Bright futures ahead for All-Rookie picks

American Hockey League

Ottawa Senators forward prospects Josh Norris and Alex Formenton were among the six players named to the American Hockey League All-Rookie Team on Tuesday.

Norris, a 22-year-old center, and Formenton, a 20-year-old left wing, were first and third in scoring for Belleville and the top two rookie scorers in the AHL. Norris scored 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 56 games, and Formenton scored 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) in 61 games.

Also making the All-Rookie team were Boston Bruins forward prospect Jack Studnicka (Providence), defensemen prospects Brogan Rafferty of the Vancouver Canucks (Utica) and Joey Keane of the Carolina Hurricanes (Charlotte), and Montreal Canadiens goalie prospect Cayden Primeau (Laval).

The AHL season was paused March 12, the same day the NHL paused its season, and was cancelled May 11. There is no timetable for the NHL season to resume.

Norris was acquired by the Senators from the San Jose Sharks as part of the Erik Karlsson trade on Sept. 13, 2018, and made his NHL debut Feb. 22. In three games, he had nine shots on goal and was plus-2. He was selected by the Sharks with the No. 19 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

“For me, what separates him from a lot of players I’ve coached over the years is just his work ethic and his detail to want to get better,” Belleville coach Troy Mann told The Athletic. “And I think that was something that came to the forefront pretty early in the season.”

Formenton, a second-round pick (No. 47) by the Senators in the 2017 NHL Draft, has one goal in 10 NHL games in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

“He’s as close as you get when you look at our prospects,” Mann said. “On the left side, I think Formenton is the closest left winger [to being NHL-ready].”

Video: OTT@ARI: Formenton redirects shot for first goal

Studnicka, a second-round pick (No. 53) in the 2017 draft, was third among AHL rookies with 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games. The 21-year-old center made his NHL debut on Nov. 26 and had one assist in two games.

“I’ve had a good year down in Providence, where I’ve kind of proved that I’m able to contribute to help the organization when and whether they decide that’s as a Black Ace or playing, that’s for them to decide,” Studnicka said of the possibility of being called up to the Bruins after the NHL season resumes. “I’m going to be ready. I feel ready.”

Providence coach Jay Leach said, “[Studnicka] had a terrific year. Twenty-year-old kid jumps right in, plays every real scenario. Down the stretch I was really leaning on him and Cameron Hughes as the guys to seal some games out for us. His competitiveness, his speed, his hockey sense really shone through and was able to be very productive on both sides of the puck. I think he had a terrific year.”

Rafferty, a free agent signed by the Canucks on April 1, 2019, led AHL rookie defensemen with 45 points (seven goals, 38 assists) in 57 games. The 24-year-old played two games with the Canucks last season after signing.

“He’s done a great job,” Utica coach Trent Cull told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. “He’s very cognizant of things. If something doesn’t go well, he knows. He’s a pleasure to coach. I think the best thing for him is to just keep playing.”

Keane scored 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 58 games split between Charlotte and Hartford, the New York Rangers’ AHL team. The 20-year-old was acquired by the Hurricanes in a trade with the Rangers on Feb. 18 and scored seven points (one goal, six assists) with Charlotte after the trade. Keane was selected by the Rangers in the third round (No. 88) of the 2018 NHL Draft.

“Joey is right-shot, offensive-minded defenseman,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said when Keane was acquired. “His ability to produce at the AHL level at 20 years old is encouraging, and we believe he has a bright future.”

Primeau was 17-11-3 in 33 games and led AHL rookie goalies with a 2.45 goals-against average and four shutouts. The 20-year-old, a seventh-round pick (No. 199) in the 2017 draft, made his NHL debut Dec. 5 and had a .931 save percentage in two games.

“We think Primeau has a great future,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said when Primeau was recalled in December. “We’re going to see what he brings.”

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