WICHITA, Kan. – Week 17 of the 2018-19 minor league hockey season is in the books and in this edition of the Tuesday Takeaways, Samantha Hoffmann and Matthew Harding look at two players who could move at the NHL Trade Deadline and two teams who have shaken off poor starts to the season but are making noise in ECHL playoff races.
Let’s get after it!
It’s February, and hockey fans know what that means. Yup, we’re getting close to the NHL trade deadline, which is 3 p.m. ET on February 25th. While generally, the biggest deals completed at this point are guys being added on the short term to help a playoff team make a push, teams can include notable prospects as well in these deals. A seller at the deadline may look to move one of its stars and get a prospect, and a draft pick, in return. While I believe most, if not all, of the NHL parent clubs see a place for the rookie scoring leaders in their respective futures, two high-scoring veterans could be potential trade targets.
Syracuse’s Carter Verhaeghe is perhaps the most tempting trade target, as the 23-year-old center is second in the American Hockey League in scoring with 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in 43 games played. Yes, Tampa Bay could certainly have Verhaeghe in its plans for the future especially with a few depth players becoming free agents this summer, but the center projects to be a top-six forward at the NHL level. Looking at Tampa Bay’s roster, there isn’t going to be much room for him in such a role for a few years, potentially past his prime. The reigning AHL Player of the Week with six points (two goals, four assists) in two games could be an attractive piece in a trade to help Tampa’s aging blue line – which also has three of its top d-men become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) this summer. Though Verhaeghe is on a one-year deal, my guess is if he is not moved before the deadline, Tampa moves him at the draft.
Daniel Carr may be the other target of note in the AHL currently, as he leads the league with 57 points (23 goals, 34 assists) in 40 games. While a bit older than Verhaeghe at 27, the left winger is putting up the best points of his professional career. Gerard Gallant has made it clear that he is reluctant to mess with the chemistry which has seemingly worked well so far for the Vegas Golden Knights, as evidenced by how difficult it was for Brandon Pirri to earn a spot with the parent club, so it is unlikely Carr earns a spot with Vegas before the end of the season, but the question is what does Vegas ask for in return? They’ve certainly got enough defensive prospects in the system, so moving Carr would only make sense as part of a move to improve the team’s scoring depth. He could be a quality third line guy for an NHL club and may be an enticing trade target as Vegas gears up for its second playoff run.
Our AHL Three Stars of the Week:
★ – Carter Verhaeghe – Syracuse Crunch: I’m in complete agreement with the AHL here. Six points in two games is an impressive feat, especially as the Crunch look to solidify their playoff position, and the center is even more impressive in person. He’s a hockey-smart player, with quick feet and hands, and is someone who takes in everything on the ice at once.
★★ – Sam Steel – San Diego Gulls: Right behind Verhaeghe in post-All Star break scoring was Steel, who posted three goals and two assists for five points in two games. The 21-year-old prospect of the Anaheim Ducks has 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 35 games this season, and looks to be a big part of the organization’s future. Unlike the parent club, the Gulls are currently in a solid playoff spot, with anywhere from two to three games in hand over some of their divisional opponents.
★★★ – Mike Vecchione – Lehigh Valley Phantoms: Though the Phantoms split a pair of games post-All-Star break, the centerman had his first four-point game of the season when he put up one goal and three assists in Friday’s 7-5 win over Bridgeport.
Gettin’ Off the Mat
After being the doormats of their respective conferences for a majority of the season, the Atlanta Gladiators and Allen Americans have found the magic winning potion in the second half of the season.
The Gladiators have points in ten straight contests, led by netminder Sean Bonar who won ECHL Goaltender of the Month honors for January. The 27-year-old went 8-1-1 with two shutouts, a 1.45 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage in 11 appearances during the month of January. Up front, head coach Jeff Pyle has made several additions to the club, acquiring forwards Daniel Leavens and Nick Bligh. Derek Nesbitt continues to be the stalwart for the Glads, pacing the team with 34 points (13G, 21A) in 41 games. A stellar January has added up to the Glads being three points behind fifth-place Norfolk and just eight points behind Orlando for the fourth spot in the South Division, with games in hand on both Norfolk and Orlando.
On the other side, the Allen Americans have been hot since the turn of the calendar, going 7-3-4-0. One of the key pieces to Allen’s turnaround has been Riley Bourbonnais, who has 18 points (8G, 10A) in 20 games. He has played in all situations and has proven to be an excellent defensive player and penalty killer. Bourbonnais leads the Americans in plus/minus with a +7 since being acquired (still -1 on the season overall). The only other player on the team in the plus territory is Alex Ranger at +1. With a strong January, the Americans have narrowed the gap on sixth place Rapid City to seven points and fourth place Kansas City at 11 points. The Americans still have work to do, but play just four road games the rest of the season.
Our ECHL Three Stars of the Week:
★ – Jeremy Helvig – Florida Everblades: The 22-year-old rookie netminder continues to be on a tear for the Everblades, having lost in regulation in two months. Helvig went 6-0-0 with three shutouts, a 1.22 goals-against average and a save percentage of .954 in seven appearances during the month of January. The 21-year-old allowed two goals or less in six appearances and made at least 24 saves four times. He recorded his first professional shutout on January 11 against Greenville, and followed that up with two additional shutouts in his next three appearances, on January 16 at Rapid City and on January 25 against Jacksonville.
★★ – Sean Bonar – Atlanta Gladiators: The 27-year-old went 8-1-1 with two shutouts, a 1.45 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage in 11 appearances during the month of January. Bonar has posted an 11-8-2 record in 22 appearances with the Gladiators this season. He ranks second in the ECHL with a 2.13 goals-against average, is tied for second with three shutouts and is tied for third with a .929 save percentage.
★★★ – Wacey Rabbit – Jacksonville Icemen: The veteran Icemen forward had a tremendous week for the Icemen, potting seven points (4G, 3A) in three games. For the season, Rabbit is on pace to have a career year. Currently, he has 41 points (18G, 23A) in 46 games.
Mike Campos is busy with the 2019 SPHL All-Star Fan Vote, so we gave him the week off. But, SPHL fans, make sure you go vote!