NHL Prospect Report

AHL Stock Watch: Alex Turcotte finally hitting his stride with Ontario Reign

A few years ago, one would look at the list of top AHL scorers and see many career minor-leaguers, players with barely any chance at a long-term NHL role on a team. They would get the occasional call-up, but fans knew to play it cool and didn’t form any hope around their high production totals. 

But times are slowly changing. The AHL is more of a young players’ league now. Creative under-21 prospects get the most minutes, the best roles in the lineup, and in turn, the most points, as teams are preparing them for top-nine NHL careers. They prop them up, understanding that the more ice time and puck touches they get, the more they can develop. 

Even under the best conditions, development can take time, however. In this AHL Stock Watch, we look at the development of four first-rounder prospects and the impact their environment has had on them. 

Stock Rising 📈

Alex Turcotte, C, Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings)

Alex Turcotte seems to have finally found new ways to keep his name on the score sheet on a night-in, night-out basis in the AHL. His game hasn’t changed that much overall, but he’s playing a better version of it now, showing more finesse and better rush playmaking. He’s also using his teammates to create passing exchanges and bypass defenders and identify more passing opportunities around the net and below the goal-line. 

Turcotte’s upside has fallen off significantly since his draft year, but he’s now putting himself back on track to an NHL role. If he can learn to use his speed and motor better in his defensive game, he could find a role on the Kings or another team’s bottom-six at some point. The coaching staff has employed him on the penalty kill to help him make that transition to such a supportive role. 

Brad Lambert, C/RW, Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets)

Players like Brad Lambert, who possess a significant speed advantage over the opposition, play the game one way. They drive up ice and try to outpace their way around defenders. They rely on their skill only to score and make plays. That was also the case for a time for Lambert, but it’s not anymore. His playstyle has completely evolved.

So far in the AHL, Lambert has scored by winning battles along the wall, attacking the net at just the right time, and also making deceptive cross-ice passes to teammates on his power play. He’s slowly squashing most of the doubts we had about his play in his draft year and becoming a well-rounded, effective player. He’s developing his awareness and he cuts inside more often with the puck. And while he’s still missing some rotations, his defensive game continues to improve. 

It remains to be seen what role he will play for Winnipeg, but Lambert is not a top-six-or-bust prospect anymore. If he doesn’t reach his ceiling, he will find a role somewhere in the middle of their lineup.

[Read more: How Brad Lambert's time in the WHL improved his stock with the Winnipeg Jets]

Stock Steady ↔️

Drew Helleson, D, San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks)

Drew Helleson’s play has been a bright spot for the San Diego Gulls this season. Even as the team's struggled as a unit, he's continued to be a bright spot for the Anaheim Ducks affiliate.

He continues to play an aggressive brand of hockey, punishing opponents near the net, imposing himself physically, and jump-starting the offence. His passes hit teammates in exactly the right spots on breakouts and there’s a great sense of timing in his activations. There’s only four points on his sheet at the moment, but those numbers don’t represent how effective he has been on the attack for his team. If he continues to move the puck in the same way and jump down from the offensive blue line to support plays, his production will increase. 

Helleson looks NHL-ready. Unfortunately, Anaheim’s prospect pool is overflowing with talent, especially on the blueline. That’s very good news overall for the organization, but a bit unfortunate for the second-rounder, who might have to wait for his chance to join the Ducks. 

Victor Söderström, D, Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes)

Maybe it’s unfair to put Victor Söderström in the Stock Steady category. The AHL is teaching him how to handle the hard and fast forechecking pressure of top-level North American hockey, where there is less space to escape with the puck. He’s figuring out more breakouts, finding more of his teammates, and picking his spots to activate into the play.

A week ago, he participated in a give-and-go after gliding down in the offensive zone. The play led to a resounding one-time goal. It was mostly his teammate who created the play, however. He spotted him, invited him to the right spot, and connected with him.

Söderström still doesn’t fully look like the aggressive, decisive operator that he was in the SHL. There isn’t an exciting aura around his game anymore. To make a lasting impact at the NHL level, he will have to bring his creative offensive touch. That’s his trademark. Otherwise, he will get lost in the mass of other, similar all-around effective, but not special defencemen who rotate in and out of the league. 

The good news is that the defenceman’s scoring seems to be picking up over the last couple of weeks. His nine points in 10 games could earn him a call-up. 

Stock Falling 📉

Xavier Bourgault, C, Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers)

With the Oilers needing help at the goalie position, trade rumours started to swirl, many of them including Edmonton’s top prospect, Xavier Bourgault. None of these trade ideas have been concretized so far.. That may partly be because Bourgault has also been slumping in the AHL at the same time as the Oilers. 

The first-rounder hasn’t connected on many of his plays so far this season. He spent his shift mostly chasing after the puck, forechecking, backchecking, and attempting to get back in the offensive zone, and establish possession there. 

Bourgault could improve his play-driving abilities, but he has always been at his best when playing more of a complementary, skill role. He feeds off playmakers, builds scoring chances, and fires off passes. He hasn’t had as much opportunity to do that so far this season due to a lack of chemistry with his linemates. 

We’ve seen the effect that Logan Stankoven has had on Bourgault’s ex-teammate with the Shawinigan Cataractes, Mavrik Bourque. So far this season, both players have produced at an incredible rate after being united on a pairing. A change in context, if it happens, could have a similar effect on Bourgault. 

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This article is about:
NHL Prospect Report Anaheim Ducks Arizona Coyotes Bakersfield Condors Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings Manitoba Moose Ontario Reign San Diego Gulls Tucson Roadrunners Winnipeg Jets AHL Xavier Bourgault Drew Helleson Brad Lambert Victor Söderström Alex Turcotte
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