Thirty-one National Hockey League teams are preparing to take part in this weekend’s 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, and their top affiliates are ready and waiting for the next wave of young American Hockey League stars to begin their professional careers.
In 2018-19, a total of 242 former first- and second-round draft picks played in the American Hockey League, including young standouts like Erik Brannstrom, Klim Kostin, Nicolas Hague, Luke Kunin and Tyler Benson.
The 2019 Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers featured nine players who were first- or second-round picks, including Jake Bean (13th overall in 2016), Julien Gauthier (21st overall in 2016), Martin Necas (12th in 2017), Haydn Fleury (7th in 2014) and Alex Nedeljkovic (37th in 2014), who won the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender in 2018-19.
Nine first-rounders from last summer’s draft began their pro careers in the AHL this past season: Filip Zadina with Grand Rapids (6th overall), Evan Bouchard with Bakersfield (10th), Oliver Wahlstrom with Bridgeport (11th), Ty Dellandrea with Texas (13th), Martin Kaut with Colorado (16th), Liam Foudy with Cleveland (18th), Ryan Merkley with San Jose (21st), Isac Lundestrom with San Diego (23rd) and Rasmus Sandin with Toronto (29th).
Other first-round picks in the AHL in 2018-19 included 2017 selections Cody Glass (6th overall), Lias Andersson (7th), Cal Foote (14th), Juuso Valimaki (16th), Timothy Liljegren (17th), Urho Vaakanainen (18th), Kailer Yamamoto (22nd), Kristian Vesalainen (24th) and Eeli Tolvanen (30th); 2016 picks Jesse Puljujarvi (4th overall), Olli Juolevi (5th), Alex Nylander (8th), Logan Brown (11th), Michael McLeod (12th), Logan Stanley (18th), Kieffer Bellows (19th), Henrik Borgstrom (23rd), Max Jones (24th), Tage Thompson (26th), Lucas Johansen (28th), Trent Frederic (29th) and Sam Steel (30th); and 2015 choices Denis Gurianov (12th), Jakub Zboril (13th), Zach Senyshyn (15th), Ilya Samsonov (22nd), Noah Juulsen (26th), Jacob Larsson (27th) and Gabriel Carlsson (29th).
The New Jersey Devils, parent club of the AHL’s Binghamton Devils, own the first pick in this year’s draft, which gets underway on Friday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.