Ian Clark's On Hockey: NHL stars grown in the AHL
THE American Hockey League continues to develop talent for its NHL parent clubs and you need look no further than the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins for proof.
In L.A., rookie forward Tyler Toffoli has given the Kings a spark after completing a season with the Manchester Monarchs that netted him the AHL’s Outstanding Rookie award.
Meanwhile in Boston, a pair of rookie defensemen, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug, have been pressed into action for the Bruins due to injuries and are playing well.
The Monarchs were ousted by Springfield in the first round of the AHL playoffs, but head coach Mark Morris has kept his mind on the ice by following Toffoli.
“Tyler has played very well and I think the Kings are starting to understand the things we were able to appreciate while we had him here in Manchester,” Morris said. “He’s getting open and finding the back of the net. He’s been a great asset to their team.”
Toffoli has recorded a goal and assist through five postseason games, giving the Kings a shot of youthful energy.
“It’s great to see him make the most of his opportunities,” Morris said. “Even the talking heads on TV are talking about how hard he works both ends of the rink.”
Toffoli’s linemate Tanner Pearson was called up to play in Game 3 of the Los Angeles/San Jose series (L.A. leads 2-1) and managed 5:44 of ice time.
“Tanner showed us great potential,” Morris said. “He handled himself well. To put a guy in that position early on in the playoffs tells a lot.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s trust in Morris’ coaching staff in Manchester was cemented last season when rookies Jordan Nolan and Dwight King were called up and became important cogs in what became a Stanley Cup winning machine.
“It certainly makes us all proud, (assistant coach) Freddy (Meyer) and (director of hockey operations) Hubie (McDonough),” Morris said. “To see those guys go up and make an impact is gratifying.”
Morris is no stranger to Krug and Bartkowski, either. Both Bruins blueliners have skated numerous games against the Monarchs with Providence.
With Boston missing defensemen Wade Redden, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference, Bartkowski and Krug have had to play significant minutes and both have impressed.
“Both guys seem to be stepping in and picking up the slack,” Morris said. “They certainly don’t look like rookies.”
Krug has shown some offensive flair with two goals and smooth puck-handling while Bartkowski throws his weight around.
“Krug is a mobile, power play type that really makes things happen with the puck on his stick at the blue line,” Morris said. “Bartkowski has more of a physical presence.”
The play of those two — especially Krug — will mean that Bruins coach Claude Julien has a decision to make when the veterans are cleared to play. Both Seidenberg and Redden skated Monday.