With the returning of the National Hockey League to regular play, my favourite aspect of the AHL is starting to shine through once again. The development of first-year players.
That’s not to say it was non-existent during the first part of the season – the blooming of Spencer Abbott is a tremendous example of such – but with the holes that were left by players moving up top to the Leafs, the prominence of roles and minutes played by rookies has increased. With all eyes on the middle spot entering the season, the inclusion of Andrew Crescenzi in the mix, a free agent signing after he slipped through the draft, has begun to pay dividends. Especially with the scoring of his first AHL goal on Saturday.
Also playing up the middle, Greg McKegg has put his name on the map with Ricoh regulars with his offensive abilities. McKegg was the one who summoned the bears from their seats on teddy toss night and also boosted is clout with the crowd when he potted the winner against league rival Hamilton.
Brad Ross and Jamie Devane too can be added to the list of first year players who have received a more prominent place. The latter may see time in the lineup Monday against Houston, though Brad Ross remains out with an upper body injury.
With more lineup news, here are notes ahead of the game:
- Goaltender Drew MacIntyre collected his first win with his new team on Saturday, stopping 17 of 18 shots
- Paul Ranger has now missed 11 games since sustaining a hit on January 13th in St. John’s
- Jake Gardiner has 4 points since his return, but is still looking for his first goal
- Brad Ross has now missed 5 games
- Houston enters the game winning four of their last five, losing most recently to Hamilton on Saturday
Tune into all the action starting at 3pm on Rogers TV. Jon Abbott and Bob McGill will have the call, like they always do at home, bringing the experience in to your living room. Alternatively, if you live outside the Toronto Rogers region you can catch the game on AHL Live. The audio feed is always free and video costs only a few dollars.
For any remaining lineup news and notes ahead of the game, catch me on twitter (@chansler) as I try to get them to you.