Minor League All-Stars

This is Guyle Fielder in a Detroit Red Wings uniform. He played in 9 NHL games (played at least a couple on the same line as Gordie Howe) but never scored a point.

Fielder had a long (looooonnnnngg) career in the minor leagues. He won the AHL Rookie of the Year Award (52-53) when he had 61 assists in 62 games. He was 22 years old. Twenty years later he was still setting up goals in the minors (the old WHL pro league) and earned the reputation as the finest minor league player in hockey history.

Bill James used to do a “Minor League All-Star” lineup in each of his Abstracts. I looked forward to them because there was always an Expo (“Mike Stenhouse could be the next Ken Phelps!”) mentioned as being a possible future major leaguer. The idea was to identify 9 guys who could play in the bigs if they only had the chance. Math loved these men, but the scouts kept worshipping at the feet of the Juggs gun and never gave them a chance.

In honor of Mike Stenhouse, Dave Hostetler, Wallace Johnson (remember the triple?), Jeff Huson and others, here’s my first (of an annual) Minor League All-Stars.

Goalie: Michael Leighton (Albany). He had a .968SP in the playoffs this spring, leading the AHL. During the regular season he led the league in SP with .931 for an Albany team that didn’t score much (they finished tied for 22nd in a 29-team league in GF) but gave up very little (only 3 teams allowed fewer goals). Leighton got into 3 NHL games (with Carolina, 2.66 .897SP) and is 27 years old. Won the Baz Bastien Award (top goalie) in the AHL for 07-08.

Defense: Sami Lepisto (Hershey). 23-year old Finn saw his first AHL action this past season and went 55gp, 4-41-45 +29. The plus minus total was third in the league and the next Hershey defender was +18. It’s unlikely Lepisto was playing the tough competition (the Bears had a couple of D with NHL experience in Josef Boumedienne and Ben Clymer) but on a team that looks like it was about a dozen goals to the good at EVs +29 is pretty damn good. Plus he can obviously move the puck and picked up some points (1-18-19) on the powerplay and also delivered pretty well at even strength. 6-0, 180, described as a very confident player.

Defense: Andrew Hutchinson (Hartford). 28-year old won the Eddie Shore award as top defender in the AHL and then signed an NHL contract with a team that has no defensemen. Not a bad 12 months. 67gp, 18-46-64 +28 with a very good club. I would rather have had a defensive defenseman here but both of these guys stood out to me.

Center: Jason Krog (Chicago). 33-years old this fall, you can’t tell me he can’t put up points with a legit NHL shot (80gp, 39-73-112 in regular year and 24gp, 10-26-36 in the playoff). He’s played in almost 200 NHL games but size and speed concerns have kept him out of the show (as a regular) since 03-04. Krog signed with the Canucks for next season.

Left Wing: Jeff Tambellini (Bridgeport). 57gp, 38-38-76 -2 in the AHL this season. Good wheels, apparently plays an intelligent game and has been knocking on the door for what seems like ages. His NHL coach (based on reports) was hesitant to play him in some offensive situations last season, so today’s events on Long Island may benefit him.

Right Wing: Teddy Purcell (Manchester). 23-years old this fall, Purcell has a beauty chance to make the big leagues with Los Angeles. Has good size (6-3, 180) and had a nice offensive season in the AHL (67gp, 25-58-83). He had a wonderful year on the PP (13-36-49) in Manchester.

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23 Responses to "Minor League All-Stars"

  1. doritogrande says:

    It sure was a good year for AHL defenders. The three you mentioned notwithstanding, you may have missed the best of the bunch in Joel Kwiatkowski of the Chicago Wolves. Over 20 goals in the regular season, over a point per game in the playoffs (not to mention his +13 in the 24 games), and unlike Lepisto, surely handled the toughs each and every night.

    This Goligoski kid from the Pens system looks like he could have a career ahead too.

    On Sami Lepisto: I had the pleasure of watching him when the Bears played my Moose one night in Jan/Feb. He’s one to watch for in the future with his speed, agility, hockey sense and puck-moving ability. Size will be a factor though.

    On Krog: He’s sure to get his shot this year at some quality minutes on what may be loosely be called a “scoring line” in Vancouver.

  2. Stan says:

    I am a first-time “commenter”, and so I just thought that I should add that I have been following your site for awhile, and have thoroughly enjoyed the refreshingly intelligent posts and comments. This is a class site, and a must-read for me now on a daily basis, so thanks for that.

    At the risk of being labelled a ‘sugar-tits’ booster so early in my blogging career, I just thought that it is interesting to note that so many AHL’ers are so much older than our ‘Robbie’–in fact, FOR HIS AGE, he was the second top scorer in the whole league (just a few points behind first) and he did it playing with far less talented team-mates, while coming off a pretty serious injury.

    As many on this site have already said: the only thing that may prevent him from playing in the NHL with the oilers is that we have so many talented forwards ahead of him…at the moment. But it seems to me that things change fast in the salary cap NHL (for example Horcoff and Cole could both be gone next year–how many players are still here since our Stanley Cup Game 7 appearance?).

    Although it doesn’t appear that sugartits is the next superstar or anything (perhaps we could have dreamed that 3 years ago…sigh)–he is still a great prospect with an interesting upside. I certainly wouldn’t trade him for anything less than a first-rounder, and to be honest, he seems way better than a large majority of first-rounders, I would think. What percentage of first-rounders make the NHL, again?

  3. doritogrande says:

    “how many players are still here since our Stanley Cup Game 7 appearance?).”

    http://coppernblue.blogspot.com/2008/07/complete-rebuild.html

    That many. Jonathan paints a very good picture of what really defines the term “complete rebuild”

  4. Dennis says:

    What did Jack Daugherty and Al Newman ever do to YOU?:)

  5. Oilman says:

    Could Michael Leighton be the next Dan Ellis for someone? Or is Dan Ellis just the next Corey Hirsch?

  6. Asiaoil says:

    I like this article LT as it puts the progress/upside of our own prospects into perspective. An example and I hate to harp on JDD – well not really :)

    JDD has quite a ways to go before he is even as good as Leighton in the AHL – and is anyone excited about the NHL upside of Leighton? No….and right now JDD looks to be on a similar career path.

  7. dstaples says:

    What is this “sugartits” business? in regards to Schremp?

    Do other players call him that?

  8. Big T says:

    dstaples;

    Pretty sure its in the BofA glossary but its an oilogosphere term first coined, I believe, by Tyler at mc79. It basically refers to that god awful pic of Robbie in the ‘Captian America’ man-thong. Also had someething to with the unrelenting love many had at the time for what was then a very middling prospect.

    T

  9. rananda says:

    re lepisto: clymer played forward for the bears last year, and i believe lepisto spent most of his time paired with boumedienne.

  10. Pat H says:

    This deviates from the topic somewhat, but I think it’s related to LT’s general theme. Does anyone know what the deal with John Slaney was? Did injuries really hamper his ability to crack the NHL with any regularity? Was it something else?

  11. spOILer says:

    And the Stortini watch ends. 3 year deal, no numbers yet. Added AHL depth too in Corazzini.

  12. heed says:

    dennis is dancing in the streets.

  13. Art Vandelay says:

    With the FWs on the list, does the lack of PM give pause? Do scouts still consider PM? How many times do we see a guy who looks like he’s got all the talent but can’t seem to stick to the puck in traffic? Or refuses to skate into traffic to go get it? Is there a way of measuring “grit” without resorting to counting his PM?

  14. Scott says:

    Stortini numbers are in…

    2.1 mil over 3 years (700k cap hit)

  15. heed says:

    Team 1260 reports that Stortini was signed for 3 years at $700K per season. Not bad at all.

  16. Steve says:

    So by my math, that puts us at 22 players who are locks for roster spots: 12 forwards, 8 defensemen (counting Strudwick), and 2 goalies. That leaves one spot for Schremp, JDD, Jacques (if healthy), etc. I just can’t see them signing Reasoner at this point – there isn’t even room for him in the press box.

  17. Scott says:

    Didn’t Roy successfully clear waivers late last year? You know… when teams are in greatest need of a depth defenseman…

  18. Bruce says:

    I’m happy. I floated $700 K over two years as being fair, and the third year is a bonus. Doesn’t sound like Stortini’s agent was all that tough to deal with … in fact I’m a little surprised (and relieved) that there wasn’t an offer sheet. Not that I think Zack wanted to go anywhere else.

    If this guy keep improving at the rate he has since his call-up in mid ’06-07, outperformance of this contract should be a mortal lock.

  19. oilerdiehard says:

    Hey LT does Carl Corizzini who played for the Grand Rapids Griffins get an honorable mention (leading scorer with 60 points on a poor Griffins team with little offensive support – 4th lowest scoring team in the AHL)?

    Because we signed him for Springfield today. :)

    Yeah probably not but I had to work him into the conversation somehow.

  20. Dennis says:

    Looks like the Oilers are really looking after the Falcons given they signed both Lerg and now Corizinni.

    Not sure if Schremp will be back in the A but Reddox-Truk are the young guys you’d look to for offense — that’s admitting that Truk’s EV production is still in doubt — and now they’ll have a promising NCAA kid plus an A vet that should give them a little more offensive pop.

  21. Ribs says:

    Staples – I’ll laugh my ass off if you publish this on your blog.

    Sugartits in all his glory.

  22. doritogrande says:

    ribs:

    Fuck man, warn people before you put a link like that in.

  23. Ribs says:

    …Clickers beware ..*shudder*

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