AHL Prospects Most Likely to Benefit from NHL Trade Deadline Deals
NHL teams are mapping out how their teams will look after the trade deadline on February 29. Clubs looking to win the Stanley Cup will be pushing for reliable veterans and trading off prospects and picks. Squads that are selling will be offloading veterans and calling up prospects. In both cases, AHL prospects may be in play.
For all of the AHL prospects on the verge, the opportunity to show well between now and the end of the season is vital. A strong performance in the final 25 games of the year could be an enormous boost for hanging around in the playoffs—or making the team next fall.
Here are eight AHL prospects most likely to get their chance to flourish in the NHL after the trade deadline.
Anaheim Ducks: Shea Theodore
What Role Will He Play? Shea Theodore of the Anaheim Ducks is a mobile defender who projects as a quality offensive option from the blue line. He should get plenty of power-play work during his career.
Who Has to Be Moved? The Ducks are developing defensemen at a rapid clip, and there are new contracts required for restricted free-agents Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. A player such as Vatanen could be made available at the deadline or in the summer to make room for Theodore.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? Anaheim needs more scoring from their forwards and could cash in Vatanen at the deadline for help in this area. Vatanen has substantial value, so the return would be more than just a rental player.
Boston Bruins: Frank Vatrano
What Role Will He Play? Frank Vatrano is a small forward with terrific offensive potential. Although unproven, he is scoring more than a goal per game in the AHL and has impressed in his 30 NHL games.
Who Has to Be Moved? The Boston Bruins are in a bit of a tough spot with impending free-agent Loui Eriksson. Although Boston is in the middle of a hard-fought playoff race, losing a quality player like this is not an option.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? There are three choices: re-signing Eriksson, trading him before the deadline or standing pat. The third alternative seems highly unlikely.
Chicago Blackhawks: Mark McNeill
What Role Will He Play? Mark McNeill is a two-way center in the Chicago Blackhawks' system. He is knocking at the door of the NHL, having made his debut this winter.
Who Has to Be Moved? The Blackhawks are probably in buy mode, due in part to a recent lower-body injury to veteran Marian Hossa. That may mean a prospect such as McNeill will be heading to a new NHL city for a chance to establish himself.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? The trade could happen at any minute, as Chicago will want to make sure it doesn't lose any ground while Hossa is out. The Blackhawks have all kinds of depth, but a player of Hossa's calibre will be difficult to replace—and it would take a substantial package.
Colorado Avalanche: Mikko Rantanen
Who Has to Be Moved? Colorado is in the midst of a heated playoff race and will probably be shopping for defense at the deadline. There could be an opening up front—Rantanen is a right winger, but The Hockey News has him as being able to play all three positions—and he could get a chance.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? Although it is unusual for a team struggling to make the playoffs to recall a 20-year-old rookie pro, Rantanen is not your average player. The Avalanche may be wise to find room for their impact prospect.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak
What Role Will He Play? Jamie Oleksiak of the Dallas Stars is a giant—6'7'', 260 pounds—and projects as a shutdown defender.
Who Has to Be Moved? The Stars need an impact defenseman to get over the top, and that player will be very costly. If Dallas plans on acquiring that top-flight defenseman, it will take a player such as Oleksiak, or possibly more.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? Dallas is likely to pull the trigger on something, as the rest of the team is performing so well. Losing a quality prospect such as Oleksiak will be a difficult decision, but this might be a season that sees the Stars push past the other teams in the Western Conference.
Edmonton Oilers: Griffin Reinhart
What Role Will He Play? Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oilers is a defensive prospect who should play a shutdown role as a mature NHL player.
Who Has to Be Moved? The Oilers are in sell mode and may move two defensemen at the deadline. Candidates include unrestricted free-agent Eric Gryba, restricted free-agent Justin Schultz and veteran Mark Fayne.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? Edmonton is extremely likely to trade at least one defender, and Reinhart is the probable recall from the AHL. The jury is still out in regard to his being NHL-ready, but the final portion of the schedule will give him a solid audition period.
Montreal Canadiens: Michael McCarron
What Role Will He Play? Michael McCarron of the Montreal Canadiens is an emerging power forward who should have a very good NHL career.
Who Has to Be Moved? The Canadiens have to decide whether they are in or out of the playoff chase. If they are out, pending free-agent Dale Weise—who's enjoying a career year—could fetch great value if he is made available.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? The Habs are six points out with several teams in front of them for the final wild-card spot (some of those teams have games in hand). Unless a tremendous hot streak arrives just in time, they will be sellers at the deadline.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin
What Role Will He Play? Jonathan Drouin will play a scoring role on the top two lines for an NHL team when he establishes himself.
Who Has to Be Moved? Drouin is not playing in the organization and would appear to be moving at the deadline or in summer. It is interesting to read Frank Seravalli of TSN on the subject, as it sounds like the players in the Lightning dressing room are open to having him back.
Will It Happen at the Deadline? Tampa Bay is getting ready for what it hopes is a deep run, but the team has some issues. The Bolts need some help on defense if they are going to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning will be active, but it is an open question about how aggressive they will be in terms of offloading prospects.