This is Guyle Fielder. He played only 15 NHL games (and many of those with some of the best talent in the history of the game), but never scored a point in any of them. In the minor leagues, he was Gretzky.
Guyle Fielder was dominant for many years in the minor leagues, mostly on the west coast. A very nice summary of his story is here. The line between an NHL team’s 14th forward/7th defenseman and the best of the minor leagues is miniscule–in fact in some cases the more talented man is probably playing bigger minutes in the AHL. The following list is my group of candidates who played (mostly) in the AHL last season but deserve a long look in the big leagues in 10-11:
- GOAL: Nathan Lawson, New York Islanders. 26-year old came to pro hockey via NCAA (Alaska Anchorage) and began in obscurity in the ECHL a couple of years ago. In two AHL seasons, his SP has been very impressive (.927 and .922) and two years ago his SP was 27 points better than the backup. He has never played in the NHL but odds favor him getting a chance in the next couple of years.
- DEFENSE: PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens. This is an obvious pick (Subban was outstanding in the American League a year ago) and if you watched the SC playoffs he was on display (and overplayed, good grief) by the Habs this spring. He has some work to do defensively but is a quality talent.
- DEFENSE: Arturs Kulda, Atlanta Thrashers. Stay-at-home type with good size and a reputation for playing an intelligent game. Led the AHL in plus minus (+47) as he and Chris Chelios (+34) towered above the other defenders on the Wolves.
- CENTER: Keith Aucoin, Washington Capitals. If Aucoin stood 6.0 he’d be making millions. As it is, he has to settle for being the most ridiculous player in a very good league. Last year’s boxcars (72gp, 35-71-106) were slightly better than last year but this fellow has been good enough to play in the NHL for some time.
- LEFT WING: Alexandre Giroux, Washington Capitals. If Aucoin is ridiculous, Giroux is preposterous. In his last 2 AHL seasons, Giroux has scored 50 and 60 goals. In fact, in his last 5 AHL seasons, Alexandre Giroux has scored 221 goals (44 a season). He signed with the Edmonton Oilers this summer and it is entirely reasonable to project him as a 20-goal man in the right NHL circumstances.
- RIGHT WING: Jerome Samson, Carolina Hurricanes. Lots of talk about the Hurricanes inactivity this summer, but the fact is the big league club has some nice things bubbling under. 22-year old has decent size and good speed, plus the scouting report tells us he can win puck battles and plays with tenacity. 37-goals in the AHL at age 22 is a very nice total.