American Hockey League

NHL hopefuls vie for Calder Cup

In 2018-19, 87.6 of NHL players are American Hockey League alumni. In that group, 356 played at least one game each in the NHL and AHL this season.

Here is a look at some players competing for the Calder Cup who could challenge for NHL jobs next season:


After an AHL-best 51 wins and 110 points in the regular season, Charlotte (51-17-7-1) eliminated Providence (Boston Bruins), Hershey (Washington Capitals) and defending Calder Cup champion Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs) in a six-game Eastern Conference Final.

G Alex Nedeljkovic

With the Hurricanes’ goaltending picture for next season yet to be decided, the 23-year-old (6-foot-0, 189 pounds) continues to bulk up his resume. Selected in the second round (No. 37) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Nedeljkovic was an AHL First All-Star Team member and winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s outstanding goaltender in the regular season after going 34-9-5 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 51 games.

In the postseason, Nedeljkovic is 8-3 with a 2.28 GAA and .914 save percentage. After being pulled in Game 2 against Toronto, he made 100 saves on 108 shots in his next three games, including a 43-save performance in the series-clinching Game 6 win.

D Jake Bean

At 20 years old, Bean (6-1, 186) is looking very close to NHL-ready. Carolina chose him with the No. 13 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and he earned a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team after having 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) in 70 regular-season games.

With a crisp, puck-moving game, he also spent a portion of Charlotte’s postseason on recall with the Hurricanes before returning for the Toronto series. 

F Morgan Geekie

The draft-and-develop model really starts to pay dividends when it can produce talent taken in later rounds.

Carolina may have that with Geekie (6-3, 192). Passed over in the 2016 draft, the 20-year-old went to the Hurricanes a year later as a third-round pick (No. 67). His hard-working, no-frills style makes him an easy fit with linemates and he has earned significant minutes as a rookie in a deep lineup. 

Geekie had 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 73 regular-season games. His 15 postseason points (seven goals, eight assists) in 17 games lead all AHL rookies.

F Martin Necas

Necas (6-2, 189) went to the Hurricanes as the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

He did not turn 20 until Jan. 15 but survived the normal highs and lows that most AHL rookies endure. He had 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 64 regular-season games with forward Tomas Jurco’s arrival from Springfield (Florida Panthers) sparking him down the stretch.

In the postseason, Necas has seven points (two goals, five assists). Captain Patrick Brown’s return from the Hurricanes before the conference final gave Charlotte a line with Jurco and Necas that provided plenty of problems for Toronto.

F Nicolas Roy

At 6-4, 205 pounds, the mobile 22-year-old can be a lot for opposing defensemen to handle.

Carolina chose Roy in the fourth round (No. 96) of the 2015 NHL Draft. In his second pro season, he had 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 69 regular-season games and played six games for the Hurricanes. He has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 14 postseason games with Charlotte.

F Aleksi Saarela

Saarela (5-10, 200) is 22 and coming off a 30-goal regular season.

Carolina acquired Saarela in a trade with the New York Rangers for forward Eric Staal on Feb. 28, 2016. He was a third-round pick (No. 89) by the Rangers in the 2015 draft. He’s been limited to 12 of Charlotte’s 17 playoff games because of an undisclosed injury and a recall to the Hurricanes for part of their Stanley Cup Playoff run, but has 12 points (six goals, six assists).


The Golden Knights quickly built a winning AHL program. Chicago has led the Western Conference in points in back-to-back seasons.

Chicago (44-22-6-4) defeated Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings) and Iowa (Minnesota Wild) before eliminating San Diego (Anaheim Ducks) in six games in the Western Conference Final.

G Oskar Dansk

Dansk (6-3, 195) signed with the Golden Knights on July 3, 2017.

The 25-year-old took over the No. 1 job midway through the first round. He is 9-5 with a 2.16 GAA and .921 save percentage after going 27-9-4 with a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage in 40 regular-season games.

He could push for the backup job in Vegas next season behind Marc-Andre Fleury.

D Nic Hague

The 20-year-old (6-6, 215) went to the Golden Knights as a second-round pick (No. 34) in the 2017 draft and is handling the rookie grind.

He had 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 75 regular-season games. His nine postseason points (three goals, six assists) are tied for third among AHL defensemen.

D Zach Whitecloud

The Golden Knights signed Whitecloud (6-2, 209) as a free agent March 8, 2018.

One of Chicago’s three regular rookie defensemen, the 22-year-old is first in the AHL among defensemen with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 17 playoff games. He had 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 74 regular-season games.

F Cody Glass

Glass (6-2, 178) continues to justify the Golden Knights choosing him with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 draft.

The 20-year-old joined Chicago late in the regular season from Portland of the Western Hockey League. He has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 17 playoff games.

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