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NHL Lockout: The 26 Best Players Who Will Play in the AHL During the Lockout

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IDecember 26, 2016

NHL Lockout: The 26 Best Players Who Will Play in the AHL During the Lockout

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    With the NHL lockout in full effect, veteran players have signed overseas in Europe but youngsters have been assigned to the AHL to compete in 2012-13.

    These players are young enough to still compete in the AHL and they were protected from being claimed on waivers during the transaction period that expired right before the start of the lockout.

    With the AHL set to start soon, here are the 26 best players who will suit up in the AHL this season.

Jordan Eberle

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    Jordan Eberle had a solid 2011-12 NHL season and it would be safe to assume that he will explode in the AHL during 2012-13. Eberle scored 34 goals and assisted on 42 others for a solid 76-point season in 2011-12.

    Eberle is still so young and so talented that it is safe to assume that he will greatly exceed his NHL performance in the AHL this season.

Kyle Palmieri

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    Kyle Palmieri is a player who could have a great 2012-13 season in the AHL and it will ultimately help him become a better player in the NHL.

    Last season, at the AHL level, Palmieri proved himself by scoring 33 goals and assisting on 25 others for 58 points in 51 games. He also made the jump to the NHL where he scored four goals and assisted on three others for seven points in 18 games.

    Palmieri would have likely made the Ducks' roster out of training camp so this AHL stint will help him develop and he won't lose potential NHL playing time because of the lockout.

Simon Despres

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    Simon Despres had bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL so this lockout should allow him to polish his skills.

    Despres is a multi-tool player and his speed and puck-moving ability make him a dangerous defender.

    He is continually growing into his 6'3", 215-pound. frame but he lacks grit to his game. If he can become a more physical player, he will have a larger impact.

    In the QMJHL, Despres was a great power-play quarterback and that is something he needs to show at the NHL level.

    If Despres can make his offense visible at the NHL level, he should have no problem completing  a power play unit already featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang.

    He stands to be one of the AHL's top offensive defenders in 2012-13 and this could be a huge turning point for his young career to date.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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    The "Nuge" was a rookie who impressed many fans last season though injuries prevented him from having a full impact.

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would have likely captured the Calder Trophy if he stayed healthy for the full season. However, what he was able to accomplish in 62 games was impressive and it suggests that he will be able to dominate in the AHL.

    RNH tallied 18 goals, added 34 markers and ended up with 52 total points with the Edmonton Oilers in 2011-12.

    In the AHL, there is no reason why RNH can't threaten to score over 100 points if he is there the entire season.

    It is safe to say that the Oklahoma City Barons will be an exciting team in 2012-13.

Mika Zibanejad

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    Mika Zibanejad is skilled center who has the potential to become an above-average power forward because of his soft hands and his great scoring touch.

    Zibanejad was a player already slated to start in the AHL in order to showcase his abilities in order to earn an NHL roster spot for the Ottawa Sentors but the lockout presents a prime opportunity for the young Swede. 

    Zibanejad is a great skater with good on-ice vision and the AHL will allow Zibanejad to acclimate to the ice surface space and style of North America.

    Now that Zibanejad will start off the season with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL, he should have enough time to prove that he belongs in the NHL.

Matt Hackett

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    Matt Hackett could have easily been the backup goaltender for the Minnesota Wild during the upcoming season but the Wild decided to leave him in the AHL when they retained Josh Harding.

    Now that the NHL lockout has started, he will still take up his crease in the AHL with the opportunity to play his way into an NHL opportunity with the Wild or another NHL team.

    Hackett looked solid during his brief NHL stint while Josh Harding and Nicklas Backstrom were injured so keep an eye on the Houston Aeros netminder in 2012-13.

Chris Kreider

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    Chris Kreider is a speedy forward who played left wing for Boston College before making the leap to the NHL during the playoffs for the New York Rangers.

    After Kreider made the jump to the NHL level during the Rangers' playoff run, he scored five goals and seven points overall.

    Kreider is a built like prototypical power forward—6"3' and 230 pounds— and fans would have loved to see him paired up with Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and/or Rick Nash.

    As long as the NHL is locked out, Kreider will be a top attraction for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.

Justin Schultz

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    Justin Schultz is a defenseman who appears to have the complete package. He is an excellent offensive defenseman with a solid hockey IQ who could be a solid power-play quarterback for the Edmonton Oilers.

    He is a developed defender who is secure in his own zone and his skating ability really helps his overall game.

    With the NHL locked out, Schultz will skate for the Oklahoma City Barons alongside Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This AHL experience could really benefit Schultz and help him polish his skills so he is ready when the NHL is ready to begin the season.

Ryan Ellis

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    Ryan Ellis is one of the Nashville Predators' top defensive prospects and he is a player who can use the lockout to his advantage.

    After the departure of Ryan Suter, the Predators lost defensive depth and kids like Ellis were going to be looked upon to step up.

    Ellis had 18 points with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season and 11 points with the Predators once he was called up. With Ellis headed back to the Admirals, he should be able to gain some more experience and confidence to embrace a larger role in the NHL.

Robin Lehner

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    Robin Lehner is a promising young goaltender with solid size and he is just on the cusp of embracing the starting job in Ottawa.

    He has good lateral movement and uses his frame to challenge shooters from all angles. This allows him to size up well against shooters from different positions on the ice but rebounds are an area he needs to improve upon

    He is a butterfly goalie who will benefit from the lockout because more time spent in the AHL could help him improve his puck handling and rebound control.

    The Binghamton Senators are a team that will really benefit in the AHL during the lockout because of a goaltender like Robin Lehner.

Jacob Markström

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    Jacob Markström is a tall goaltender with an uncanny ability to deceive shooters by appearing larger in net. He was set to earn his NHL break in 2011-12 but injuries got in the way.

    After the Florida Panthers retained Scott Clemmensen, it appeared that Markström was going to earn some more AHL duty.

    The lockout will only benefit him as he attempts to prove he belongs in the NHL.

    Markström is a skilled goaltender with great mental prowess. He resembles a young Henrik Lundqvist in that he is a cool and collected goalie with a great competitive edge.

Mikael Granlund

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    Mikael Granlund is another top-prospect center who has a big upside.

    Granlund had been playing in Finland during the past two seasons but he will suit up for the Houston Aeros in 2012-13.

    The AHL will allow him to develop his game on a North American ice surface and he should adjust to what the NHL will be like.

    Granlund has worked hard and has illustrated that he has the tools to be one of the NHL's next top playmakers. He has the speed, skill and finesse to be successful so expect him to tear it up in the AHL during the 2012-13 season.

Charlie Coyle

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    Charlie Coyle is a forward with solid size and a good work ethic and starting the season with the Houston Aeros of the AHL is going to really help his development.

    Coyle split his 2011-12 season in the NCAA and the QMJHLand was a major contributor for the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011-12, especially during the playoffs. Coyle's 38 points in 23 regular season games and 34 points during 17 playoff games really were clutch for the Sea Dogs.

    With the NHL locked out, Coyle will adjust to more structured hockey in the AHL. Another benefit for Coyle will be that he gets to gain chemistry with Mikael Grandlund.

Emerson Etem

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    Emerson Etem is one of the Anaheim Ducks' top prospects and the lockout should actually help his development.

    He has lit it up at the WHL level the past three seasons, including 61 goals and over 100 points in 2011-12.

    Though Etem's offensive acumen and skating abilities are up to par, he could stand to become a better defensive player.

    The AHL is closer to the NHL in structure and strategy than the WHL. With Etem playing against tougher competition and NHL talent, he should be able to benefit from this learning experience in a huge way.

Sean Couturier

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    Sean Couturier was the Philadelphia Flyers' first-round draft selection in 2011 and, last season, he showed that he has the potential to be a special player. For most of the 2011-12 season, Couturier saw limited minutes under Flyers' bench boss Peter Laviolette.

    However, as the season progressed, Couturier was more comfortable and he showed signs of brilliance. In 77 games, Couturier scored 13 goals and assisted on 14 others for 27 points.

    Some time spent in the AHL will only help Couturier and the Flyers in the long run and, by the time the NHL returns from the lockout, Couturier will have become a better all-around player.

Brendan Smith

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    This 6'2" defenseman is a promising work in progress who may see his last AHL action during the NHL lockout.

    Brendan Smith had 34 points for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL in 2011-2012 and he showed signs of improvement that earned him an NHL call-up.

    Smith also has great vision and hands that complement his overall skating abilities. He joined the Wings for a brief stretch last year and, after the lockout, he should be ready to play in the NHL for a long time.

Sven Bartschi

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    Sven Bartschi is an explosive player with good hands, on-ice vision and speed. Standing at 5'11" and 185 pounds, Bartschi should be able to use his speed to create offense against players closer to his skill level.

    He looked a little overwhelmed when he was first called up by the Calgary Flames so this AHL stint should help him improve his skills and increase he chances of being successful with the Flames in 2012-13 and beyond.

Jaden Schwartz

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    Jaden Schwartz is one of the St. Louis Blues' top prospects and he is going to lace up his skates for the Peoria Rivermen in 2012-13.

    He is a play-making center who is a natural puck carrier and his superior vision allows him to feed his teammates with tape-to-tape passes.

    Schwartz is going to benefit greatly from the AHL playing time because he can focus on developing his game and not worrying about when the St.Louis Blues finally call him up.

Vladimir Tarasenko

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    Vladimir Tarasenko is another St.Louis Blues prospect headed to the Peoria Rivermen for the start of the 2012-13 AHL season.

    Tarasenko is a natural goal scorer with a great shot  complemented by his quick hands.

    His volatile, abrupt speed and acceleration allow him to create space and scoring opportunities in open ice.

    Tarasenko is a feisty competitor who plays with grit and aggression. He is an average 5'11" and 202 pounds, but he has proven himself against older players during his time in the KHL.

    Tarasenko will thrive when he has his opportunity with the St. Louis Blues after the lockout ends.

Jeff Skinner

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    Jeff Skinner is one of the NHL's top young forwards and injuries have limited his ability to make an impact thus far.

    During his 2010-11 season as an 18-year-old, Skinner posted a modest 63-point season that saw him score 31 goals. He also scored 44 points in a 2011-12 campaign that saw him battle through a concussion sustained in November of 2011.

    Skinner can also play all three forward positions with ease and is a versatile and very talented player who has performed well during his limited NHL career to date, so look for him to continue trending upward as he spends the season in the AHL.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see this former Calder Trophy recipient hit the 100-point mark in the AHL this season.

Braden Holtby

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    Braden Holtby went on an impressive run with the Washington Capitals during the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was an enigma who appeared to be unbeatable at times and that gave the Capitals a huge advantage.

    During the lockout, Holtby will return to the Hershey Bears and he is expected to continue having success as he continues to develop into one of the NHL's top young goaltenders.

Brayden Schenn

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    Brayden Schenn is one of the NHL's top prospects and he has yet to embrace his full potential. After impressing in the WHL, Schenn spent limited action with the Los Angeles Kings before he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Last year Schenn appeared in 54 games and he scored 12 goals and registered six assists for 18 points.

    Spending some time with the Adirondack Phantoms should be a positive experience for the Flyers' young center.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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    Oliver Ekman-Larson is one of the NHL's top young defenders. He is a player who spent his first full season with the Phoenix Coyotes and he was very impressive. In 82 games, Ekman-Larsson scored 13 goals and tallied 19 assists for a total of 32 points.

    Some time in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage should allow Ekman-Larsson develop into a better defenseman and the Coyotes will benefit once the lockout is over.

Vladislav Namestnikov

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    Vladislav Namestnikov had a solid sophomore season in the OHL and he is headed to the AHL for the start of the 2012-13 season.

    During the 2011-12 season, Namestnikov was a top offensive contributor for the London Knights. The skilled forward tallied 22 goals and 49 assists for a total of 71 points.

    Namestnikov is a solid two-way player with a great wrist shot who will benefit from the NHL lockout as he develops in the AHL.

Jake Gardiner

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    Jake Gardiner is one of the NHL's top young defenders and an NHL lockout will allow him to develop his all-around skills in the AHL. Gardiner scored seven goals and assisted on 23 others for 30 points during the 2011-12 campaign.

    Gardiner has solid offensive instincts and is also capable of developing into a shutdown defender. His potential is still a bit untapped at this point so look for the Toronto Marlies' defender to have a solid year in the AHL.

Adam Henrique

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    Adam Henrique is one of the NHL's rising young stars and an NHL lockout is probably something Henrique wanted to avoid. Henrique spent the 2010-11 season with the Albany Devils of the AHL and he scored 25 goals and he assisted on 25 others for 50 points in 73 games.

    With the New Jersey Devlis in 2011-12, Henrique appeared in 74 games and he was able to score 16 goals while assisting on 35 others for a grand total of 51 points.

    He will be of the AHL's top stars in 2012-13 but hopefully the lockout doesn't last too long because it would be a shame to see his talented wasted in the minors.

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