American Hockey League

Six top NHL prospects to watch this season

NHL teams continue to pour resources into the process of turning top draft picks into NHL-caliber players and the American Hockey League is richer for that investment. 

Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) blended a deep group of top prospects with a strong veteran core to win the Calder Cup las season. 

With opening night rosters set, here is a look at six of the brightest prospects who will start their season in the AHL:

Igor Shesterkin, G, Hartford (New York Rangers) 

A possible successor to Henrik Lundqvist as the No. 1 goalie in New York, Shesterkin will begin his North American career after a standout run with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Selected in the fourth round (No. 118) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Shesterkin (6-foot-2, 182 pounds) was 24-3-1 with a 1.11 goals-against average and .953 save performance in 28 regular-season games. His 1.11 GAA was the second-best in KHL history and he had 10 shutouts.  

The 23-year-old, who won a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics with the Olympic Athletes from Russia, will bring parts of six seasons of KHL experience with him to a dramatically overhauled Hartford roster. 

Video: NJD@NYR: Shesterkin reaches out to grab bouncing puck

Adam Boqvist, D, Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks) 

As the Blackhawks retool, Boqvist figures to be a significant part of that process.

For now, however, Chicago wants the 19-year-old to play big minutes with Rockford. The significant jump in competition the AHL offers will allow the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft to hone the defensive side of his game as well.

Boqvist (5-11, 179) has a season of North American development after making the move to the Ontario Hockey League last season with London, where he had 60 points (20 goals, 40 assists) in 54 regular-season games and played with Sweden at the 2019 World Junior Championship.

Moritz Seider, D, Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings) 

The defenseman is the second-consecutive first-round pick of the Red Wings to start his apprenticeship with Grand Rapids.

The 18-year-old follows in the footsteps of forward Filip Zadina, who was selected No. 6 by Detroit in the 2018 draft. 

Seider (6-4, 183) brings pro experience to North America after playing the past two seasons with Mannheim (Deutsche Eishockey Liga), where he had six points (two goals, four assists) in 29 games. He also was captain for Germany at the World Junior Championship and had seven points (one goal, six assists) in five games.

Morgan Frost, F, Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers) 

The 20-year-old is the latest to be placed in a pipeline that has produced significant NHL talent for the Flyers.

The hope is that Frost, selected No. 27 in the 2017 NHL Draft, will become another success story. Philadelphia also bulked up the Lehigh Valley roster with several top veteran additions who will help ease the development process for Frost and other young prospects.

Frost (5-11, 170) turns pro after back-to-back 100-points seasons with Sault St. Marie of the OHL. He had 109 points (37 goals, 72 assists) in 58 regular-season games and added 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 11 playoff games. He led the OHL in assists during the regular season and was named to the OHL First All-Star Team.

He also had eight points (four goals, four assists) in five games for Canada at the 2019 World Junior Championship.

Vitali Kravtsov, Hartford

The Rangers have made a practice of sending their elite forward prospects to Hartford as teenagers. 

Filip Chytil, taken 21st in the 2017 draft, made the jump to the AHL as an 18-year-old in 2017-18, played 75 NHL games last season, and will return to Hartford this season. Lias Andersson, the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft, spent parts of the past two seasons in Hartford and the 20-year-old is on the Rangers’ opening night roster.

Kravtsov (6-3, 189), who will turn 20 on Dec. 23rd, will be their next first-round pick to attempt that transition. Chosen at No. 9 in the 2018 NHL Draft, he will join Shesterkin as a fellow KHL-trained prospect in Hartford.

He had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 50 regular-season games for Traktor Chelyabinsk last season. At the World Junior Championship, he had six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games for bronze-medalist Russia.

Video: NYI@NYR: Kravtsov capitalizes on Skjei’s nice setup

Ryan Poehling, F, Laval (Montreal Canadiens) 

Poehling (6-2, 204) is 20 years old and was selected No. 25 by the Canadiens in the 2017 draft. A concussion scuttled his bid to make the NHL out of training camp this season.

The forward spent the past three seasons in the NCAA with St. Cloud State and had 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 36 games last season. At the World Junior Championship, he had eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games in helping the United States finish second. He played in the season finale for the Canadiens last season and scored a hat trick. 

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