Spotlight on AHL Stars Poised for NHL Breakthroughs in 2023-24

Arshdeep Bains

In the competitive realm of professional ice hockey, the American Hockey League (AHL) plays a crucial role as a launchpad for players aspiring to excel in the National Hockey League (NHL). As we anticipate the 2023-24 season, there’s noticeable excitement surrounding several AHL standouts. These players, hailing from teams like the Sabres, Blue Jackets, and Canucks, are turning heads with their remarkable abilities and potential. Their standout performances are fueling discussions about their capability to handle the rigors of the NHL, suggesting they might be on the cusp of showcasing their talents on the sport’s grandest platform.

The Evolving Prospect Landscape

Compiling a list of players ready for the NHL is an ever-changing task. Prospects like Shane Wright, Ryan Winterton, Joel Kiviranta, and Dustin Wolf, who were initially considered, have already made their way to the NHL. The criteria for determining who deserves a shot can be subjective, but it generally revolves around their performance, improvement, and potential impact at the NHL level.

AHL Players Knocking on the NHL’s Door

Felix Robert, C, Syracuse Crunch

Heading into this season, Robert was already known as one of the AHL’s top forwards. Over the past three seasons, he’s been a consistent scorer and a strong presence on the ice. This season, he’s elevated his game, playing a top-six role and demonstrating why he’s ready for the NHL. With 13 points in his first 12 games and impressive Corsi-for and expected goals-for percentages, Robert is showing he can be a key player for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Jiri Kulich, C, Rochester Americans

The Buffalo Sabers are in dire need of a spark to their offense. With key players sidelined, Kulich could be the answer. Ranked as a top U-21 player, Kulich has been exceptional this season, with a notable goal-scoring ability. His performance in the AHL suggests he could provide the offensive boost the Sabers need.

Arshdeep Bains, LW, Abbotsford Canucks

Bains has impressed with his intelligence on the ice and his ability to score. Despite a slight dip in his scoring pace, his overall gameplay remains robust. His ability to play both power play and penalty kill makes him a valuable asset for the Vancouver Canucks.

Ryker Evans, D, Coachella Valley Firebirds

Last season, Evans established himself as a top defenseman in the AHL. His ability to move the puck and contribute offensively makes him a potential fit for the Seattle Kraken. His performance in the preseason, particularly with Adam Larsson, showed that he could handle NHL-level competition.

Nick Blankenburg, D, Cleveland Monsters

Blankenburg has already shown he can perform in the NHL. His stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets last year proved he could be effective in all three zones. Despite being reassigned to the AHL due to a crowded Blue Jackets roster, Blankenburg has excelled in Cleveland, making a strong case for an NHL return.


Analyzing Their Impact and Potential

Felix Robert’s Growth and Potential

  • Stats Breakdown: Robert’s journey in the AHL has been marked by consistent improvement and a knack for playmaking. His scoring ability, combined with his strong on-ice analytics, shows he’s ready for a bigger stage.
  • NHL Fit: Given the Lightning’s history of nurturing undrafted talent, Robert could be their next success story. His ability to adapt and thrive in a top-six role in the AHL indicates he could be a valuable addition to the Lightning’s forward lineup.

Jiri Kulich’s Goal-Scoring Talent

  • Goal Per Game Ratio: Kulich’s ability to find the back of the net, especially at even strength, makes him a standout prospect. His scoring rate is among the best for U-20 AHL skaters, a testament to his shooting skills and offensive instincts.
  • Buffalo’s Offensive Needs: With the Sabers struggling to score, Kulich’s aggressive play and goal-scoring prowess could be exactly what they need to rejuvenate their offense.

Arshdeep Bains’ All-Around Game

  • Adaptability and Growth: Bains has shown remarkable adaptability, adjusting his game and excelling in various roles. His point production in the AHL is impressive, but it’s his all-around gameplay that makes him a candidate for the NHL.
  • Canucks’ Consideration: As the Canucks contend, they may be cautious in promoting players from the AHL. However, Bains’ consistent performance and versatility make him a prime candidate for an NHL opportunity, especially in case of injuries.

Ryker Evans’ Defensive Mastery

  • AHL Success: Evans’ success in the AHL, particularly in the playoffs, showcases his readiness for the NHL. His point-per-game pace in the postseason is a clear indicator of his offensive abilities from the back end.
  • Kraken’s Defensive Depth: The Kraken’s depth on defense might be the only thing holding Evans back. However, his performance in training camp and preseason games has already caught the attention of the coaching staff, suggesting he could be an NHL regular soon.

Nick Blankenburg’s Path to the NHL

  • NHL Experience: Having already proven himself in the NHL, Blankenburg’s reassignment to the AHL was more a matter of roster logistics than a reflection of his abilities. His performance in Cleveland this season reinforces his capability to contribute at the NHL level.
  • Trade Potential: With Columbus reportedly looking to shuffle their defensive lineup, Blankenburg could find his way back to the NHL, either with the Blue Jackets or through a trade. His offensive drive and three-zone play make him an attractive option for NHL teams.


As the 2023-24 season unfolds, these five AHL players are demonstrating they have what it takes to succeed in the NHL. Their individual journeys, marked by consistent performance, adaptability, and a clear readiness for the next level, highlight the depth of talent in the AHL. Whether through call-ups or trades, their potential impact in the NHL is significant, and their stories reflect the dynamic and competitive nature of professional hockey. Their transition to the NHL will not only be a testament to their hard work and skill but also a significant milestone in their careers.

Hockey Expert
reviewed by: Jeremy Karamen (Hockey Expert)

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