📝 by Patrick Williams
They are back for more.
The elite young talent that hit the American Hockey League last season is now engaged in training camp battles for National Hockey League roles.
Here is a look at some of the AHL’s top prospects looking to take that next and final step to the NHL
JACK DRURY – CAROLINA HURRICANES
Last season Drury just continued to get better and better.
By the time the Calder Cup Playoffs rolled around, and the Chicago Wolves started their 14-4 championship run, the 22-year-old forward was ready for another step as a fixture in then-head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s line-up. He ended up finishing third in postseason scoring with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 18 games. That performance followed a 52-point regular season (20 goals, 32 assists in 68 games).
A 2018 second-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes, Drury now has two years of pro experience under his belt and scored a goal in Carolina’s preseason win over Florida on Sept. 29.
MARTIN KAUT – COLORADO AVALANCHE
There are easier tasks than attempting to break camp as a forward with the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche.
But Kaut, who turned 23 on Oct. 2, has played parts of four AHL seasons with the Colorado Eagles along with 20 NHL contests and is trying to make that jump. Last season, the 16th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft supplied career highs with 19 goals and 31 points in 46 regular-season AHL games, followed by five points (one goal, four assists) in nine playoff outings. He also spent six games with the Avalanche.
Kaut has a tall order, but offseason turnover means that he has received a strong look so far from the Avalanche coaching staff. He picked up a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Sept. 27 against the Minnesota Wild, and then played 17:56 the next night against Vegas to lead all forwards.
JJ PETERKA – BUFFALO SABRES
Peterka, a 20-year-old forward with an excellent motor, knows how to deliver an encore.
His 28 goals and 68 points with Rochester each led all AHL rookies last season while also earning him a selection to the AHL All-Rookie Team. Then he went on to finish second among rookies with seven more playoff goals (while also ranking second with 12 points) despite his postseason being limited to 10 games. Three of those goals came in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 2 of the Amerks’ North Division semifinal series against the rival Utica Comets.
Now Buffalo’s 2020 second-round pick is getting a long look in training camp with the Sabres, dressing for three of the team’s first four preseason contests.
JACK QUINN – BUFFALO SABRES
The Sabres’ future goes well beyond Peterka as well.
Quinn, the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is a substantial part of that picture for Buffalo and joined Peterka on last season’s AHL All-Rookie Team. The Sabres have taken a slow approach with Quinn, who turned 21 on Sept. 19 but already has 60 AHL games behind him. He delivered 61 points (26 goals, 35 assists), finishing fourth in rookie scoring, and his 1.36 points per game last season led all full-time first-year skaters. During his time in Rochester he has been able to play both at center and wing at different points.
This fall has brought Quinn’s latest push, and he has impressed many around the Sabres. His tying goal late in the Sabres’ preseason opener Sept. 25 helped the team to an eventual 4-3 overtime road win against the Washington Capitals. Through three preseason games, Quinn has a team-leading three points (two goals, one assist) while playing in all situations and pouring on 13 shots.
JACK RATHBONE – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
The Canucks have put Rathbone to work this preseason.
The 23-year-old defenseman played a team-high 25:45 on Sept. 25 against Calgary, and logged 21:05 on Sept. 29 vs. Seattle. A 2017 fourth-round pick by the Canucks, he has emerged as one of the organization’s brightest prospects.
Rathbone was voted to the AHL All-Rookie Team last year, when he tied for second in scoring among rookie blueliners with 40 points (10 goals, 30 assists) in just 39 games for Abbotsford. That effort combined with nine games in the Vancouver lineup earned him a new two-year, one-way contract with the team.
NHL veteran Danny DeKeyser, a left-handed shot like Rathbone, is in training camp on a tryout as additional competition. But depending on the direction that the Canucks want to take with their blue line, there could be a spot for Rathbone come opening night.
Four extra roster spots mean extended opportunities for several Nashville prospects to make an impression.
With the Predators in Europe this week for the 2022 NHL Global Series, the team was allowed to bring 27 players on the trip. After a preseason contest in Switzerland against SC Bern on Monday, the Predators will open their regular season with a pair of games against the San Jose Sharks in Prague.
Goaltender Connor Ingram, 25, will be one of three goaltenders on the trip. His 54 games last season with the Milwaukee Admirals led all AHL goaltenders, and he finished 30-17-7 with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and five shutouts.
After registering 62 points (14 goals, 14 assists) last season in Milwaukee, forward Cody Glass is trying to make a move to the NHL permanent. Glass, 23, went sixth overall in the 2017 NHL Draft to the Vegas Golden Knights before Nashville acquired him in a July 2021 deal.
Defenseman Jordan Gross, the Eddie Shore Award winner last season with Colorado as the AHL’s most outstanding defenseman, signed a two-year deal with Nashville in the offseason and is with the Predators on this week’s trip. Joining him are forward Mark Jankowski, who split last season between Buffalo and Rochester and has played 272 NHL games; and forward Kiefer Sherwood, who ended up fifth in AHL scoring with 75 points (36 goals, 39 assists) with the Eagles last season before moving to the Nashville organization this summer.
UP NEXT: A look at some of the returning talent that has been assigned to AHL clubs.
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for nearly two decades for outlets including NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports. He was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his outstanding coverage of the league in 2016.