AHL to NHL: The Transition

Stuart McDonald

2009-09-05

purcell

 

Over the last half decade most teams have developed a three season program for transitioning their AHL scoring stars to NHL top-six forwards. It’s a fairly simple formula but it’s amazingly consistent.

Once a player proves they can score at the AHL level, usually among the top-20 scorers, the team will sign the player to a two-way contract. This second, transition year gives teams a chance to get a better read on a player’s development. It can mean anywhere between six to sixty NHL games, but almost always sees the player contribute in both leagues. The final year is the one-way contract year, where the player gets every opportunity to crack the top-six and produce in the NHL.

 

Nashville’s Cal O’Reilly bucked this trend slightly, but his contract status shows that he’s definitely in Nashville’s plans. O’Reilly finished among the top-20 AHL scorers two years in a row – normally the kiss of death for a minor league forward.  But O’Reilly recently signed a two-year deal that seals his NHL fate. The first year is a two-way deal in 2009-10 (his transition year), and a one-way deal (his top-six chance) in 2010-2011.

That recent contract signing will make him a notable exception to Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, Jason Krog, Darren Haydar, Corey Locke, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Mathieu Darche, Martin St. Pierre, Brad Moran and Dobber favourite Brett Sterling. That long list of perennial top-20 AHL scorers may see spot NHL duty but will likely never play a full NHL season. In fact, if a player ever has two high scoring AHL seasons, do not draft him…ever. It means too many quality people question his NHL ability.

Player             AHL breakthrough       Transition year                Top-six year

Kris Versteeg      06-07 – 72 pts.        07-08 – 56 games AHL           08-09 – 53 pts. NHL
………………………………………………….07-08 – 13 games NHL

David Krejci       06-07 – 74 pts.        07-08 – 25 games AHL           08-09 – 73 pts. NHL
………………………………………………….07-08 – 56 games NHL

Dustin Penner       04-05 – 28 pts.        05-06 – 57 games (84 pts)      06-07 – 29 goals NHL
…………………………………………………..05-06 &