Top AHLers ready to contribute in NHL
When the Ottawa Senators lost goaltender Craig Anderson -- a potential Vezina Trophy candidate -- to injury with a sprained ankle, they turned to the AHL to fill the void. While losing Anderson is certainly a big blow, the Sens enjoy some organizational depth that can ease the blow, including call-up Robin Lehner.
Lehner, the Sens' second-round pick in 2009, has been absolutely spectacular, posting a .938 save percentage in 31 games this season in the AHL. The praise for him from NHL sources is very high, with some saying he can be a star goaltender, a comment you normally don't hear for goalies seeing as that is usually a position that requires a conservative approach to project. Lehner is a big goalie, measuring at 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds, and a source describes him as a goaltender "who moves like a small man. You simply can't score on down low."
His combination of athletic tools, size, good overall hockey sense and a record of high-end puck stopping makes Lehner a top prospect. NHL backup Ben Bishop is playing well in net for Ottawa, and it's hard to know how long Anderson will be out for, but if Ottawa needs to use Lehner to fill starts, he is more than ready. In the long run, the Sens' goalie of the future will likely find a way to get himself in the net sooner rather than later.
Lehner isn't the only AHL prospect who could make an impact in the NHL as soon as this season. Here are some notes on other top AHL prospects who have played well and have made a case for some NHL ice time:
Frederik Andersen, G, Anaheim Ducks (Norfolk)
Andersen has an interesting story, as he is one those rare draft re-entries -- something that was all but eliminated in the new collective bargaining agreement, as he was drafted by Carolina in 2010, unsigned and taken by Anaheim in the third round in 2012. Andersen led the Swedish Elite League in save percentage last season at .943 and has been equally dominant in the AHL with a .931 save percentage this season. He stands at 6-4, 250 pounds and is athletic and nimble for a goaltender his size. There are good goalies up with the Ducks already -- Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth -- but if Anaheim were to move one or if there's an injury, Andersen could step in and potentially be one of the league's top backups right away -- and potentially a starting goalie down the line.
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