Tyson Jost
Perry Nelson, USA Today Sports
NHL Prospects

AHL WEEKEND PREVIEW: Jost sent down by Avalanche, looking to hit the reset button

Friday nights in the AHL mean the start of a busy weekend. EP Rinkside has this look around the 31-team league to set you up for this weekend’s slate.



The fresh starts, resets, and long roads that many would-be and has-been-and-want-to-be-again NHL players require help the AHL earn its keep and go far beyond its role as a greenhouse for some of the NHL’s top young prospects.

Start with 20-year-old forward Tyson Jost, sent to the AHL by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday 114 games into his NHL career.

Avalanche management thought highly enough of Jost to select him 10th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Before he even turned pro, Jost filled up his resume – a season at the University of North Dakota’s highly regarded program and World Junior Championship experience for Team Canada in 2017 that ended with a silver medal. Aside from a quick five games in the AHL last season, he made a role for himself with the Avalanche last season in his first pro season, popped in 12 goals over 65 regular-season games, and dressed for all six playoff games.

Year two in the NHL has been a bit more rocky for Jost, who went 6-9-15 in 43 games before his AHL assignment. Third in the Central Division but stuck in a 2-6-2 rut and trying to fend off seven teams within five points of them, the Avalanche do not have the luxury of living with a young player whose 46.9 shot-attempt percentage (per NHL.com) ranks third-from-last among team forwards who have played more than six games. Jost has averaged 13:12 per game, but he sank to 7:47 in a game earlier this week, his third-lowest game total this season. In an unsightly 5-2 road defeat at the Ottawa Senators that ended a 1-4-0 Canadian road trip, Jost skated only 2:34 in the third period.

Sending Jost to the their AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles, is a way to reset Jost for the Avalanche, a method of applying a long-term outlook to a critical piece of their future. Rather than trying to force Jost into something that simply is not working right now, they can send him an hour north to the Eagles. There, he can play 20-plus minutes per game, take a key role on the power play, and re-discover the feel of putting the puck in the net. He had gone without a goal in 22 of his past 23 outings for the Avalanche going back to November 28th.

Take the power play. Jost had not seen any power-play time in his past two games for the Avalanche. But the Eagles can certainly use his help in that department. They rank 30th in the AHL, a 14.1 percent rate. On home ice, they have gone 12-for-89 on the man-advantage. The Eagles start a two-game weekend series at home with a stout test in the Tucson Roadrunners. Their 17-14-3-1 record has them a point out a playoff spot, but the AHL’s rapid-fire schedule can quickly put a team in trouble. After meeting Tucson, they face six games on the road, including four next week.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar saw close-up the benefit of a patient approach with talented – but young – players in his days with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Before going to Colorado, he took the Lake Erie Monsters to a Calder Cup championship in 2016. That team eventually graduated Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Markus Hännikäinen, Joonas Korpisalo, and Lukas Sedlak to eventual full-time NHL work. Even a sure-fire then-prospect like Zach Werenski took the opportunity to skate in an AHL playoff run before settling in Columbus full-time.

At age 20 and with only a season-and-a-half in the NHL and year at North Dakota, the book is hardly closed on Jost.



For every Jost landing in the AHL, one can find plenty of examples of players trying to show that they belong back in the NHL.

Stockton Heat forward Alan Quine continues to point himself back toward the NHL. Quine, who will turn 26 on February 25th, signed with the Calgary Flames after five seasons in the New York Islanders system that peaked with a 61-game NHL season in 2016-17. Injury issues in his final turn with the Islanders put Quine’s time there off-track in 2017-18. With a new management team and coaching staff taking over the Islanders in the offseason, he found himself a free-agent after not being given a qualifying offer.

After passing through waivers in training camp, Quine went to Stockton and showed enough to earn a trip back to the NHL in December. Sticking three weeks with the Flames with a 3-1-4 performance in nine games, he went back to Stockton on December 28th. Quine has handled the move well, especially for a Stockton team trying to keep pace in the Pacific Division. He is on a 5-5-10 run over his past five contests. Stockton’s 16-19-3-0 record leaves the Heat four points out of a playoff spot. They are chasing the fourth-place Bakerfield Condors, visiting them Friday night. Quine is 11-19-30 in 23 games for Stockton.



Then there is a player like Springfield Thunderbirds defenseman Josh Brown, someone whose path is far from that of a 10th overall pick like Jost.

But Brown’s long journey reached the NHL on Thursday with a recall from the Florida Panthers. Florida selected Brown in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft before he finished up four seasons in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals, where he captained the team in his final two seasons there and won the Memorial Cup in 2015. He needed most of a full season in the ECHL in 2015-16, his first pro stint, before adding two more AHL campaigns in the Florida system. Brown, 24, spent the better part of the first six weeks this fall on injured reserve before making his season debut for Springfield in late-November.

He plays a no-frills game, but at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds he brings ample size to the Florida line-up.

For other players, it is the AHL that represents their next big step. The Manitoba Moose signed the ECHL’s leading scorer, forward Chris Collins, to a tryout this week. Collins, 26, had played five seasons at the University of Calgary after a WHL career. But he blossomed with the Kalamazoo Wings, cranking out 48 points (19-29-48) in 37 games to attract AHL interest. Perhaps Collins will hit the AHL wall, but the Moose have shown a knack in the past for finding overlooked talent, including the likes of Alexandre Burrows and the late Rick Rypien back in their days as a Vancouver Canucks affiliate.



Still more names could fall under that take-an-opportunity-and-run-with-it category, and they will be on their way to the AHL All-Star Classic at the end of the month.

The AHL announced four replacements for the event hosted that starts Sunday, January 27th in Springfield.

Headlining the group is Texas Stars big-body rookie forward Joel L’Esperance. Picked up late last season out of Michigan Tech for a playoff run that took Texas to Game 7 of the Calder Cup final, the undrafted L’Esperance earned an NHL two-way contract from the Dallas Stars after a strong performance. Since then, he continues to push for full-time work in Dallas. His 22 markers top the AHL rookie list and put him second in the league overall. In all, the 23-year-old’s 35 points (22-13-35) in 38 AHL games tie him for the Texas lead.

Amid a deep group of young Carolina Hurricanes talent with the Charlotte Checkers, Andrew Poturalski, who turned 25 earlier this week, is another late-blooming forward passed over at multiple NHL Drafts. But 52 points in 37 NCAA games in his second campaign at the University of New Hampshire in 2015-16 put him in consideration for the Hobey Baker Award as well as garnering an NHL contract from the Hurricanes. Poturalski then put together a strong first two pro seasons in the AHL before breaking out even further this season in Charlotte. His 42 points (17-25-42) in 42 games leave him third in AHL scoring.

Manitoba Moose forward Logan Shaw had to return to the AHL this season after spending the better part of three campaigns in the NHL, including all of 2017-18. After a month with the San Diego Gulls, he attracted enough interest from the Winnipeg Jets to receive a one-year, two-way contract that steered him to the Moose. While Manitoba has struggled, the 26-year-old has 13-8-21 in 25 games for the Moose.

Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Troy Grosenick will replace Collin Delia of the Rockford IceHogs for the Central Division entry in Springfield. Forwards Janne Kuokkanen (Charlotte), Mason Appleton (Manitoba), and Chicago Wolves sniper Brandon Pirri also will miss the event.



Add another AHL deal to the board, this one that can bring a fresh start for a pair of players who had drifted into suspect status. The Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers pulled off the 14th trade involving AHL talent since December 28th. Philadelphia sent Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Taylor Leier to the Sabres organization for fellow forward Justin Bailey. The 23-year-old Bailey, a 2013 second-rounder NHL Draft selection for the Sabres, had gone 9-11-20 in 37 games for the Rochester Americans this season. In his fourth pro season, he had managed only 52 regular-season games with Buffalo. After playing 2017-18 in Philadelphia, Leier, 25, had spent this season back in Lehigh Valley with a 10-9-19 line in 34 contests with the Phantoms. Philadelphia took him in the fourth round in 2012. Bailey and Leier will not wait long to face their former clubs. The Amerks visit Lehigh Valley in a Saturday tilt between two of the top Eastern Conference outfits.

The Syracuse Crunch are on a 0-4-1-0 slide, but they are the only AHL team yet to reach the halfway point of their schedule.

Two struggling teams have stirred lately. Manitoba’s 4-0-0-1 streak has the Moose back within 10 points of a playoff spot in the Central Division. That is still quite a gap, but 10 days ago they were 14 points behind that same spot. Three consecutive wins have put the Hershey Bears back within sight of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Fourth-place Springfield leads the Bears by six points.

No Eastern Conference team is more than five points away from the playoff line. Five points separate first- and fourth-place in the North Division.



Friday – Texas at San Jose: A pair of Western Conference top-end clubs meet for the second time this season. The Barracuda dealt the Stars a 6-1 loss at Texas on October 27th. A five-game spin through the Pacific Division continues for the Stars, who are fourth in the Central Division but only three points off the Western Conference lead. San Jose’s .735 home point percentage leads the AHL.

Saturday – Rochester at Lehigh Valley: Rochester has strengthened its line-up recently, receiving forwards C.J. Smith and Scott Wilson on loan from the Sabres last week. The Amerks have put up a 23-13-2-0 mark through the season’s midpoint going into their visit to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night, good enough to lead the North Division. Third in the Atlantic Division, the Phantoms visit the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday night.



The Bridgeport Sound Tigers received a significant addition at forward when veteran Matt Lorito cleared waivers after being assigned by the parent Islanders. The 28-year-old signed with the Islanders in the offseason before missing the first half with an undisclosed injury. Lorito, 23-26-49 in 59 games last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, also missed the 2018 AHL postseason. The Sound Tigers are second in the Atlantic Division after Charlotte swept them in back-to-back games earlier this week…. Hershey added established forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas on an AHL contract Friday. The 28-year-old began the season in the EBEL before opting to return to North America. Having played on both sides of the fierce Ontario Reign-San Diego rivalry, he had back-to-back 12-goals seasons for each team before going to Europe last season. Strong down low, he can also aid Hershey’s middle-of-the-pack penalty kill. He will report to the South Carolina Stingrays, the ECHL affiliate of the Bears and the parent Washington Capitals, but expect him to be in the Hershey line-up before long….Seventy-five minutes away from Hershey, Lehigh Valley will have Flyers netminder Anthony Stolarz back on a conditioning assignment. An injury put him out of action for the past month, and health problems have slowed his progress in the Philadelphia system, limiting him to four games in 2017-18. This season the 24-year-old has gone 2-3-2 | 3.90 | .880 with Philadelphia in nine games. In three AHL games this season, he is 2-0-0 | 3.34 | .889….Utica Comets forward Tanner Kero is on recall with Vancouver. An offseason addition from the Chicago Blackhawks organization, he is 16-21-37, tying him for the team lead….A strong weekend earned Providence Bruins forward Peter Cehlárik a trip to the Boston Bruins. He generated eight points (3-5-8) in three games, sending him into the team lead at 10-19-29 through 37 games in Providence. Boston brought Cehlárik to North America in 2016 after picking him in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft. After notching a pair of goals in his NHL season debut this week, he picked up an assist to help Boston take a 5-2 victory at home Thursday….Hartford swapped goaltenders with the parent New York Rangers on Friday as the teams continue their three-way goaltender rotation behind Henrik Lundqvist. Alexandar Georgiev went back to Hartford, changing places with Marek Mazanec. Georgiev, 22, is viewed as being a key long-term piece in New York and is 6-8-0 | 3.43 | .895 in 16 Rangers games this season. That accompanies a 2-6-0 | 3.30 | .890 eight-game performance for Hartford. Mazanec is 7-6-2 | 3.15 | .895 in 15 games for the Wolf Pack….Texas added established forward Erik Condra, who is 15-21-36 in 33 AHL games, on loan from Dallas….Carolina summoned Charlotte netminder Alex Nedeljkovic. The 23-year-old’s 20 wins lead the AHL, and he has been a workhorse again for Charlotte this season. Through 30 AHL appearances, he is 20-5-2 | 2.68 | .903. Carolina made him a second-round pick in 2014….Through Thursday, 74 AHL players have made their NHL debuts this season.

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