Over the past five years, Kasimir Kaskisuo has often been left out of the Toronto Maple Leafs' long-term goaltending conversation.
He had a couple of impressive results early on in his pro career, but never did enough to earn a full-time role with the Toronto Marlies until last season. Even then, while he played 30 games with the baby club last season, Michael Hutchinson and Eamon McAdam made their presence known in what was an otherwise average year in net by the Marlies netminder contingent.
But Kaskisuo is emerging as one of the AHL's top goaltenders this season and a prime candidate for a call-up if Hutchinson or Fredrik Andersen go down with an injury. Kaskisuo has been solid through four starts, posting a shutout against Manitoba and winning all four games, helping Toronto to a perfect 6-0-0 record to start the campaign. Having Kaskisuo on the top of his game is vital, given that Charlotte had the edge over Toronto during the 2019 post-season. If Kaskisuo wants a realistic shot at the NHL, playing like he has will only get him closer to that reality, even if Joseph Woll and Ian Scott have the inside track as future replacements for Andersen.
It's still early, but let's take a look at 10 other standouts from the first few weeks of AHL action:
Lucas Elvenes, LW (Chicago)
A Golden Knights fifth-rounder in 2017 (127th overall), Elvenes kicked the year off right with a four-point debut against the Grand Rapids Griffins and has kept the momentum alive ever since, leading the league with 11 points through seven games. In fact, he's only gone one game without a point so far. Elvenes made the move to North America after spending three seasons in the Swedish League, although his 20-point performance in 42 games last season was seen as a step down from his 16 points in 28 games the year before. But Elvenes seems comfortable in Chicago and has done enough to push himself back up the depth chart in Vegas, a team with a very short, yet effective, draft history.
Reid Boucher, LW (Utica)
The Comets are perfect through five games, and it's not exactly a surprise given there are a couple names on the roster that are probably worthy of an NHL shot. Boucher's 133-game NHL career over the past six years was pretty underwhelming, to say the least, but he's first among all AHLers with eight goals, scoring in every game, including three two-goal efforts. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Boucher is tied with Chris Terry for the AHL lead in goals with 64, while Boucher's 118 points in 106 are good for seventh – his 1.11 points-per-game average is where he really stands out, giving him the best total among players with at least 80 games played in that span.
Nikolay Goldobin, RW (Utica)
Speaking of the Comets, Goldobin was, unsurprisingly, named the CCM/AHL player of the week last week after potting seven assists and eight points in just three games. Utica's top three wingers – Boucher, Goldobin and Sven Bartschi – have been dominant thanks to their years of NHL experience But the scoring race was made interesting because of Goldobin in particular, who sits tied with Elvenes for the league lead with eight assists and is just two points off of Elvenes' scoring lead, despite playing three fewer games. Utica will be an absolute blast to watch this season if the big three continue to produce.
Travis Boyd, C (Hershey)
He's up to his old shenanigans last year. After skating in just two AHL games thanks to a 53-game stint with Washington, Boyd is already showing why he's one of the best forwards the AHL has seen over the past five years. In just three games, Boyd has two three-point nights to his credit, scoring on four of his six shots in that span. He was called up to the Capitals last week but has yet to dress in a contest. Will he play soon? Maybe, but it's safe to say the rest of the AHL is OK with him sticking with the Caps right now.
Brett Seney, LW (Binghamton)
Seney failed to make the New Jersey Devils out of training camp after skating in 51 games with the big club last year, but he hasn't lost a beat in the AHL while playing a pivotal role for Binghamton. Seney has recorded a point in every game this season, with his two goals in a 4-1 win over Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday proving to be an early-season highlight for the Merrimack College graduate. Seney, a 5-foot-9 winger that isn't afraid to lay a big hit or drop the gloves against someone much bigger, will earn an NHL call-up at some point this season, and, even with limited time in the NHL, he's a good option to have around to mentor young forwards Joey Anderson and Nathan Bastian.
Chase Priskie, D (Charlotte)
How's this for a pro debut? Priskie has seven points in six games since finishing his four-year NCAA tenure with Quinnipiac, highlighted by a four-point night against Syracuse last week. His six assists are tied with Hershey veteran Christian Djoos for the most by a defenseman so far and his seven points are good for second among all rookies. Priskie has a long road ahead of him if he wants a realistic shot at playing for the Hurricanes, given their vast base of defensemen to choose from, but he's quickly becoming a low-risk, high-reward candidate for a team looking for extra scoring depth on the blueline.
Lane Pederson, C (Tucson)
Shooting at 40 percent this season, few players have been as prominent in the goal column as Pederson, an under-the-radar prospect in the Arizona Coyotes' system. Given Pederson's stat line over the past two years, where he bounced up from 26 points in 2017-18 to 47 last season, suggests that he's ready for a breakthrough year in Tuscon as a solid late-blooming prospect. Pederson excelled as a bottom-six AHL forward two years ago but has transitioned to a top-scoring line. If he's to make the NHL someday, it'll be in a fringe scoring/checking role further down the Coyotes' lineup.
Cal Petersen, G (Ontario)
Are Jonathan Quick's days numbered in Los Angeles? Petersen is doing his best to make that the case. He was busy in his first two games, stopping 83 of the first 85 shots he faced to become the AHL's first player of the week this season. Petersen impressed in an 11-game stint with L.A. last year and the Kings wouldn't hesitate to give him a couple starts if Quick or Jack Campbell go down with an injury – he's good enough to earn an NHL backup spot on many teams, as it is. In the meantime, he'll contend for the AHL's goaltender-of-the-year award.
Morgan Geekie, C (Charlotte)
Geekie showed up on the scene late last season, turning a respectable 46-point rookie pro campaign into a powerful 18-point playoff performance en route to Charlotte's first Calder Cup championship. Geekie has hit the ice at full pace this season, with eight points in six games to help him continue where he left off last season. It's not a totally new-look Checkers team this year, but having veteran Brian Gibbons in the fold and Julien Gauthier producing at a goal-per-game average is helping to fill the void left by the departures of top scorers Andrew Poturalski, Aleksi Saarela and Martin Necas. Geekie will be a threat for the top-scoring spot at the end of the season.
Sam Anas, C (Iowa)
With Gerald Mayhew earning a few games in the NHL, Anas has had the opportunity to emerge as Iowa's most important forward in the early going. Anas, a small, speedy center standing at 5-foot-8, had 61 points as a sophomore in 2017-18 but had just 38 in a disappointing 2018-19 campaign. So far, Anas has eight points in six games, centering the team's top trio and becoming the all-time points leader in franchise history with 135. It's obviously early, but Anas is having quite a start in a solid rebound campaign for the No. 1 center.
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