During the 2004 NHL Lockout the AHL was a haven for young players to hone their games, and not be rushed into the NHL. Players like Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Eric Staal, and Jason Spezza among many others all went to the AHL to fine tune their games. Ultimately I think they became better players because of it, and benefited from going through proper development.
For guys like Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan I think the AHL is essential. Hagelin is the only one with AHL experience albeit only 17 games worth. All three of these players would be better served playing in the AHL if there’s a lockout.
Hagelin and Stepan should dominate the AHL if there’s a lockout, and honestly Stepan should be a leading scorer in the league. Something I think Stepan struggles with is confidence and this is a chance to gain a lot of confidence if he dominates at this level. Hagelin could also find more of a scoring role in the AHL were as in the NHL, he’s more of a two-way player.
Kreider I think would benefit most from playing in the AHL. Some parts of his game are not exactly NHL standard, and the AHL would be a good place where he can learn more of a two-way game while playing in games that have value. It goes without saying that this is the place where he can become a serious goal threat as well.
Another guy who can play in the AHL is Ryan Mcdonagh. Mcdonagh I think is at a level that is way more advanced than the three guys I mentioned above. What Mcdonagh needs more of is 1st pair NHL minutes. Not that he’s not getting those already, he just needs a couple more seasons to become one of the best shutdown defenders in the league. The only way I can see the AHL helping Mcdonagh is if he can learn more of an offensive game. If he can add a dimension of offense to his game, I really think there’s no reason why he can’t be a future Norris candidate.
I’m certainly not hoping for a lockout, but that’s not to say if there is one that there aren’t a couple positives.
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