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As we enter the last third of the season, it seemed like a good time to check back in on prospects on the farm in the AHL. Clare McManus looks at five AHL rookies that rank among the best first year players, but perhaps are not receiving the attention they deserve. Under the radar players that are worth keeping an eye on.
Finnish prospect, Joakim Kemell, entered McKeen’s 2022 NHL Draft rankings at #3 back in November, then sliding slightly to #6 in our mid-season ranking at the end of January. Early in the season he was on fire and was touted by some prospect watchers as a potential #1, particularly as Shane Wright got off to a slow start. That torrid start has been following by a quiet period following the World Juniors.
Today on mckeenshockey.com we will be publishing an in-depth scouting profile on Kemell by Sam Happi. It will include a deep look at five characteristics – skating, shot, smarts, skills and physicality – providing grades on where we see that player developing to in the NHL in that particular skill. We then use those to generate an OFP (Overall Future Projection) which helps us in our rankings. This season we have added extensive video to the profiles. We are including the overview from that profile here in this space. Be sure to check out the full report on the site.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
Prospects in the News: Five under-the radar AHL rookies
By Clare McManus
NHL prospects continue to develop and post appreciable numbers with their AHL clubs, earning call-ups and rookie of the month status.
Below will list five players who have been performing among the top rookies in the league, while also being more under-the-radar.
Matias Maccelli, Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes)
2021-22 Stats: Tucson Roadrunners, AHL, 42GP-14G-41A-55PTS
Arizona Coyotes, NHL, 2GP-1G-0A-1PTS
Maccelli recently earned a call up to the big leagues after posting 14 goals and 41 assists for 55 points in 42 games with the Roadrunners. Maccelli ranks third in the American Hockey League for assists and total points, while also leading all rookies in both categories. He was recently named AHL Rookie of the Month for the second time this season, after recording four goals and 15 assists in 10 games played in the month of February. The first time he was named Rookie of the Month was in November.
In his first two appearances in the NHL, he has posted one goal. He has been a strong addition to Arizona’s bottom-six forward group.
The Finnish forward was drafted in the fourth round, 98th overall, in the 2019 NHL draft. He played the past two seasons for Ilves in Finland’s Liiga.
Jordan Spence, Ontario Reign (LA Kings)
2021-22 Stats: Ontario Reigh, AHL, 46GP-4G-38A-42PTS
The Los Angeles Kings defensive prospect has had a strong year with the Reign, recording four goals and 36 assists for 40 points in 45 games played, playing on the top defensive pairing. Spence, a former QMJHL star was drafted in the fourth round, 95th overall in the 2019 NHL draft.
The puck-moving defenseman should see a call up in the future. He currently sits second in points for defensemen and leads all rookie defensemen. Quite the start to his young career.
Jonatan Berggren, Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings)
2021-22 Stats: Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL, 49GP-14G-23A-37PTS
One of the Red Wings top European prospects has had an excellent season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Drafted in the second round, 33rd overall, in 2018, Berggren currently has 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 49 games played.
Before coming to North America, he played multiple seasons with Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Hockey League. In 99 career SHL games, Berggren posted 14 goals and 46 assists for 60 total points. While he still has to work on a few aspects of his game before coming to the big leagues, he is doing quite well for the Rapids as of now.
Jack Drury, Chicago Wolves (Carolina Hurricanes)
2021-22 Stats: Chicago Wolves, AHL, 48GP-16G-21A-37PTS
Carolina Hurricanes, NHL, 2GP-2G-0A-2PTS
The Hurricanes 2018 second round pick is fitting in nicely in Chicago. The five-foot-11, 174-pound forward currently has 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points in 49 games played with the Wolves. Drury recently notched his first pro hat-trick with a 5-2 win over the Texas Stars.
Drury has also appeared in two NHL games. In those two games he delivered a pair of goals. Before coming to the Hurricanes organization, he played two seasons with Harvard University and one season with the Växjö Lakers HC in the SHL.
Akira Schmid, Utica Comets (NJ Devils)
2021-22 Stats: Tucson Roadrunners, AHL, 42GP-14G-41A-55PTS
The Swiss-born netminder has had a great season with the Comets of the AHL. Drafted by the Devils in the fifth round in 2018, Schmid has delivered all around solid numbers for the Comets. In 22 games played, he has posted a 2.25 GAA and a .927 save percentage, leading all rookie goalies. The six-foot-five goaltender has also appeared in six NHL games with the Devils, posting a 4.83 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
Before playing pro hockey, Schmid was a star in the USHL. Last season, he played 36 games with the Sioux City Musketeers, posting a 2.01 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He was the best goaltender in the USHL last year with the best save percentage and GAA. He was named USHL Goaltender of the Year and also made the USHL’s First All-Star team.
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2022 NHL Draft Prospect: Joakim Kemell – Blistering start, sluggish middle
By Sam Happi
2021-22 Stats: JYP, Liiga, 32GP-13G-6A-19PTS
Joakim Kemell got off to an unbelievable start to his season, tallying 18 points in his first 16 games, acting as JYP's top offensive weapon over that period. Very much a scorer, his shot was immediately troublesome for Liiga goaltenders, and he enjoyed plenty of opportunity to hunt that shot on the powerplay. At the midpoint of the season, Kemell seemed to have established himself as the top European prospect in the draft and a candidate to go as high as second overall. Complicating the situation somewhat is Kemell’s much slower pace over the second half of the season: since those first sixteen games, he has just a single point. A shoulder injury in November started the slide, as Kemell struggled in the handful of games he played upon his return, then he headed to Edmonton for the partial World Juniors tournament. Kemell seemed to pick up an injury of some kind in Edmonton, not returning to Liiga action until late January. Upon his return, two injuries and several months removed from his torrid start, he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic that he opened the season with.
It’s difficult to say just how much Kemell’s dip will impact his prospects at the draft. His Liiga body of work is still impressive on the whole– Brad Lambert’s season is a demonstration of how difficult it can be to produce against men– and any sniper with goal-scoring results in a professional circuit is sure to draw the keen eye of NHL clubs. He might not have second overall wrapped up, but I still expect Kemell to be drafted in the top five at this point in time. No other player offers the scoring prowess that he has, and “best scorer in the draft” might be the most valuable title to possess when it comes to draft stock.