Player development in the AHL seems to have a more important impact on the NHL each year. According to the AHL’s Guide & Record Book, 88 percent of current NHL players are AHL alumni.
This season is no exception, with 24 AHL players having made their NHL debuts already, less than two weeks into the new campaign.
Here, we feature the top five AHL scorers from 2014-15 that made NHL rosters to start 2015-16.
Brian O’Neill, RW (New Jersey Devils)
The AHL’s reigning scoring champion and MVP was acquired by the Devils for a conditional draft pick in a pre-season trade with the Los Angeles Kings. The 27-year-old made his pro debut with the Manchester Monarchs at the end of the 2011-12 season following a four-year collegiate career at Yale University and played in three full AHL seasons before getting the call to the show. His 80 points last season were 33 more than his previous AHL high and helped the Monarchs to a Calder Cup title.
Devils winger Brian O’Neill reflects on his NHL debut Saturday night in Washington. http://t.co/QoUB1NsMoM
— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) October 11, 2015
Jordan Weal, C (Los Angeles Kings)
O’Neill and Weal were the top two scorers last season on the AHL-champion Monarchs and finished first and third overall in regular season scoring, respectively. While O’Neill was regular season MVP, Weal took home playoff MVP honors after posting 22 points in 19 post-season contests. Weal also spent three full seasons in the ‘A’, but the 23-year-old’s production the past two seasons stayed consistent, with final point totals of 70 and 69 in 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively.
Shane Prince, LW (Ottawa Senators)
Prince was sixth in AHL scoring last year with 65 points for the Binghamton Senators. He also made his NHL debut in 2014-15, skating in two games with Ottawa, registering an assist in his first game, before making the squad out of camp this season. The 22-year-old demonstrated consistent offensive growth in the AHL, going from 35 to 48 to 65 points over three seasons.
Teemu Pulkkinen, LW (Detroit Red Wings)
Do the Red Wings have another hidden gem in this 2010 fourth-round draft pick? Detroit is known for producing players through years of patience with AHL development and Pulkkinen could be the next one. The 23-year-old led the AHL in goals last season with 34 and if not for spending almost half the season with the Wings, the young Finn probably would’ve led the league in points, too. He finished tied for 10th in AHL scoring with 61 points in 46 games.
Chris Wideman, D (Ottawa Senators)
This 25-year-old defenseman broke out offensively in his second year pro with Binghamton in 2013-14, notching 51 points (33 more than his rookie year) – good for fourth among AHL D-men. He improved further last season, more than doubling his goal production from nine to 19, leading AHL ‘D’ in points with 61 (tied 10th overall) and earning AHL top defenseman honors.