If you don’t think AHL All-Rookie team honors mean much, consider that New York Islanders rookie Ryan Strome, who has scored 17 goals and 50 points this season, was named to the team just last season.
Strome isn’t the only rookie from the 2014 squad who has shown his skill in the NHL, either. Teemu Pulkkinen, the Detroit Red Wings prospect with a cannon for a slapshot, was named to last year’s list and has 34 goals in 46 games in the AHL this season to go along with five in 29 big league contests.
Wednesday afternoon, the AHL announced this season’s team and the list is full of promising stars. Maybe one day they will add to the list of present day standouts that once appeared on the team, including Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza, Thomas Vanek, Mike Green, John Carlson, P.K. Subban, Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Toffoli.
The head of the class, and most likely to be named the Dudley Garrett Memorial Award winner as rookie of the year, is goaltender Matt Murray, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect.
Over the month-long span from Feb. 8 to March 8, Murray stymied shooters with incredible regularity, going 304 minutes and 11 seconds without allowing a goal. The shutout streak is the longest in AHL history and was enough to power Murray to the top of the league’s goaltending statistics. In 38 games, Murray has a 1.50 goals-against average, .943 save percentage, a rookie-record 12 shutouts and a record of 24-9-3.
If this isn’t simply an aberration and truly a display of Murray’s ability, he could be the heir to the throne once Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s four-year extension comes up. And with the backup job open in Pittsburgh next season, Murray could get a shot at proving he’s already NHL ready at 21.
On the blueline, it’s a current Islander and a former Islander who got the nods. Ryan Pulock, the 15th overall pick by the Islanders in 2013, was named to the team thanks to 17 goals and 26 points in 48 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Pulock was one of the most productive blueliners in Brandon Wheat Kings history and fired home 23 goals and 63 points in 66 games during his final season in the WHL. Pulock could make the jump as soon as next season, as Lubomir Visnovsky’s contract ending will free up a spot on the Islanders blueline.
Meanwhile, former Islanders prospect Ville Pokka, who was traded to the Blackhawks in exchange for Nick Leddy, received the other blueline spot. Pokka has scored eight times and registered 30 points in 64 games, but don’t expect him to make the Chicago blueline soon. He’ll likely have to wait behind Trevor van Riemsdyk and Stephen Johns.
Of the entire All-Rookie team, the only player to get a shot at the NHL this season is Arvidsson, even if it was only six games. The Predators are unexpectedly deep, so Arvidsson may need to spend one more year in the AHL, but his 19 goals and 52 points in 67 games bodes well for his future.
Brown is the rookie point leader with 18 goals and 57 points in 70 contests. The 21-year-old was a sixth-round selection of the Maple Leafs in 2012, but he’s making good on his first crack at professional hockey. In 68 games with the Erie Otters last season, Brown racked up an outrageous 45 goals and 128 points. On a rebuilding Leafs’ club, Brown could get a look in 2015-16.
And Hudon, the youngest of the three at 20, has dazzled this season with his skill. The Canadiens have a history of bringing smaller players into the mix, so there’s reason to believe the 5-foot-10 Hudon is in their plans. However, there’s little room in the Canadiens lineup next season. Two years from now, in 2016-17, Hudon could very well find his fit.