American Hockey League: three players who could make the jump to the NHL Junior Hockey News
Published: Monday, 25 Apr 2016 By: Aaron Nelson
Without a doubt, the American Hockey League (AHL) is growing quickly into one of the best divisions on the planet. In fact, many players are now using the AHL as a benchmark to prove their worth whilst attracting attention from NHL franchises. After all, the National Hockey League is the biggest and most exciting division in the sport and there are many NHL teams, such as the Boston Bruins, who have specific 'feeder' franchises in the AHL.
Over the years, the AHL has welcomed many big-name players and many current NHL stars play in both leagues throughout the year - although they tend to get more game-time for the AHL sides. In a way, they are on trial in the AHL. Here are three players who may be ready to make the step up from the AHL to the National Hockey League ahead of the 2016-17 season.
ALEXANDER KHOKHLACHEV (Providence Bruins)
Khokhlachev has formed a lethal partnership with Seth Griffith for Providence Bruins this season and the Boston primarily development side have flourished due to their contributions. Khokhlachev was selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft and remains the most talented player in the Providence Bruins unit - although Griffith could make a claim for that accolade as well.
The Bruins are unlikely to take both players on, however, and Khokhlachev may be forced to look elsewhere. The Pittsburgh Penguins,priced at 9/1 to win this year's Stanley Cup in the Bet365 NHL odds, could be interested in a move for the Russian if the Bruins don't sign him to their senior roster - and a move to Pittsburgh would certainly appeal to the 22-year-old.
ANDREI VASILEVSKIY (Syracuse Crunch)
But perhaps the most talented player in the AHL is Andrei Vasilevskiy. He was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft and he has lived up to his first-round status so far. Unfortunately, he hasn't managed to force his way into the Tampa Bay Lightning side on a regular basis but he's still played 24 NHL matches this season.
The goaltender is an immense talent and has a sensational goals against average of just 1.94. However, his best statistic is his save percentage. Vasilevskiy has saved .935% of shots fired at him - the best ratio in the AHL. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before he earns his place as a regular starter for the Lightning in the NHL, especiallyas they released veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokovto clear space at the end of last season.
SETH GRIFFITH (Providence Bruins)
Like Khokhlachev, Griffith was drafted by the Boston Bruins and is now trying to make a good impression for their primary development side in the AHL. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft but has failed to make a major impact during his time at the Bruins. However, he's been simply sublime this season, netting 24 goals and assisting 53 more in just 57 matches.
And withan average of more than one point per game, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Boston's senior side look at Griffith closely during the offseason. With a bit of luck, he could make the roster for the 2016-17 campaign but, as previously mentioned, they're likely to take on just one of Griffith or Khokhlachev ahead of next season.
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