The 2004-05 "lockout enhanced" AHL season was an interesting one. The stars of tomorrow really did feature prominently that year, and the league scoring race provided insight into the dominant NHL talent of the next 5-10 years.
Jason Spezza, Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Vanek and Eric Staal all finished near the top of the AHL scoring races in goals, points, and/or assists. Then again, so were Kyle Wellwood and Peter Sarno, and it's not like we've seen them lighting up the NHL in recent years.
That being said, if we were to be truly fair to Wellwood, we should note that in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons with the Leafs, he posted 87 points in 129 gp (0.67 ppg) which would rank him at a comparable level to Ryan Getzlaf (0.70 ppg), Michael Ryder (0.69 ppg) and Michael Cammalleri (0.69 ppg) over the same 2 season stretch, and well ahead of Jussi Jokinen (0.63 ppg) and Milan Michalek (0.64 ppg). At the time, he looked to be a prolific scorer in the making.
An interesting mental exercise is exploring the AHL scoring ranks from that 2004-05 season for a prime age and production range to indicate future NHL success and/or impact. By making a quick perusal of AHL rosters the age cut off that stands out to me is 22 years or younger.
Below is a listing of all the AHL players that were 22 or younger in 2004-05, played 40 or more games that season, and finished with 0.50 or more points per game, with their age, team, position, games played, goals, assists, and ppg rates.
|RK||Player||Team||GP||G||A||Pts||PPG||PIM||NHL GP||NHL PPG|
|1||Jason Spezza (C)||Binghamton Senators||80||32||85||117||1.46||50||606||1.02|
|2||Mike Cammalleri (C/LW)||Manchester Monarchs||79||46||63||109||1.38||60||562||0.76|
|3||Kyle Wellwood (C/RW)||St. John's Maple Leafs||80||38||49||87||1.09||20||450||0.49|
|4||Eric Staal (C)||Lowell Lock Monsters||77||26||51||77||1.00||88||642||0.89|
|5||Chuck Kobasew (RW/LW)||Lowell Lock Monsters||79||38||37||75||0.95||110||531||0.37|
|6||Brad Boyes (C/RW)||Providence Bruins||80||33||42||75||0.94||58||558||0.67|
|7||Dustin Brown (RW/LW)||Manchester Monarchs||79||29||45||74||0.94||96||595||0.60|
|8||Antoine Vermette (C/LW)||Binghamton Senators||78||28||45||73||0.94||36||622||0.53|
|9||Brandon Bochenski (RW/LW)||Binghamton Senators||75||34||36||70||0.93||16||156||0.44|
|10||Thomas Vanek (LW)||Rochester Americans||74||42||26||68||0.92||62||547||0.82|
|11||Derek Roy (C)||Rochester Americans||67||16||45||61||0.91||60||549||0.78|
|12||Patrice Bergeron (C)||Providence Bruins||68||21||40||61||0.90||59||537||0.75|
|13||Jason Pominville (RW)||Rochester Americans||78||30||38||68||0.87||43||541||0.80|
|14||Joffrey Lupul (RW/LW)||Cincinnati Mighty Ducks||65||30||26||56||0.86||58||515||0.63|
|15||Ryane Clowe (RW/LW)||Cleveland Barons||74||27||35||62||0.84||101||395||0.66|
|16||Matt Stajan (C)||St. John's Maple Leafs||80||23||43||66||0.83||43||609||0.47|
|17||Pierre-Marc Bouchard (RW)||Houston Aeros||67||12||42||54||0.81||46||522||0.63|
|18||R.J. Umberger (W/C)||Philadelphia Phantoms||80||21||44||65||0.81||36||551||0.57|
|19||Tomas Plekanec (C)||Hamilton Bulldogs||80||29||35||64||0.80||68||551||0.66|
|20||Anton Volchenkov (D)||Binghamton Senators||69||10||45||55||0.80||62||557||0.20|
|21||Zach Parise (LW)||Albany River Rats||73||18||40||58||0.79||56||502||0.82|
|22||Michel Ouellet (RW)||Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins||80||31||32||63||0.79||56||190||0.61|
|23||Rene Bourque (LW/RW)||Norfolk Admirals||78||33||27||60||0.77||105||470||0.53|
|24||Ryan Kesler (C)||Manitoba Moose||78||30||28||58||0.74||105||561||0.60|
|25||Scottie Upshall (LW/RW)||Milwaukee Admirals||62||19||27||46||0.74||108||387||0.46|
|26||Mikko Koivu (C)||Houston Aeros||67||20||28||48||0.72||47||488||0.74|
|27||Matt Ellison (W/C)||Norfolk Admirals||71||14||37||51||0.72||44||43||0.33|
|28||Ahren Spylo (LW)||Albany River Rats||50||25||11||36||0.72||18||0||0.00|
|29||Colby Armstrong (RW)||Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins||80||18||37||55||0.69||89||439||0.46|
|30||Stephen Weiss (C)||totals||80||22||32||54||0.68||50||637||0.61|
|31||Chris Higgins (LW/C)||Hamilton Bulldogs||76||28||23||51||0.67||33||482||0.50|
|32||Dan Hamhuis (D)||Milwaukee Admirals||76||13||38||51||0.67||85||629||0.35|
|33||Jiri Hudler (LW/RW)||Grand Rapids Griffins||52||12||22||34||0.65||10||409||0.52|
|34||Denis Grebeshkov (D)||Manchester Monarchs||75||5||44||49||0.65||87||227||0.37|
|35||Jay McClement (C)||Worcester IceCats||79||17||34||51||0.65||45||553||0.32|
|36||Marek Svatos (RW)||Hershey Bears||72||18||28||46||0.64||69||344||0.50|
|37||Chad Larose (RW/LW)||Lowell Lock Monsters||66||20||22||42||0.64||32||473||0.37|
|38||Chris Campoli (D)||Bridgeport Sound Tigers||79||15||34||49||0.62||78||440||0.33|
|39||Jozef Balej (RW)||Hartford Wolf Pack||69||20||22||42||0.61||46||18||0.33|
|40||Alexander Svitov (C)||Syracuse Crunch||69||19||23||42||0.61||200||179||0.21|
|41||Matt Keith (C/W)||Norfolk Admirals||80||18||31||49||0.61||74||27||0.19|
|42||Jared Aulin (C)||Portland Pirates||65||11||28||39||0.60||30||17||0.24|
|43||Jarret Stoll (C)||Edmonton Road Runners||66||21||17||38||0.58||92||593||0.53|
|44||Steve Ott (LW/RW)||Hamilton Bulldogs||67||18||21||39||0.58||279||566||0.39|
|45||Kyle Brodziak (C/RW)||Edmonton Road Runners||56||6||26||32||0.57||49||419||0.41|
|46||Paul Gaustad (C)||Rochester Americans||76||18||25||43||0.57||192||493||0.38|
|47||Eric Himelfarb (C/RW)||Grand Rapids Griffins||76||19||24||43||0.57||59||0||0.00|
|48||Pavel Vorobyov (RW)||Norfolk Admirals||79||19||25||44||0.56||48||57||0.44|
|49||Joël Perrault (C/RW)||Cincinnati Mighty Ducks||51||9||19||28||0.55||40||96||0.27|
|50||Brian Sutherby (C/LW)||Portland Pirates||53||10||19||29||0.55||115||460||0.20|
|51||Corey Locke (C)||Hamilton Bulldogs||78||16||27||43||0.55||20||9||0.11|
|52||Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (RW)||Cincinnati Mighty Ducks||76||17||24||41||0.54||58||188||0.69|
|53||Joni Pitkänen (D)||Philadelphia Phantoms||76||6||35||41||0.54||105||513||0.53|
|54||Dennis Wideman (D)||Worcester IceCats||79||13||30||43||0.54||65||535||0.47|
|55||Ryan Whitney (D)||Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins||80||6||35||41||0.51||101||440||0.56|
|56||Timofei Shishkanov (LW)||Milwaukee Admirals||70||20||15||35||0.50||31||24||0.21|
If you look the list over - you'll quickly note that an astonishingly high percentage of the players listed have gone on to become "regular" NHL players - 45 of the 56, or 80%, of the players on the list have played over 164 NHL games - amounting to the equivalent of at least 2 full NHL seasons. Further, 41 of them, or 73% have made it past the 300 game mark.
28 of the 56 players, exactly half of them, have produced in the NHL at a rate of 0.50 ppg or better during their careers. This sounds relatively unimpressive until one considers the fact that last season the percentage of players to play 40 games and produce over 0.50 ppg was 32%. This is a group outperforming that level for their entire careers.
So what does this tell us? Well - it seems to me to make some sense to use this as a rough guideline for impact players down the line. Thus we should all be keeping our eyes trained on the players who are under the age of 23 this season, and looking out to see who can maintain an AHL ppg rate over 0.50 ppg.
For the Marlies specifically, that means we should keep an exceedingly close watch on the likes of Jesse Blacker (21), Jake Gardiner (22), Carter Ashton (21), Sam Carrick (20), Andrew Crescenzi (20), Jerry D'Amigo (21), Nicolas Deschamps (22), Nazem Kadri (22), Joe Colborne (22), Gregg McKegg (20), Brad Ross (20), and Kenny Ryan (21).
Obviously we were likely to keep close tabs on that group to begin with, but if any of them can finish this season near the top of the AHL scoring race, it certainly bodes well for their future based on the last go around we had with an NHL lockout. No matter how it pans out, it will definitely be an interesting year for the Leafs development plans.