American Hockey League Central Division prospects

With the hockey world on pause, NHL general managers have additional time to evaluate their American Hockey League prospects.

The top developmental league in hockey has another strong crop of young talent developing. will evaluate some of the prospects who could make an impact in the NHL as early as next season as part of a series that breaks down each of the four divisions in the AHL.

The series has looked at the Atlantic Division and the North Division. Today, the Central Division:

Connor Ingram, Milwaukee (Nashville Predators)

Ingram (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) found a new start as a bargain in the Nashville organization in a pairing with veteran Troy Grosenick for Milwaukee, which is in first place in the AHL with a 41-14-5 record and 90 points.

Nashville acquired Ingram from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft on June 14, 2019. The Lightning had chosen him in the third round (No. 88) in the 2016 NHL Draft, and he spent his first two pro seasons in the AHL with Syracuse.

The 23-year-old is 21-5-5 in 33 games and had a 1.92 goals-against average and .933 save percentage; those numbers have set career-highs in wins, GAA, and save percentage. His GAA and save percentage each rank third in the AHL. 

The Predators signed Ingram to a three-year contract March 23.

Alexandre Carrier, Milwaukee

Milwaukee has been a pipeline for defensemen to Nashville. Roman Josi, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Mattias Ekholm, among others, each trained with Milwaukee before earning promotions to Nashville. 

Carrier, a 23-year-old right-handed shot, may be next. Selected in the fourth round (No. 115) of the 2015 NHL Draft, Carrier has embraced a patient development process with Milwaukee. 

Carrier (5-11, 174) made an early impression as an AHL rookie in 2016-17 with a career-best 39 points (six goals, 33 assists) in 72 games, and played two games with the Predators. This season he has 37 points (five goals, 32 assists) through 55 games. 

He went to the AHL All-Star Classic for the second time, and his performance earned him another call-up and three NHL games in January. 

Brennan Menell, Iowa (Minnesota Wild)

Menell (5-11, 177) is trying to secure an NHL opportunity with his hometown Wild after going undrafted.

The Wild signed the Woodbury, Minn., native to a three-year entry-level contract Sept. 26, 2017 after playing in the Western Hockey League with Vancouver and Lethbridge. The 22-year-old had 44 points (two goals, 42 assists) in 70 games with Iowa in 2018-19, his second pro season.

This season, he ranks second among AHL defensemen with 47 points (five goals, 42 assists) in 57 games for Iowa. He is also a key part of the power play, which is fifth in the AHL at 21.9 percent. 

Lucas Elvenes, Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights)

Elvenes (6-1, 173) made a quick adjustment from the Swedish Hockey League to the AHL.

The 20-year-old is first among Western Conference rookie forwards with 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists) in 59 games. He also has been a regular contributor on the 10th-ranked Chicago power play (19.5 percent). 

He had a four-point (one goal, three assists) AHL debut in the season opener and won the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month award in October. He also represented the Golden Knights organization at the AHL All-Star Classic. He remained hot, with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in the 14 games after the event.

Joel L’Esperance, Texas (Dallas Stars)

L’Esperance continues to show that his 2018-19 season was not a fluke.

The 24-year-old (6-2, 215) had a 30-goal rookie season with Texas in 2018-19 and finished with 45 points (30 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games. Dallas signed him to a two-year contract July 1, 2018. 

Though Texas is sixth in the Central Division (27-28-3), L’Esperance has excelled throughout. He has 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists) in 58 games and represented Texas at the AHL All-Star Classic. He also had one goal in three games with Dallas.

Yakov Trenin, Milwaukee

Like Carrier, the Predators have developed Trenin slowly with Milwaukee.

Nashville picked him in the second round (No. 55) in 2015, the same draft as Carrier, and the 23-year-old (6-2, 201) has needed that time. He had a difficult adjustment to the pro game as a rookie for Milwaukee in 2017-18 with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 44 games. He showed some progress last season with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 74 games to help Milwaukee, which needed a strong finish to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

He started quickly this season with four goals in his first three games. As Milwaukee put together a team-record 13-game winning streak (Oct. 25-Dec. 1), Trenin continued to produce offensively and had 14 goals through his first 19 games. He has 35 points (20 goals, 15 assists) in 32 games.

After the winning streak ended, Trenin spent much of the next six weeks with the Predators, his first NHL action, and has six points (two goals, four assists) in 21 games.

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