The ongoing lockout has allowed some prospects to gather valuable pro experience before making their jump to the NHL.
The best example of this: Defenseman Justin Schultz, a collegiate free agent currently dominating the AHL for the Oklahoma City Barons. He has scored 14 goals and added 24 assists in his first 27 games at that level. He will jump right onto the Oilers power play if and when the NHL resumes operation.
But other top prospects have not made the most of their extra developmental time. Here are a few examples:
Mika Zibanejad, F, Senators: After the sixth overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft scored just one goal in 16 AHL games, Ottawa elected not to release him to play in the World Junior Championships. He has been plagued by a variety of maladies, including the removal of four wisdom teeth, a case of strep throat and a struggle with stomach flu. The Senators want him to get healthy and finally adapt to the smaller North American ice surfaces.
“It’s a new team from last year and a young team. It has been a process, but I feel it’s getting better and better,” Zibanejad told the Ottawa Sun. “It’s good, fast-paced hockey and you just have to go with your instincts. There are only positives so far.”
Cody Hodgson, C, Sabres: The parent team hoped Hodgson would use additional time in the AHL to develop into at least a solid No. 2 center at the NHL level. But he suffered a broken hand Nov. 3 playing for Rochester.
“Obviously, you know how good Cody is and what he can mean to a team in more ways than one with his leadership and his offensive ability,” Rochester coach Ron Rolston told the Buffalo News. “It’s been a day-to-day thing [with the hand]. I think now it’s more of the strength of it and the functionality of what he can do out there.”
Zemgus Girgensons, C, Sabres: The first-round pick scored just one goal and added only four assists in 21 games at Rochester. The big pivotman also lost time to an upper back injury. He projects as a checking line center in the NHL, but Buffalo wants him to develop the offensive side of his game in the minors.
Jordan Schroeder, C, Canucks: Given Ryan Kesler’s injury, Schroeder was supposed to use his time at the AHL’s Chicago franchise to become a take-charge offensive player. But the 2009 first-round pick did not impress management while scoring seven goals and adding eight assists in 24 games.