Minor League Weekly: Puempel Powering Griffins, LaValle-Smotherman on Fire, SPHL MVP Contenders

AHL

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

-It’s taken the Grand Rapids Griffins a while to get going, but with points in eight of their last ten games– they’ve regained their championship form. A lot of that success is due in part to the play of Matt Puempel, who’s in the midst of a nine-game point-streak (6g 7a), while having 40 points in 35 games with the Griffins and putting Puempel fourth in the AHL in scoring. This season is looking to be Puempel’s best in the AHL. With 43 points (19g, 24a) already this season, Puempel is only five points away from tying his AHL high, which he set in his rookie season of 2013-14 with the Binghamton Senators.

-When it comes to Thatcher Demko, it’s a matter of when he’ll get the full-time call-up to the Vancouver Canucks. His play this season has been stellar (17-7-5, 2.27 GAA, .929 Sv%) and will give the Canucks an interesting move late in their season– whether to call him up to get some NHL playing time, as he’ll luckily move into that role next season– or will they allow him to stay with Utica for the rest of the season and get a taste of a playoff run??

ECHL

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-Since the turning of the calendar, Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman has turned on his game big time with 11g, 12a in 14 games in 2018. The Monarchs forward has been on quite the roll with multi-point games in six of his last season, which has quietly put him in second spot for league leaders in points (52) and second in the league in goals (26). Not bad for a guy getting back into the North American game full-time after traveling around Europe from 2011 until towards the end of the 2016-17 season.

-There might be a chip in Joe Cannata’s shoulder because his play right now is really telling the Colorado Avalanche he wants to be promoted. The minor-league vet is 16-2-1 with a 2.13 GAA and .934 Sv%, which puts him 2nd and 1st respectively in the league. After years of being in the AHL– whether it being the veteran back-up or the stop-gap veteran– he’s in the ECHL full-time for the first time since 2014-15. With a championship team in front of him, he could be marking his way for when the Eagles move up to the AHL next season.

SPHL

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-While Jake Hauswirth has had a great season– it’s going to be hard-pressed for him to go ahead and win the MVP on a non-playoff team. For me, Berkley Scott could be the front-runner, especially with the month he just had in January (9g, 7a)–which earned him Player of the Month honors. Tomas Shall should also get some kind of recognition for the year he’s had with Evansville thus far with a 14-2-2 record, while ranking top-five in GAA and save percentage.

Minor League Monday: Marlies Rolling, Herbert Streak Snapped, Sholl Leading Thunderbolts

AHL

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Photo by Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com

-With seven-straight wins, the Toronto Marlies are again atop the AHL in points, which should be no surprise. The past few years, the Marlies have been the favorites as the season went on, though they have no Calder Cup to show for it…yet. Andreas Johnsson has led the way for the Marlies with 17 points on the year, which includes his current seven-game point streak (4g, 5a). Garret Sparks has dazzled in net with a 1.50 GAA to go with his ten wins on the season.

-The team chasing the Marlies for league supremacy is the Manitoba Moose. After finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference their first two years back in the AHL, the Moose have been quite a surprise this year with their young stars finally getting the hang of playing in the pros. Both second-year pros Jack Roslovic (11g, 11a) and Brendan Lemieux (5g 6a) are better than a point per game– 1.05 and 1.10 respectively– while veteran Mike Sgarbossa (8g, 12a) and Buddy Robinson (7g, 7a) have provided solid secondary scoring. A bigger surprise is the bouncing back of Eric Comrie (8-4-1) who has been solid in net for the Moose with a 2.30 GAA and .927 save percentage in 13 games.

ECHL

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-A round of applause to Caleb Herbert, who finally had his 17-game point-streak snapped on Friday night. The Swamp Rabbits’ forward had 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points during the streak that began since the beginning of the season. Herbert, unsurprisingly, leads the ECHL in points, with teammate Allan McPherson two points behind him before a trio of Wheeling Nailers pop up– Cody Wydo, Reid Gardiner, and Garrett Meurs.

-With points in seven of their last ten, the Colorado Eagles are making the most of their last season in the ECHL in their title-defense season. Michael Joly is leading the way in the ECHL in goals with 13 and has only one of his 16 games has been held pointless. Matt Register has helped out on the back-end quarterbacking the power-play and holding down play in his own end. All the while, Joe Cannata has been a near-perfect 7-0-1 on the year since being placed in Colorado by the Avalanche from San Antonio.

SPHL

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-Quietly, the Evansville Thunderbolts are having a great sophomore season in the SPHL. The play of Tomas Sholl since he came from Macon, he’s been solid with a 4-1-0 record with a 2.00 GAA in Evansville. Justin MacDonald is leading the league in goals with nine, while MacDonald, along with Dylan Clarke and John Scorcia are point-per-game players. The Thunderbolts also boast a great road record with points in six of their eight road game on the season (5-2-1). With one more road win, Evansville will match their entire road win output from last season.