American Hockey League

More prospects join AHL playoff push

This influx will give management teams an opportunity for an up-close look at these players in the NHL’s top development league and potentially in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

With the AHL regular season ending Sunday, here is a look at some prospects arriving from the Canadian Hockey League:

Riley Damiani and Ty Dellandrea, Texas (Dallas Stars)

Dallas has fortified the Texas roster as it battles to qualify for the postseason. Texas went to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final last season but is in sixth place in the Central Division this season, one point out of a playoff spot with three games remaining.

Dallas has tapped into the NCAA talent pool with several additions to its AHL roster: goalie Jake Oettinger (Boston University), forwards Diego Cuglietta (Lake Superior State), Rhett Gardner (North Dakota), and Josh Melnick (Miami-Ohio), and defenseman Joseph Cecconi (Michigan).

They have also gone the Ontario Hockey League route as well.

Dallas assigned Dellandrea (6-foot-1, 190 pounds), a first-round selection (No. 13) in the 2018 NHL Draft, from Flint to Texas after his OHL season ended. The forward had 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 60 regular-season games, but Flint missed the playoffs.

The 18-year-old has two points (one goal, one assist) in eight games. The arrival of Dellandrea and Oettinger, selected No. 26 in the 2017 NHL Draft, put the Stars’ two most recent first-round picks on the Texas roster for the playoff drive. 

Texas also has Damiani (5-9, 165), a center who was selected by the Stars in the fifth round (No. 137) of the 2018 draft. The 19-year-old had a strong regular season with Kitchener; his 85 points (30 goals, 55 assists) in 58 games placed him 10th in OHL’s regular-season scoring race. Kitchener was swept in the first round by Guelph.

Stelio Mattheos, Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) 

Charlotte has won the AHL regular-season title, but there is potential for much more when the Calder Cup Playoffs begin next week.

Mattheos (6-1, 196) is getting a taste of AHL competition and should fit into the Charlotte lineup next season. The forward has three points (two goals, one assist) in nine games for Charlotte.

Carolina selected Mattheos in the third round of the 2017 draft. As captain of Brandon (Western Hockey League), he had 96 points (44 goals, 52 assists) in 65 regular-season games, sixth-most in the WHL. He finished fourth in goals.

The 19-year-old signed a three-year entry-level contract with Carolina on March 21, 2019.

Justin Brazeau, Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs) 

In recent seasons, the Maple Leafs have shown a willingness to take on projects.

With a robust and well-structured three-tier system that also strongly utilizes their ECHL affiliate, Newfoundland, the Maple Leafs can develop raw talent patiently, especially big forwards. 

Mason Marchment spent time in the ECHL before blossoming last season in the AHL, particularly during the run to a Calder Cup championship. 

Maple Leafs forward Frederick Gauthier also had a long development course.

Brazeau is the latest project in Toronto. Their AHL affiliate, Toronto, signed the forward to a two-year AHL contract that will begin next season. While Brazeau would have to sign an NHL contract if he was to join the Maple Leafs, adding him via an AHL contract does put Brazeau into the organizational structure and provide the development staff a chance to work closely with him.

The undrafted 21-year-old is 6-6, 226, and was captain for North Bay of the OHL this season. His 61 regular-season goals led the OHL. His 113 points were second in the OHL. Niagara eliminated North Bay in the first round of the OHL postseason.

In 2017-18 with North Bay, he had 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists) in 67 regular-season games.

Mackenzie Entwhistle, Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks)

Mackenzie Entwhistle plays for Guelph, which trails London 3-0 in a best-of-7 OHL playoffs series. Game 4 is Wednesday. If Guelph is eliminated, the forward (6-3, 184) could join Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks). 

The Arizona Coyotes selected him in the third round of the 2017 draft. He was later traded to the Blackhawks with forwards Marcus Kruger and Jordan Maletta, defenseman Andrew Campbell, and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft for forwards Vinny Hinostroza and Marian Hossa, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old was also traded in the OHL this season. Guelph acquired him from Hamilton on Jan. 5. Between Hamilton and Guelph, he had 57 points (30 goals, 27 assists) in 57 regular-season games. Through seven playoff games, he has seven points (three goals, four assists).

Rockford is part of that six-team group pursuing three available Central Division playoff spots. With three games remaining, Rockford is seventh in the division and three points from a playoff spot.

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