PHOTO: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images
NHL Rookies

AHL ON THE ROAD: Batherson lights up All-Star game with five goals

SPRINGFIELD – American Hockey League players hit the road after play this past Saturday, scattering across the map in search of rest and relaxation after nearly four months of regular-season play.

Some of their peers also headed to Springfield to convene for the 2019 Lexus AHL All-Star Classic presented by MGM Springfield, a two-day event hosted by the hometown Thunderbirds (Florida Panthers). The AHL Skills Competition started the event this past Sunday night. The Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference, 17-14, but the home crowd received a show from some of the top talent around the league.

PHOTO: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images

Drake Batherson

Five goals from Belleville Senators (Ottawa Senators) offensive talent Drake Batherson helped the North Division to capture the championship game in the 3-on-3 round-robin AHL All-Star Challenge among the league’s four divisions on Monday night. That top talent skated before sell-out crowds at MassMutual Center on both nights.

As those All-Stars return home Tuesday for a brief break, we can catch up on and assess some of this past weekend’s best performances across the 31-team AHL before the schedule resumes later this week.



Thunderbirds forward Anthony Greco won the CCM Fastest Skater event, clocking in at 13.251 seconds on his lap around the MassMutual Center ice. A shot of 100.4 miles per hour (161.57814 kilometers per hour) won the CCM Hardest Shot contest for Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Greg Carey. The veteran sniper is in a fourth-place tie with 20 goals this season. Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild) goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen posted saves on 16 of the 18 shot-attempts that he faced Sunday night to win the CCM Top Goaltender Award.

PHOTO: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images

Anthony Greco.

Along with Batherson’s standout performance that earned him most valuable player honors, Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers) defenseman John Gilmour popped in a hat trick to go with an assist for the Atlantic Division.

Veteran talents Reid Boucher (Vancouver Canucks-Utica Comets) and Nathan Gerbe (Columbus Blue Jackets-Cleveland Monsters) each contributed a pair of goals. Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) forward Andrew Poturalski went 1-3-4 for the Atlantic Division while Texas Stars (Dallas Stars) forward Denis Gurianov added four points of his own (2-2-4). Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings) blueliner Sean Walker served up hat trick for the Pacific Division.

Goaltending was scarce in the offense-heavy event, of course, but Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) netminder Vitek Vanecek denied 18 of 20 shots.

Next season Ontario hosts the event, the first time that the AHL’s midseason gathering will be held in sunny California.



Before some of those top prospects went to Springfield – and their teammates scattered in search of warmer temperatures – the AHL had a busy start to its weekend. With the NHL also on its break, some players headed to the AHL in search of additional playing time.

Colorado Eagles (Colorado Avalanche) forward Tyson Jost broke loose for three goals in the two-game stop-by at Ontario. The Avs shipped him out to the Eagles in mid-January, and he had one assist in four AHL games before this past weekend. The Avalanche chose him 10th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft and he spent most of last season and this season’s first half in the NHL before heading to the AHL.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart made a brief return to the AHL with Lehigh Valley. He put in a 32-save performance to take the Phantoms past the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders) in a 4-1 road victory this past Saturday night. That has the Phantoms in third place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the second-place Sound Tigers and owning a game in hand. Forward Mikhail Vorobyev joined Hart on the trip to Philadelphia. The 22-year-old has gone 6-16-22 in 32 games for the Phantoms; with the Laval Rocket visiting this past Friday, he had a 1-2-3 evening for the second time in his past five games. Flyers forward Dale Weise was assigned to Lehigh Valley.



With an injury keeping Eagles goaltender Pavel Francouz out of the line-up for their two-game trip to play Ontario, Spencer Martin stepped forward. Martin, 23, made a franchise-record 68 saves to shut out Ontario, 4-0, this past Friday night. The Avalanche took him in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft. The following night, he saw another 51 shots, stopping 47 of them, but Ontario took a 5-3 win. In all, he has gone 5-7-2 | 3.39 | .905 in 15 games for the Eagles this season as Francouz has taking the bulk of the playing time.

Even a tough two-game road set to see the Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes) could not stop the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers). Two strong performances from netminder Shane Starrett helped the Condors to take an eight-game win streak into the break after sweeping Tucson. Signed by the Edmonton Oilers to a two-year entry-level deal in April 2017, Starrett turned pro after two seasons at the Air Force Academy. Now 24 years old, he has taken on a greater role with Bakersfield after 38 appearances last season with the Wichita Thunder, Edmonton’s ECHL affiliate. He has a 12-3-3 | 2.43 | .914 line through 18 AHL games for the Condors. He had a 30-save effort in a 3-1 series-opening win this past Friday night. The following afternoon, he added 31 saves in another 3-1 victory. Bakersfield moved into second place in the Pacific Division, three points behind the division-leading San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks), though the Barracuda have four games in hand). Starrett won his past six games with Bakersfield.

Condors forward Joe Gambardella’s six-game point streak (7-3-10) has helped to pace Bakersfield. Defenseman Logan Day’s five-game point streak features eight assists. Forward Patrick Russell’s 3-4-7 run gives him a five-game point streak as well.

The San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks) continue to roll, their latest victim being Texas. San Diego took a 4-1 decision at Texas this past Saturday night, ending the Stars’ 12-game home point streak (11-0-0-1). “Over the last month here our team has been able to dig in when needed and rebound when needed,” Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins told the team website. “I thought we were really well-led by our veteran guys. Our forwards have worked extremely hard. They appreciate that saving a goal has the same affect on the scoreboard as scoring one. I thought we had a great commitment from our forward group.” San Diego has a five-point grip on fourth place in the Pacific Division and trails the Barracuda by five points as well.

Continued strong play on home ice has moved the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) into second place overall at 57 points, nine points behind the first-place Checkers. The Griffins possess a 16-4-1-3 home mark. Grand Rapids goaltender Harri Säteri is on a 7-1-1 run.

In what amounts to a “slump” for Charlotte, the Checkers bounced back this past Saturday against Hartford. They took a 5-2 win. Rookie defenseman Jake Bean had a goal one night after a two-goal evening in a 5-3 loss at the Providence Bruins; his nine goals lead all AHL rookie blueliners. The Checkers’ three-game winless streak before the victory at Hartford was their longest this season. Forward Aleksi Saarela had a 2-1-3 night against the Wolf Pack.

Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) forward Eeli Tolvanen, taken 30th in the 2017 NHL Draft by the parent Nashville Predators, chipped in two goals in an 8-2 matinee win against the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets) this past Saturday. The 19-year-old is 7-8-15 in 29 games for the Ads.

Before being recalled by the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba defenseman Sami Niku put together a four-game point streak (1-4-5).

Providence (Boston Bruins) forward Trent Frederic, recalled Monday by Boston, went 2-1-3 for the P-Bruins in the win against Charlotte. Boston picked him 29th in 2016, and the 20-year-old has put together a 10-7-17 rookie season through 37 games in Providence so far.

Comets goaltender Ivan Kulbakov continues to hold down the net with Thatcher Demko off with the Canucks. He had a 48-save night this past Friday.

You may also be interested in:
AHL PROSPECT WATCH: Comrie stepping up big for Manitoba Moose
AHL PROSPECT WATCH: Comrie stepping up big for Manitoba Moose
This article is about:
AHL Features NHL Prospects NHL Rookies AHL Drake Batherson
Scoring Leaders