American Hockey League

Top West prospects named to All-Star Classic

The 2020 AHL All-Star Classic will be played on the West Coast when Ontario (Los Angeles Kings) hosts the two-day event, which features a skills competition Jan. 26 and the game Jan. 27. It’s the first time in 84 seasons of the American Hockey League that the event will take place out west.

The AHL utilizes a round-robin 3-on-3 tournament with a team representing each of the league’s four divisions, similar to the NHL format.
Among the 48 players named, 12 per division, 12 are first- or second-round NHL draft picks, and 23 players have played in the NHL this season.

Hartford’s Kris Knoblauch (Atlantic Division), Rochester’s Chris Taylor (North Division), Milwaukee’s Karl Taylor (Central Division) and Tucson’s Jay Varady (Pacific Division) are the four all-star coaches.

A breakdown of some of the top Eastern Conference talent ran last week. Here is a look at five of the top Western Conference prospects in the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic.

Kale Clague, Ontario (Los Angeles Kings)

Clague (6-foot, 177 pounds) is on track in his second pro season.

Los Angeles chose the 21-year-old defenseman in the second round (No. 51) of the 2016 NHL Draft.

He has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 30 games for Ontario. His six goals tie him for sixth among AHL defensemen. In 2017-18, his final season in the Western Hockey League, he had 71 points (11 goals, 60 assists) in 54 regular-season games between Brandon and Moose Jaw. That season, he was honored as the WHL Top Defenseman and finished first with Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

He made his debut with the Kings on Dec. 21 against the Buffalo Sabres and has played four NHL games.

Lucas Elvenes, Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights)

Elvenes (6-1, 173 pounds) came to the AHL from the Swedish Hockey League and made an immediate impression.

The 20-year-old, taken by the Golden Knights in the fifth round (No. 127) of the 2017 NHL Draft, had four points (one goal, three assists) in his AHL debut against Grand Rapids on Oct. 15, 2019. He was named CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for October with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 10 games. He had an 11-game point streak from Oct. 12 to Nov. 7.

Last season, he had 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) in 42 regular-season games for Rogle (SHL). Competing for Sweden at the 2019 World Junior Championship, he had four points (one goal, three assists) in five games.

Connor Ingram, Milwaukee (Nashville Predators)

Ingram (6-2, 196) had shown considerable promise before he needed to reset his career with a new organization during the offseason.

Chosen in the third round (No. 88) of the 2016 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ingram had a .922 save percentage, six shutouts and a 2.26 goals-against average in 22 games (14-7-0) for Syracuse when he was assigned to Orlando (ECHL) last season.

The 22-year-old was acquired by Nashville in a trade with Tampa Bay on June 14, 2019 for a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Ingram has teamed up with AHL veteran Troy Grosenick to give first place Milwaukee (26-7-4-2) one of the best goaltending tandems in the league. He is 12-4-4 with a 2.11 GAA (fourth in the AHL) and .928 save percentage (fifth) in 21 games.

Brennan Menell, Iowa (Minnesota Wild)

Menell (5-11, 172) has proven doubters wrong at multiple levels.

The defenseman had three successful seasons in the WHL, split between Vancouver and Lethbridge, including 71 points (12 goals, 59 assists) in 70 games with Lethbridge in 2016-17. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Wild on Sept. 26, 2017.

He had 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 72 regular-season games as an AHL rookie in 2017-18. Last season, he had 44 points (two goals, 42 assists) in 70 regular-season games and helped Iowa reach the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time.

In his third pro season, the 22-year-old has 25 points (three goals, 22 assists) in 33 games, tying him for fifth in the league among defensemen. His 87 shots put him 10th among AHL defensemen.

Menell’s performance earned him a recall to Minnesota, where he made his NHL debut against the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 10. He played four more games before returning to Iowa.

Lane Pederson, Tucson (Arizona Coyotes)

Much like Menell, Pederson has emerged as an overlooked find.

Pederson (6-0, 190) is 10th in AHL scoring with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 35 games for Tucson, the Pacific Division leader. Arizona signed the forward as an undrafted free agent Oct. 13, 2016.

He had 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 63 regular-season games as an AHL rookie in 2017-18. He had 47 points last season, including 23 goals, in 67 regular-season games.

This season, the 22-year-old has continued to score goals. He’s scored 16, including eight in Tucson’s first seven games this season.

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