The Calder Cup Playoffs in the American Hockey League are reduced to four teams.
Regular-season champion Chicago (Carolina Hurricanes) meets Stockton (Calgary Flames) in the Western Conference Finals, which begins Friday. Laval (Montreal Canadiens) meets Springfield (St. Louis Blues) in the Eastern Conference Finals, which begins Saturday.
Each series is a best-of-7.
Here’s a look at five top NHL prospects battling for the Calder Cup:
Nikita Alexandrov, Springfield
The 21-year-old forward showed promise in his first full North American pro season.
Alexandrov was drafted by the Blues in the second round (#62) of the 2019 NHL Draft and had 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 67 games for Springfield. He split last season between Finland’s Liiga’s KooKoo and Utica, an AHL membership the Blues shared with the Vancouver Canucks for a season. He recorded nine points (three goals, six assists) in 28 Liiga games; He then had five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games with Utica. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with St. Louis on August 1, 2019.
He has developed into a points-a-game player in two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs with six points (two goals, four assists) and has assumed key responsibility for Springfield, the only undefeated playoff team in the AHL (6th-6th). :0). .
Vasiliy Ponomarev, Chicago
Carolina’s highly productive farming system has developed another young forward in Chicago.
Ponomarev turned 20 on March 30, just before moving to Chicago after completing his season with Spartak Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League. Carolina selected him in the second round (#53) of the 2020 NHL Draft and signed him to a three-year entry-level contract on October 20, 2020.
He had two points (one goal, one assist) in 14 KHL games. After going to Chicago to play for the fourth-best offense of the regular season in the AHL (3.43 goals per game), he had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 11 games. He has four points (one goal, three assists) in seven playoff games for Chicago.
Cayden Primeau, Laval
While the Canadians’ goalkeeping image continues to evolve with uncertainty surrounding the starter’s health Carey Prizethe 22-year-old pleads for a full-time position at Montreal.
As the No. 199 seven-round pick by Montreal in the 2017 NHL Draft, Primeau’s career began with two strong seasons in the NCAA Northeast, where he was selected as a Hockey East First All-Star Team each season. As a sophomore, he was also named Hockey East Goaltender of the Year and won the Mike Richter Award for top goaltender in college hockey. He turned pro and signed a three-year entry-level deal with Montreal on March 31, 2019.
In his third pro season with Laval, he was 16-12-3 with two shutouts, a 2.94 clean sheet average and a .909 save percentage in 33 games. He also played 12 regular season games with the Canadiens and was 1-7-0 with a 4.62 GAA and an .868 save ratio.
In the postseason, he’s won 6-1 with a 1.93 GAA (sixth among AHL goalies) and a .936 save percentage (sixth overall).
After the Flames were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the Western Conference, Valimaki will continue his season at Stockton.
Calgary assigned the 23-year-old defenseman to Stockton after the elimination, and he played Game 4 of a second-round series against Colorado (Colorado Avalanche). Prior to the assignment, he had split his postseason between Calgary and Stockton, playing three AHL playoff games against Bakersfield (Edmonton). He has an assist in the AHL postseason.
Calgary selected Valimaki in the first round (No. 16) of the 2017 draft. After missing the entire 2019-20 season with a knee injury, he made 49 appearances for the Flames last season and had 11 points (two goals, nine assists). He split this season between the NHL and AHL; in 35 games with Stockton he had 18 points (two goals, 16 assists). He also had two assists in nine games for Calgary.
Dustin Wolf, Stockton
Wolf, a 21-year-old goaltender, continues to be one of the most notable stories in the AHL after Calgary drafted him in the seventh round (#214) of the 2019 draft.
Wolf was an AHL First Team All-Star selection and was also named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. After a 33-9-4 with a 2.35 GAA and a .924 save percentage in 47 games, he won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award for the AHL’s top goaltender. He was also a two-time Top Goalie Award winner for the Western Hockey League while dating Everett for each of the past two seasons.
His game has continued into the postseason, where he is 6-1 in seven games with a 1.82 GAA (fourth-best among AHL playoff goalies) and .941 save percentage (third). He shut out Colorado three times in four games, including a 40-score game on Sunday to win the series.