Many of them may not make it, but the American Hockey League's list of leading scorers is always an interesting one to say the least. With both future stars (Brett Hull, Jason Spezza, Daniel Briere) and future busts (almost everyone else) cracking the top ten, taking accurate stock of the leaderboard is imperative- lest you find yourself overpaying for the next Peter Sarno
At the top of the list is a relatively new name: undrafted free agent signee Gabe Gauthier. Gauthier, 23, was an integral part of the Denver Pioneers offense during his college days until the arrival of Paul Stastny and Matt Carle in 2005-06. The season before that saw the 5'9 pivot finish fourth in WCHA scoring with a career-best 52 points in just 41 games. Despite a 13-point drop-off the following year, the LA Kings pounced on the gifted but tiny forward, giving him an immediate five-game trial in the show. While he didn't produce, Gauthier is showing that early attention was warranted. In just five games, Gauthier's nine points and six assists lead the league in both categories, and his three goals are second-most.
So, with a near 2 PPG average, is Gauthier the next Danny Briere, or the next Darren Haydar? Try the next Corey Perry. Slower than some of his counterparts but every bit as vicious, the California native thrives on drawing penalties and then scoring on them. Look for a breakout 55-point, 90+ PIM campaign two years from now. Long-term, one will likely have to suffer through off-years of 40-45 points in between years of 55-65.
Tied for the league lead is none other than Sabres prospect Clarke MacArthur. Unlike other AHL, the 22 year-old has all but proven himself as a legitimate future NHL player after two strong years with the affiliate Rochester Americans. Known for consistency one can set their watch by, the '03 third round draft choice piled on seasons of 75, 75 and 74 points in the WHL, and has years of 53 and 63 in the A to date. Anything less than a point per game would be a disappointment, and MacArthur is his old self. In a league-leading eight games, MacArthur has the same statline as the aforementioned Gauthier- 3-6-9. Projected as Jochen Hecht-type forward who can register 65 points in top-six duty once or twice in his career. Otherwise, look for a consistent output of 25-25-50 with plenty of SH points.
If you're starting to get bored, now is the time to start reading. Now! While checking forwards like Gauthier and MacArthur certainly can benefit a keeper league team, true success lies in having a lot of big guns. Former OMJHL offensive dynamo Derick Brassard has long been projected as one such young gun, and the 20 year-old's AHL production certainly isn't hurting that. As a rookie pro, Columbus' 6th overall selection in 2006 is a solid 2nd in AHL scoring with eight points. Plagued by injuries throughout his junior career- a bum shoulder limited him to just 14 games last year- Brassard is nevertheless a gem with 100-point potential in his future.
Rounding out the top four is much maligned Flyers draftee Stefan Ruzicka. Punted from the NHL once again this season for poor work and defensive ethic, Ruzicka, 22, is one of those frustrating enigmas that plague NHL pipelines. While held to under 0.5 PPG in the show, Philadelphia's 3rd round draft choice in 2003 has always stood out in the A- and 2007-08 is no exception. In five games, Ruzicka has three goals, five assists, and 23 PIM the most penalties by far of anyone in the top 25 in scoring. If the crafty winger ever gets his head on straight, expect 30-45-75 in his best years.
Now for some non-AHL business: props to forum poster TommyB for scooping the big story of the week. In just 180 minutes of action, 2007 stud prospect Kyle Turris leads the entire NCAA in scoring with a mind-boggling eight points. In addition, the 18 year-old freshman is tied with two others for tops in goals (four) across the college ranks. With his hot start, the big question is simple: will he or won't he stay? Don't get too excited yet. Much like St. Louis Bluechip T.J. Oshie, the level-headed Turris puts his education above all else. Despite missing time for various international duties, it says here that the Phoenix Coyotes property finishes the year in Wisconsin, and finishes in a big way. Look for Turris to be the first 100-point NCAA player since Paul Kariya, who jammed home exactly that number in 1993.
So how about a story you won't hear anywhere else? While most of the WCHA's attention has rightly been on Turris, teammate and fellow '07 first rounder Brendan Smith is making some noise too. Much-talked about by yours truly over the summer as a Scott Niedermayer-esque defender, the smooth-skating rearguard has lived up to the hype. In just three games, the 18 year-old has four points, all assists- both totals that lead the nation. Smith's speed and tremendous outlet pass is a big reason for Turris' early success.
Oh, and let me emphasize it again for those who don't catch a lot of Western Conference hockey: Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano r0x0r! While both are rookies with the Edmonton Oilers, you wouldn't know it. Cogliano, 20, leads the team in scoring with six points in seven games and sits one point back of Patrick Kane for the rookie lead in scoring; Gagner the first 18 year-old to make the team since Jason Arnott, has the second-most assists on the club with four.