SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League has announced the inaugural AHL Top Prospects Team, determined by the league’s hockey operations department in conjunction with AHL general managers as the three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender projected to be the best future NHL players.
To qualify for the AHL Top Prospects Team, skaters must have been 22 years old or younger on the first day of the regular season, and must have played at least 36 regular-season games in the AHL and no more than 30 regular-season games in the National Hockey League during 2022-23. Goaltenders must have been 23 or younger on opening night and have played at least 25 AHL games and no more than 20 NHL games during the regular season.
2022-23 AHL Top Prospects Team
Jesper Wallstedt, Goaltender (Iowa Wild/Minnesota Wild):
Jesper Wallstedt had a memorable season in 2022-23, his first campaign in North America after playing in his native Sweden. The rookie was named the league’s Goaltender of the Month for January and later represented the Wild organization at the AHL All-Star Classic. He posted a record of 18-15-5 with a 2.68 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 38 appearances with Iowa, highlighted by a Nov. 12 start at Chicago in which he made 37 saves to earn his first AHL win while also scoring an empty-net goal. Wallstedt was a first-round choice (20th overall) by Minnesota in the 2021 NHL Draft.
David Jiricek, Defenseman (Cleveland Monsters/Columbus Blue Jackets):
A 19-year-old native of Klatovy, Czechia, David Jiricek was one of many bright young prospects in the AHL in 2022-23, collecting six goals and 32 assists in 55 games from the Cleveland blue line. Jiricek also led all AHL rookies with 20 power-play assists, and earned AHL Rookie of the Month honors after totaling 12 points in nine games during December. The sixth overall pick by Columbus in the 2022 NHL Draft, Jiricek made his debut with the Blue Jackets on Oct. 28 and went on to appear in four NHL games. He also earned a silver medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he was named the tournament’s top defenseman.
Simon Nemec, Defenseman (Utica Comets/New Jersey Devils):
Selected by New Jersey with the second overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, 19-year-old Simon Nemec began his North American career with the Utica Comets this season, recording 34 points and a plus-13 rating in 65 games while also setting an AHL record for goals by a teenage defenseman (12). Nemec, who also posted four points in six games during the Calder Cup Playoffs, skated for his native Slovakia in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, less than a year after helping the country win bronze – its first-ever Olympic ice hockey medal – at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
Tyson Foerster, Forward (Lehigh Valley Phantoms/Philadelphia Flyers):
After playing parts of the previous two seasons in the AHL, Tyson Foerster excelled during his first full pro campaign in 2022-23, leading Lehigh Valley in scoring with 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 66 games and representing the Phantoms at the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic. Philadelphia’s first-round choice (23rd overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft, the 21-year-old native of Alliston, Ont., made his NHL debut on Mar. 9 and went on to collect three goals and four assists in eight games with the Flyers.
Jiri Kulich, Forward (Rochester Americans/Buffalo Sabres):
Rochester’s Jiri Kulich put together one of the most productive seasons ever by an 18-year-old skater in 2022-23, tallying 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 62 regular-season games with the Americans. Kulich, who turned 19 on Apr. 14, then notched 11 points in 12 Calder Cup Playoff games – including scoring a goal in each of his first six postseason contests – to help the Amerks reach the Eastern Conference Finals. A first-round pick (28th overall) by Buffalo in the 2022 NHL Draft, Kulich won a silver medal with Czechia at the 2023 World Junior Championship.
Lukas Reichel, Forward (Rockford IceHogs/Chicago Blackhawks):
Lukas Reichel followed up a strong rookie season with another impressive showing in 2022-23, tallying 20 goals and 31 assists in 55 AHL games for Rockford and earning a trip to the AHL All-Star Classic. The German-born forward also skated in 23 games in the NHL with the Blackhawks and recorded seven goals and eight assists for 15 points, scoring his first career NHL goal as part of a three-point night vs. Calgary on Jan. 8. Reichel, who turned 21 last month, was chosen by Chicago with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.