AHL notebook: Five prospects to watch in Calder Cup Playoffs

The Calder Cup Playoffs are a crucial step for any top prospect who hopes to graduate from the American Hockey League to a full-time NHL role.

After Charlotte won the 2019 Calder Cup as a Carolina Hurricanes affiliate, defensemen Jake Bean (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Haydn Fleury (Seattle Kraken) went on to earn NHL positions. Forward Martin Necas is now a Carolina mainstay while forwards Patrick Brown (Philadelphia Flyers) and Nicolas Roy (Vegas Golden Knights) found work elsewhere.

Helping Charlotte through that spring run furthered goalie Alex Nedeljkovic for future duty with the Detroit Red Wings as well.

A strong regular season is one step, but NHL organizations place a premium on postseason performance in the NHL’s top developmental league. Here are five AHL prospects to keep a close eye on in the postseason.

Iaroslav Askarov, G, Milwaukee (Nashville Predators)

With Milwaukee starting goalie Connor Ingram recalled by Nashville for the Western Conference First Round against the Colorado Avalanche, Askarov could have a chance to play.

The 19-year-old spent this season in Russia with SKA St. Petersburg of the Continental Hockey League and SKA-Neva St. Petersburg of the second-division Supreme Hockey League.

Nashville selected him in the first round (No. 11) of the 2020 NHL Draft. He played six KHL games and was 2-1-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. With SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, he was 5-2-2 with a 2.57 GAA and .899 save percentage in nine games; he also played three playoff games and was 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .937 save percentage.

Milwaukee starts a second-round best-of-5 series against Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets) at home Friday.

Dylan Holloway, F, Bakersfield (Edmonton Oilers)

A long playoff run would help Holloway make up some of the games he missed after sustaining a wrist injury in the first half of the season.

Edmonton selected Holloway in the first round (No. 14) in 2020. The 20-year-old turned pro after two NCAA seasons at the University of Wisconsin, but he did not make his pro debut with Bakersfield until Jan. 22 after having two wrist surgeries.

Holloway had a strong second half with Bakersfield and finished with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 33 games. He started the Calder Cup Playoffs with an assist to help Bakersfield win Game 1 in the sweep of a best-of-3 first-round series against Abbotsford (Vancouver Canucks).

Mattias Norlinder, D, Laval (Montreal Canadiens)

Norlinder is back in North America after a midseason detour to the Swedish Hockey League.

A third-round pick (No. 64) in the 2019 NHL Draft, the 22-year-old began his season in North America and played six games for the Canadiens with one assist. He also played six games with Laval and had two points (one goal, one assist). On Dec. 16, 2021, the Canadiens loaned him to Frolunda HC of the SHL, where he played 21 games and had two assists. He also played nine playoff games and had six assists to help Frolunda reach the semifinal round of the SHL playoffs.

Laval begins a second-round best-of-5 series against Syracuse (Tampa Bay Lightning) on ​​Friday.

Juuso Parssinen, F, Milwaukee

Parssinen has had a steady rise since Nashville selected him in the seventh round (No. 210) in 2019.

The 21-year-old has three pro seasons with Finnish team TPS Turku. His play in Liiga playoffs helped TPS to the final, and he finished with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 18 games to rank fifth in league playoff scoring.

He also had 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 41 regular-season games and was an alternate captain.

Aatu Raty, F, Bridgeport (New York Islanders)

Participating in the Calder Cup Playoffs is a strong test for any prospect, let alone a 19-year-old sampling North American play for the first time.

After the Islanders selected Raty (6-2, 187) in the second round (No. 52) of the 2021 NHL Draft, he remained in his native Finland and played 47 Liiga games between Karpat Oulu and Jukurit Mikkeli and finished with 41 points ( 13 goals, 28 assists). He then played seven playoff games and had two assists.

With his Liiga season finished, the Islanders elected to assign him to Bridgeport, where he has had an immediate impact. In Game 1 of a best-of-3 series sweep of Providence (Boston Bruins), he teamed with fellow prospect Robin Salo on an overtime goal by Arnaud Durandeau for a 2-1 win. The next game, he scored the overtime winner.

Bridgeport begins a best-of-5 second-round series against Charlotte on Tuesday.

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