Utica, New York is going to be the center of attention for the hockey world tonight as the AHL All-Star Classic will be the focal point with coverage starting at 7 PM ET on several TV and radio outlets. As the format has gone back to East vs. West from last year’s AHL All-Stars against Farjestad of the Swedish League, there are a lot of prospects out there to take a look at.
Plus, if the Skills Competition was any indication, the one guy to look at is Manchester Monarchs’ Colin Miller who won both the hardest shot (105.5 MPH) and fastest skater (13.805 seconds) last night to help the Eastern Conference win the Skills Competition. Miller is fourth in points on the Monarchs (10g, 19a) and fifth amongst all defensemen in the AHL in his second professional season. With the depth of the Los Angeles Kings defense, odds are Miller will have a lot of time to season for the Kings or whomever else decided to pick him up later on.
One of the interesting things is the 34 players who are making their first appearance in an All-Star Classic, which shows how much talent is coming into the league and how much turnover there is in the AHL from one year to another. In fact, only Bobby Butler of the San Antonio Rampage, Chris Bourque of the Hartford Wolf Pack, and Bobby Sanguinetti and Cal O’Reilly of the Utica Comets have been in more than two AHL All-Star Classics. The youth movement is going to be on big display, with some names that people have known from brief appearances by the players in the NHL and what they know of their prospect pool on their own team.
Sportsnet has an article of their guys to watch for the event, despite David Pastrnak not being in the event, as Boston is keeping him up for the rest of the season. For me, one of the big players to look at is Joe Whitney of the Albany Devils, who could be the future of the New Jersey Devils while bringing in a potential offensive force to the NHL. Whitney has been shuttled back and forth a couple times and that experience could help him the rest of the way as Albany tries to make a big run in the playoffs. Springfield Falcons’ Austin Madaisky could also be another guy to look at, as he is the offensive force from the blue-line for the Falcons. With 12 goals and 32 points, Madaisky is part of this new wave of defensemen who lead their team in points– Chris Wideman in Binghamton, TJ Brennan in Rockford, and Derrick Pouliot of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are the other All-Star defensemen who lead their teams in points.
While there’s a lot of things that are going on off the ice for the AHL, the game on the ice tonight should be a solid sight for hockey fans to see. Sure, it’s an All-Star Game and not necessary going to be a stellar affair– it should be a nice look at what the future holds in the NHL and for the franchises overall. There’s plenty of places to check it out, so there’s no reason to really miss it.