The Senators developed one game-breaker in defenseman Erik Karlsson. Can they do it again with winger Jakob Silfverberg?
He has earned comparisons to Daniel Alfredsson. That is might be a stretch, but his progress this season in Binghamton suggests Silfverberg can make it big. He scored 13 goals and added 15 assists in 32 games for the B-Senators.
“He can do it at the next level,” Binghamton coach Luke Richardson told the Ottawa Sun. “He's a smart, skilled player and he's really starting to take to the North American game. He's a lot more forceful in the areas that require a bit more physicality and he's not afraid to go to the net. People will be shocked when they see him shoot the puck, it really is unbelievable. It will be fun to watch him at the next level.”
He is just one example of a NHL-ready player who tore up the AHL this season. Here are some others:
Cam Atkinson, W, Blue Jackets: After showing big in the NHL at the end of last season, scoring 10 points in the last six games, Atkinson rolled on in the AHL this season. He scored 17 goals and 21 assists in 33 games for the Springfield Falcons. Columbus is starved for offense after losing Rick Nash, so Atkinson will play a primary offensive role.
Mikael Granlund, C, Wild: Rather than stay in Finland during the lockout, he started his adjustments to the smaller rinks in the AHL. He scored eight goals and added 13 assists in 21 games for the Houston Aeros. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo hopes Granlund, 19, can fill the No. 2 center slot, perhaps between Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi.
Granlund’s playmaking skills are given, but Yeo liked the rest of his game in the AHL. “How he competes to win pucks, how he competes when he's defending and how he plays without the puck, those are parts of his game that were unknowns,” Yeo told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “He helped himself because I certainly know I can put him out on the ice and know he's not going to be a liability.”
Brendan Smith, D, Red Wings: Detroit coach Mike Babcock plans on playing him with Kyle Quincey in the second defensive pairing. Smith scored five goals (three on the power play) and added 15 assists in 32 games for Grand Rapids of the AHL. He didn't demolish the AHL as Justin Schultz did in Oklahoma City, but proved he is more than ready for the next level.
Justin Faulk, D, Hurricanes: He should be ready to step into an offensive role in Carolina after scoring five goals and dishing 19 assists in 31 games for Charlotte of the AHL. He showed great promise for Carolina last season, producing eight goals and 14 assists in 66 games and emerging as a top four defender.
Brayden Schenn, C, Flyers: He has a chance to earn scoring line work this season, so his strong showing at Adirondack (13 goals and 20 assists in 33 games) bodes well for his growth potential. “Since I saw him in LA, every part of his game has come along tremendously,” Adirondack coach Terry Murray told the Philadelphia Daily News earlier this season. “He’s physically more mature, mentally more mature. He’s starting to really identify with what his niche is in the game. He’s becoming a more complete player.”