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Sophomores vs. the AHL

Alexander Burmistrov has one goal and six points in eight AHL games this season.  (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Alexander Burmistrov has one goal and six points in eight AHL games this season. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Last week, I took a look at the 2004-05 projected NHL rookies who were in the American League during the last lockout and compared them to this year's (potential) crop. This week, it's another group of lockout-impacted youngsters - the sophomores.

In the rookie column, found here, it was pretty easy to recognize that we're looking at status quo. A rookie is a rookie and there is really no indication that an extra year in the American League improves his numbers. Other than Brad Boyes' 69 points, the rookies who played the last lockout in the AHL mostly fell into that standard 30-55 range.

The 2011-12 NHL rookies are another matter. While this season's older sophomores, such as Matt Read and Craig Smith, are playing overseas, the younger ones remain in North America in the AHL.
From 2004-05, here are the results of notable NHL sophomores or third-year players, including a couple of borderline sophomores (Mike Cammalleri and Dustin Brown) who I included in the rookie column last week:

SOPHOMORE POINTS
PLAYER
NHL ('03-04)
AHL ('04-05)
NHL ('05-06)
Joffrey Lupul
34
56
53
Patrice Bergeron
39
61
73
Pierre-Marc Bouchard
22
54
59
Matt Stajan
27
66
27
Eric Staal
31
77
100
Jason Spezza
55
117
90
Mike Cammalleri
15
109
55
Dustin Brown
5
74
28


The before and after picture shows a big difference. Perhaps the taste of the NHL taught them some things. Then they took those lessons and got into the mindset of dominating the lower league. And then they took the confidence they got from that and re-joined the NHL as improved players.

There's no good way to measure this and the sample size is too small to conclude anything outright. But it's good enough for me. There is no shortage of quality NHL youngsters who have left us disappointed about their offense in the past. This could be just what the doctor ordered for these second- or third-year pro players:

Drayson Bowman, Carolina
Zach Boychuk, Carolina
Ryan Johansen, Columbus
Cody Eakin, Dallas
Magnus Paajarvi, Edmonton
Mattias Tedenby, New Jersey
Jacob Josefson, New Jersey
Nino Niederreiter, NY Islanders
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay
Zack Kassian, Vancouver
Alexander Burmistrov, Winnipeg

I would bet good money that at least a handful of these players will surprise next NHL season (whether it starts in December, January or next October). Here are the other notable NHLers in the AHL who have a lot of upside. Some of them have already shown their stuff:

Cody Hodgson, Buffalo
Roman Horak, Calgary
Justin Faulk, Carolina
Nick Leddy, Chicago
Andrei Loktionov, Los Angeles
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton
Taylor Hall, Edmonton (soon to start playing)
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia
Brayden Schenn, Philadelphia
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix
Jake Gardiner, Toronto

In the above group, Hodgson is really dominating offensively for Rochester. His 10 points in eight games put him in a tie for fourth place in league scoring. Ekman-Larsson is also off to a strong start with nine points in six games for Portland. I don't think any of us would be shocked if those two youngsters put forth really strong campaigns when the NHL starts up again. Of the names listed above, here are the top AHL scorers:

Hodgson, Rochester: 8-1-9-10
Ekman-Larsson, Portland: 6-3-6-9
Boychuk, Charlotte: 8-5-4-9
Schenn, Adirondack: 7-4-5-9
Faulk, Charlotte: 6-1-8-9
Bowman, Charlotte: 8-7-1-8
Horak, Abbotsford: 7-7-1-8
Nugent-Hopkins, Oklahoma City: 7-2-6-8
Eakin, Texas: 7-4-3-7

In particular, I'll be watching the performances of Niederreiter (six points in six games for Bridgeport), Paajarvi (six points in seven for OKC) and Burmistrov (six in eight for St. John's). All three of these players are at a crossroads - and I'm confident that all three will find their way. These guys have first-line NHL potential and, with the exception of about two weeks for Burmistrov early last year and about two games for Paajarvi, they have shown little to back that up so far. If they can post close to a point-per-game at the AHL level, they should be able to top a point every two games upon re-joining the NHL. That would be a promising step forward to becoming 65-point players in the future.

Another player I'm curious about is San Jose's James Sheppard. Can he somehow salvage his career and become a second-liner? Or will he be a career minor-leaguer? His two devastating knee injuries wiped out his past two seasons. As a ninth overall draft pick (2006), he has upside if he can recapture it. He has five points in seven games for Worcester.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out
dobberhockey.com or follow him on Twitter at @DobberHockey.

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