This week is the eighth and final installment of a series that features cap bargains who are emerging in the AHL and are on the brink of becoming NHLers who can contribute to your roster. Some of these players are set to become effective depth players in your league while others possess some long-term upside on top of what they can contribute in the near future. Not all of them will pan out but you have to be ready to swing and miss when trying to find future NHL contributors.
Here are six defensemen from the Western Conference:
Adam Clendening (Chicago)
Cap Hit: $925,000
Years Left: 3
AHL Team: Rockford
Adam Clendening is a must-own in keeper and dynasty leagues that allow you to stash him away in a farm roster spot. Having just turned 20, he is having an excellent rookie pro season with 26 points in 42 games with Rockford which ranks third on the team and first by a wide margin among defensemen on the squad.
On top of his hockey talents, Clendening has the benefit of being a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only does he get the opportunity to share the ice with some great players, but his cap hit of under $1 million for two more years after this one will make him very appealing considering the number of large contracts on the team.
When he does make the transition to the NHL expect his minutes to be limited while he learns the game at the highest level. While his point totals may not be great at first, he will find ways to get a lot of hits and will spend a good share of time in the penalty box.
Martin Marincin (Edmonton)
Cap Hit: $870,000
Years Left: 3
AHL Team: Oklahoma City
With the defense core in Edmonton still needing work, prospects like Martin Marincin carry more value because favorable opportunities could be handed to him. Add in the quality of the Oilers’ scoring potential and you have a very intriguing prospect.
Marincin is having a strong rookie campaign in the AHL and still has not celebrated his 21st birthday. His large frame could cause him to develop more slowly once he hits the NHL but with his bargain contract for two more years will not hurt your squad. Despite the size, he is not known to be overly physical so keep that in mind in roto leagues.
Sena Acolatse (San Jose)
Cap Hit: $900,000
Years Left: 2
AHL Team: Worcester
Much like Clendening, Sena Acolatse offers a great combination of rugged play and offensive ability. He is not tall but has a stocky build and weighs more than 200 pounds so he should be able to hold his own physically in the NHL His AHL season to date has been excellent and at just 22 years of age he still has time to mature and develop.
Looking at his contract there are good reasons to like this player. His play has been strong enough to earn call-ups to the Sharks and when he is there you can use him without hurting your team’s cap situation. Since he was not a high draft choice like Clendening and thus has less hype around his name he is a safer bet to maintain a lower cap hit when he is due for renewal.
Adam Almquist (Detroit)
Cap Hit: $681,667
AHL Team: Grand Rapids
Seventh-round draft choice Adam Almquist is another prospect in a long line of late round gems drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. The talent is there but size will always be a concern as he stands 5-11 and weighs 173 pounds. Still, you cannot deny the puck moving abilities and his strong play in Grand Rapids puts him in line to get called up at some point when injuries occur.
Unfortunately, being a Red Wings’ prospect means that fantasy owners have to be patient. Prospects are simply not handed opportunities on a silver platter. Almquist will have to perform well when called upon to catch the eye of the coaching staff when called upon. With Nicklas Lidstrom now out of the picture there is an opportunity for Almqvist to catch on as an important secondary point producer should he cement a spot on the NHL club.
Matt Irwin (San Jose)
Cap Hit: $650,000
AHL Team: Worcester
Matt Irwin is a talented defender with decent upside at both ends of the ice who earned a roster spot with the San Jose Sharks out of training camp. He has performed admirably in his rookie season with two points in nine games but more importantly he has the inside track on fellow Sharks’ prospect Acolatse.
From a fantasy perspective the next couple months will tell a lot about Irwin’s value moving forward. If he has an uneventful end of the season he may settle for a contract under $1 million to make it a one-way deal. But if he has a strong finish he could be in line for a much higher salary.
Mark Cundari (St. Louis)
Cap Hit: $538,888
AHL Team: Peoria
If you are looking for a more unknown version of Clendening and Acolatse, then Mark Cundari is your guy. It would appear that he is somewhat buried behind the team’s blueline depth at the NHL level but he leads all Peoria defensemen with 18 points and has clearly outplayed fellow prospect Cade Fairchild who had been knocking at the door for a promotion to the NHL.
Cundari is a bit undersized – 5-10 and around 200 pounds – but his ability to put up points and play with a physical edge cannot go unnoticed, both by the Blues’ staff and by fantasy owners. Should he make the jump full-time you can expect decent secondary point totals along with a lot of hits and PIM.
Previous posts from Eric Daoust: