Weekend notebook: World stage awaits AHL players

Photo: Cleveland Monsters

📝 by Patrick Williams

AHL talent is about to go global.

Some familiar AHL names are heading to a pair of famous international tournaments, including a who’s-who of top prospects jetting off to the IIHF World Junior Championship. That event begins play on Monday in Halifax, N.S. and Moncton, N.B.

A pair of first-round picks from this past July’s NHL Draft, 19-year-old David Jiricek and 18-year-old Simon Nemec, are among the invitees.

Jiricek, who went sixth overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets, has been outstanding for the Cleveland Monsters, with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) and a plus-6 rating in 19 games. In his final game before joining the Czech U-20 team, Jiricek delivered a power-play goal and an assist in a 7-5 loss to Utica on Thursday night.

Nemec, taken second overall by the New Jersey Devils, has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and a plus-9 rating in 24 games for the Comets. He will represent Slovakia at the World Juniors.

Two Rochester Americans forwards, both first-round picks by the Buffalo Sabres, are off to Atlantic Canada as well. Jiri Kulich has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 24 games for the Amerks as an 18-year-old. The Czech forward was voted the most valuable player of the IIHF Under-18 championships, where he led the tournament with nine goals in six games. And Isak Rosen, 19, will represent Sweden after posting 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 25 games so far for the Amerks.

Joining Rosen on the Swedish roster will be Providence Bruins forward Fabian Lysell, also 19. Lysell was a 2021 first-round pick (21st overall) by the Boston Bruins who has taken quickly to the AHL with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 20 appearances with Providence.

Team USA will have Manitoba Moose forward Chaz Lucius, who is in his first pro season after one season at the University of Minnesota. Chosen 18th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, Lucius has picked up five points (two goals, three assists) in 12 games for the Moose. The Jets are also sending forward Brad Lambert from the Manitoba roster to compete for Finland. Lambert, who turned 19 this week, has a pair of goals and along with an assist in 14 games for the Moose; he was the 30th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

More experienced AHL talent is getting a turn to compete internationally as well at the Spengler Cup, which begins play Monday in Davos, Switzerland. The AHL has long had a strong presence at an event that dates to 1923 in the renowned Swiss ski resort town and is the world’s oldest international club tournament. Last held in 2019, the event runs from Boxing Day until New Year’s Eve.

As always, the Canada National Team entry will have an AHL flavor and provide players with a chance to wear the maple leaf later on in their careers. The roster includes nine current AHL players in Nicolas Beaudin (Laval), Tobie Bisson (Ontario), Josh Brook (Calgary), Kevin Connauton (Lehigh Valley), Michael Hutchinson (Henderson), Wyatt Kalynuk (Abbotsford), Riley Nash (Charlotte), Brendan Perlini (Chicago) and Alan Quine (Ontario). For Bisson, Connauton and Hutchinson, it will be their first time representing Canada at any level.

Former Utica head coach Travis Green will be behind Canada’s bench, with a roster that also includes former AHL MVP Daniel Carr and former AHL rookie of the year Tyler Ennis.


Charlotte and Providence help take the AHL into the Christmas break when they meet in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week tonight (6 ET).

The Checkers (13-11-2-1) broke a five-game losing streak last night with a 2-1 overtime win over the Bruins at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Riley Nash’s 10th goal of the season, snapping a shot low past Brandon Bussi 55 seconds into the extra frame. Alex Lyon made 21 saves to secure his 100th career AHL victory.

Providence, 16-4-5-2 on the season, is in the midst of eight consecutive games on the road.

🏒 San Diego Gulls forward Justin Kirkland made his NHL debut this week, bumping the season total to 32 AHL graduates.

Kirkland, a 26-year-old in his seventh pro season, reached the NHL after 352 AHL games with Milwaukee, Stockton and San Diego. He had a breakout 25-goal season with Stockton last season and added 12 points in 13 playoff games as the Heat reached the Western Conference Finals, and has six goals and seven assists in 19 appearances for the Gulls after signing with Anaheim in the offseason.

Kirkland debuted for the Ducks on Tuesday night at Los Angeles, and was in the lineup again on Wednesday vs. Minnesota.

🏒 The Calgary Flames organization feted Wranglers captain Brett Sutter in style on Wednesday night as he played his 1,000th AHL game.

AHL President and CEO Scott Howson made the trip to Calgary to present the 35-year-old Sutter with a crystal award to commemorate the milestone. A painting of Sutter by artist David Arrigo, whose work also includes goaltender masks, was presented to him, and the Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corp. donated $10,000 in Sutter’s name to HEROS Hockey, a charity that provides free programs to children.

Sutter had his wife Erin, daughters Olivia and Charlotte, and son Bo with him on the ice. They were joined by his brother Chris, and mother Wanda. Sutter’s father, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, could not attend the event as he was on the road with the team.

To complete the ceremony, Sutter was joined by his teammates at center ice for a team photo.

🏒 The Hershey Bears scattered for their holiday break Wednesday in control of first place overall in the AHL following a sweep of a home-and-home series with archrival Lehigh Valley. At 20-6-2-1, the Bears are the first team this season to reach 20 victories and the second-fastest in the club’s 85-year AHL to reach that mark; the 2020-21 Bears notched 20 wins in their first 28 games. Hershey holds a four-point lead on Providence as they prepare to host the Bruins on Wednesday and Saturday of next week.

The Bears got a boost with the return of goaltenders Zach Fucale and Hunter Shepard from the Washington Capitals. Shepard (7-0-2) leads the AHL with a 1.85 goals-against average and ranks second with a .932 save percentage.

🏒 Michael Carcone had shown a goal-scoring touch since coming to the Tucson Roadrunners in February 2021, including a career-high 24 goals last season. But the seventh-year pro has found a new level of late with 29 points in his last 17 games, taking over the AHL scoring lead with 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) on the year.

Powered in no small part by Carcone, the Roadrunners have scored 31 goals in their past six games, including last night’s 6-2 win over San Diego. Tucson hosts the Gulls again tonight.

🏒 AHL leading goal-scorer Anthony Richard has brought that nose for the net to the NHL. Recalled by Montreal earlier in the week, Richard picked up his first career NHL goal on Wednesday night in the Canadiens’ 2-1 overtime loss at Colorado. Richard has scored 18 goals in 27 games for Laval this season.

🏒 Defenseman Travis Dermott is with the Abbotsford Canucks on a conditioning assignment from Vancouver. He played in Tuesday’s 6-2 win over San Jose, his first AHL action since Game 6 of the 2018 Calder Cup Finals with Toronto.

🏒 Syracuse hits the break on a four-game winning streak; the Crunch defeated Laval on Wednesday, 2-1, in the teams’ first meeting since the Rocket eliminated Syracuse from the Calder Cup Playoffs back in May. Gemel Smith had a goal to push his point-scoring streak to 13 games, tied for the longest in the league this season.

🏒 Cleveland forward Emil Bemstrom has points in 12 straight games, and in 19 of his 21 games played overall this season. The 23-year-old Swede also has four points in seven NHL games with Columbus this season.

🏒 Following tonight’s games, the AHL is off for three days with the exception of a Boxing Day matinee between the Toronto Marlies and the Belleville Senators at Scotiabank Arena. The Friday schedule is already three games lighter as games in Rochester, Grand Rapids and Laval have been postponed due to inclement winter weather.