timeline with some looks down the stretch.
Grigori Denisenko, RW, Vegas Golden Knights
Drafted 2018, 1st Round, 15th Overall
It hasn’t been a smooth road for Denisenko. Once touted as a blue-chip prospect, Denisenko is a diminished stock. So much so, that the Florida Panthers waived him at the beginning of the year.
Denisenko, desperately in need of a fresh start, has taken the new lease offered by Vegas seriously. He finds himself with 21 points through the first 21 games of the season. Last year he produced .64 points per game, or 36 in 56. This is a sizeable jump in production.
Vegas, another really deep team will continue to build Denisenko’s confidence and take things slow. His stock has really dropped over the last couple of years. If you are willing to take a flier and wait, Denisenko still holds second-line potential. It will be a year or two before you get to reap any reward. Patience is key. Acquiring him though, should be cheap, or free. He has been dropped in a lot of pools.
Brandt Clarke, D, Los Angeles Kings
Drafted 2021, 1st Round, 8th Overall
His offensive skillset is dynamic. Sitting at a point per game, Clarke is adjusting well to the AHL.
I know plus-minus is not a reliable stat, but it isn’t useless either. Clarke is a +9 and over the last ten games, is a +11. He is trending in the right direction.
As well as the Kings are playing, there is no reason to rush Clarke along. You need to hang on to Clarke and be patient. He won’t help you this year. He may not help much next year. If he makes the Kings, I suspect it will be in a sheltered role. One day he will be let loose and he’ll wreak havoc across the league.
We’re talking 60-point upside with potential from there.
Shane Wright, C, Seattle Kraken
Drafted 2022, 1st Round, 4th Overall
It hasn’t been the smoothest road for Wright. To say the first year of his development was unconventional is an understatement. The Kraken appeared very indecisive in whether to keep him or send him back to the OHL for months.
After a quick, unimpressive three-game look this year, Wright was sent back down to the AHL. He finally appears to be settling into the pro level. With 14 points in 15 games, Wright is producing at, or close to, the rate we would expect.
I was never convinced there was an elite ceiling, but a safe floor remains. Wright is going to be a slower-than-expected burn.
It is a good reminder that Wright was granted a special exemption to play in the AHL this year. Normally, 19-year-olds from the CHL have to return to their junior team if they don’t make their NHL team out of camp. Not all Wright owners view his situation in this light. Which means, it is a good time to buy.
Eric Portillo, G, Los Angeles Kings
Drafted, 2019, 3rd Round 67th Overall
Portillo is a very large goalie. At 6’6″, 225 lbs, they don’t come much larger. After three years with the Michigan Wolverines, Portillo turned pro and has been rock solid.
He is currently sporting a 6-1 record, with a 2.09 goals against average and a .939 save percentage.
At 23, and in his first pro season, the obvious plan is for for Portillo to spend the year in the AHL. Let’s be honest though, the Kings’ tandem of Cam Talbot and Phoenix Copley isn’t exactly a tandem that spews confidence. So far so good though.
If there’s any major falter or injury we could see Portillo earlier than expected. There are higher-profile goalie prospects out there, but few have as clear a path to the NHL as Portillo.
Clay Stevenson, G, Washington Capitals
I love a hidden gem. Stevenson screams just that, flying under the radar, rostered in only 3% of Fantrax pools (for comparison, Jesper Wallstedt is on 37% of rosters). Everywhere Stevenson has played, he has put up numbers.
Here’s a quick walk through his career timeline:
- 2019-20 BCHL: 1.77 goals against average, .936 save percentage (35 games)
- 2020-21 NCAA: Season cancelled
- 2021-22 NCAA: 2.70 goals against average, .922 save percentage (23 games)
- 2022-23 ECHL: 2.54 goals against average, .916 save percentage (36 games)
- 2023-24 AHL: 1.73 goals against average, .933 save percentage (11 games to date)
He is steadily moving up the ranks. Darcy Kuemper is under contract for another four seasons, so there is no clear path. Yet, his play hasn’t exactly provided Capitals management with a strong vote of confidence in Kuemper. Contracts come and go.
This is a tidy sleeper stash at your fingertips.
Joshua Roy, RW, Montreal Canadiens
Drafted 2021, 5th Round, 121st Overall
After two dominant QMJHL seasons (2021-22, 119 points in 66 games; 2022-23 99 points in 55 games) and a stellar World Junior Championships (five goals, six assists in seven games), Roy has kept it rolling as an AHL rookie. His 18 points leave him in a four-way tie for third in AHL rookie scoring. His 69 shots rank ninth in the entire AHL.
Unlike some of the names above, Roy is closer to a meaningful call-up. The Canadiens aren’t pining for a playoff spot, they are more willing to give young players longer looks and see how they do against NHL competition.
Still, the real benefit is for Roy to dominate the AHL this year. Any time spent in the NHL chews up his NHL games and likely his prospect status in your league.
That’s all for this week. Join me next week for a fantasy prospect review of the NCAA. Thanks for reading.
(all stats are from eliteprospects.com and AHL.com)
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