In a sudden turn of events, news broke on Wednesday morning that Bryce McConnell-Barker is joining the Hartford Wolf Pack’s playoff push on an Amateur Tryout contract(Which last 25 games, not including the postseason), despite being a year away from full AHL eligibility due to his age.
The 18-year-old is the fourth Rangers prospect to be sent there in the past week, joining Brett Berard, Adam Sykora, and Adam Edstrom as Rangers management continues to do everything in their power to ensure the Wolf Pack qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
The center, who signed his three-year entry-level contract last week, is listed at 6’1, 194IBS, and has just finished his sophomore season in the OHL, where he recorded season 30 goals and 77 points in 68 games as captain of the Soo Greyhounds, who failed to qualify for the playoffs with a record of 20-33-9.
McConnell-Barker was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2022 draft, good for 97th overall, followings a breakout 2021-22 OHL campaign where he earned Rookie Of The Year honors after he compiled 23 goals and 49 points in 68 tilts. To make room on the roster for their newest star, Hartford assigned 27-year-old Cristiano DiGiacinto(Three goals, 12 points in 36 games) to the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen.
The Wolf Pack(28-25-11, 67 points, enter Wednesday evening’s home match against the Bridgeport Islanders(30-25-8, 68 points) trailing them by a point for the Atlantic Division’s final playoff spot with eight games remaining.
Still, the Islanders have a game in hand. The AHL expanded their playoff invites from 16 to 23 teams last Summer, awarding six slots to the eight-team Atlantic Division, five to each of the seven-team North and Central divisions, and seven to the 10-team Pacific Division. The first round will be a best-of-three series, with the Division semifinals and division finals being a best-of-five, while the conference finals and the Calder Cup Finals will be a best-of-seven.
Hartford is coming off a pivotal 5-1 road victory over the eighth-seeded WBS Penguins( 25-7-11, 61 points, Pittsburg’s affiliate)on Sunday, where they received goals from captain Zac Jones, Will Lockwood(His sixth point in nine games since joining the Pack), Johnny Brodzinksi, Anton Blidh(His fourth since the trade), Turner Elson(Empty-net), and a strong performance from netminder Louis Dominque who stopped 27 of 28 shots to defeat his former team.
Following their “Battle of Connecticut” clash, the Wolf Pack will host the division-leading Providence Bruins(39-14-10, 88 points, Boston’s affiliate) on Friday before they travel to Lehigh Valley for a date with the fifth-seeded Phantoms(33-25-6, 72 points, Philadelphia’s affiliate) on Saturday.