Posted - 11/13/2012 : 16:41:15 I was just checking out the AHL players stats, and it's interesting to see the names of players who are the top scorers at this early point in the season. (After 12-13 games.)
The Oilers young star players, Ryan Nugent-Hopkyns and Jordan Eberle got off to a bit of a slow start, but they are now over a point-per-game, and in the top ten in AHL scoring. At the top of the points list is highly sought free agent defenseman Justin Schultz who has 18 points in 13 games. (7 goals and 11 assists for the Oilers/Barons defenseman.)
When checking out the top point-getters in the AHL, there are a few other recognizable NHL names in the top group of scorers, like Marcus Foligno, Zach Boychuk, and if you're stretching things, you can add in Justin Faulk who has 66 NHL games of experience. But there are a number of journeyman players in the top group, guys with very little (or no) NHL playing experience: Kris Newbury, Alexandre Bolduc, and Chris Conner. All three guys between 27 - 31 years of age, and not many NHL games between them.
And rounding out the top group of AHL scorers, there are guys like Gustav Nyquist, Peter Holland, Cory Conacher, and Tyler Johnson who are in the 20-23 age range, who have a combined 22 NHL games between them. These guys have a better upside than the older group of journeyman players, and not unlike the older group, most of these players are capable of putting up a point per game at the AHL level.
With the lockout in place, this is an opportunity for AHL players to show their value, most who would love an opportunity to play in the NHL.
If you take the bottom 100 players in the NHL, and the top 100 players in the AHL, there's not a big difference in talent. So if I'm one of the bottom 100 guys in the NHL, I would be more nervous that usual, especially with so many "NHL players" playing in the AHL early this hockey season. It's an opportunity for aspiring AHL players to show their stuff against NHL calibre players.
Guys like Eberle and Nugent-Hopkyns have nothing to worry about. Their NHL jobs are safe, but if I'm an NHL 4th-liner, I would be more worried than usual, and here's why.
A 4th line player has a shorter NHL career than an average or star player in the NHL. An average 4th line player may play two, three or four seasons in the NHL, and probably makes in the $500k - $750k range of pay. If a 4th liner misses a full year of pay in the NHL, it has way more impact on their lives than an NHL star player. The top 100 NHL players will probably make between $30 million - $150 million in their NHL careers. As for the mid-level NHL players, an "average" 2nd line/3rd line forward (or #3, 4 or 5 defenseman) will play 5-7 seasons in the NHL, and make in the $10 million - $25 million in career earnings. Missing a year's pay is not a big deal to this category of players, so when looking at the current lockout situation, they can "afford" to be stubborn and resolute in their position. What's $3 million, when you're NHL career earnings are likely to be in the $20 million range? And what's $9 million, when your career earnings are in the $60 - $120 million range?
But if you're a fringe NHLer, it's a different situation. In the last lockout, fringe NHLers like Scott Ferguson, Dan Lacouture, Brad Chartrand, Serge Aubin missed earning between $400k -$600k during the lockout season. The career earnings of these players ranged from $1.1 million - $2.8 million. Their career earnings may seem like a lot of money to some people, but none of these players got rich playing hockey. If you asked these guys how they felt about the 2004-2005 lockout (some of these players who didn't play in the NHL again), I'm pretty sure they would say it wasn't worth it.
And I wonder the same thing today. How do the fringe players feel about the lockout? Guys who may only play 2, 3 or 4 seasons in the NHL. Some may say "who cares" about the fringe players. They're not "the show" after all. But shouldn't every NHL player (who is a member of the NHLPA) have an equal voice? Either their voice is not being heard, or maybe they don't want to rock the boat? Or maybe I'm wrong? Maybe all NHL players are united in their stance, including star players and fringe players, and all players in between.
So while some hungry AHL players are making their mark, I just wonder if some NHL players are missing the mark?