The beauty of the American Hockey League is showcasing the up and coming stars of the National Hockey League, and much like recent weeks, it was again, a trio of young players stealing headlines again.
It began with defenceman Rasmus Andersson, skating in the AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, New York, who on Sunday, blasted a 101.5 mph shot past the radar gun, which would end up the third fastest of the competition.
But Rasmus made his mark in the All-Star Challenge the following day, putting on a display that would end up being the best a Heat All-Star has ever done in the game.
“It was a fun weekend over there and I was proud to represent Stockton,” Andersson said. “There were a lot of great players there, we stayed at really great resort, and overall it was just a fun weekend and a great experience.”
Fun for sure that Andersson finished the four “mini” games he played with the Pacific Division with 2 goals and 3 assists, tied for third among All-Star’s in points at the Challenge.
Glued to the hip of Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome throughout the challenge, the pair danced their way around the competition and ended up earning two spots on ESPN’s Top 10 Countdown on Monday night’s Sportscenter.
“We had a little chemistry going, and it was fun to see the other guys play alongside of me instead of against them,” Andersson explained. “I’m not sure I got on Sportscenter because of me, ‘Stromer’ made a great spin-o-rama pass, and I just tipped it in.”
On Thursday, the AHL announced that rookie forward Spencer Foo would be named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for his performances in Texas just before the All-Star break. Foo ended the weekend with 3 goals and 5 points, which earned him the weekly honor.
The humble winger got the news during the All-Star break while on vacation.
“I was pretty surprised when I heard to be honest,” Foo said. “It’s kind of a weekend that I’ve been trying to build up to, and once you get that, it brings up your confidence and lifts a weight off of your shoulders. Now I want to try and build off that and keep it going.”
“It’s a nice honor, and I’m excited to get that, but I just have to keep it going here.”
The last Flames prospect to be named the Player of the Week was Sven Baertschi of the Abbotsford Heat, who had 3 goals and 5 assists in 3 games back on the week ending on April 6, 2014.
Other notable players to be named an AHL Player of the Week, which has been named since the 1994-95 season include Mikael Backlund (2010), Martin St. Louis (1999), and Dwayne Roloson (1996), but a total of 20 weekly awards have been handed out to 14 Flames AHL players over the years, including Foo.
To conclude the terrific week for some of Stockton’s youngest would be rookie goalie Tyler Parsons, who truly stole the headlines in a home-and-home series between the Stockton Heat and San Jose Barracuda.
In Friday’s return to action for both clubs after the All-Star break, all seemed to be going well until the Barracuda scored two early, second-period goals, which chased Jon Gillies from the cage and saw Parsons come in for his third-ever, AHL appearance.
And while the defence in front of him was stout, Parsons was perfect in just under two periods of action, stopping all nine shots he faced.
He’d follow that up with his second ever start in the AHL on Saturday as the Heat tried to bounce back from Friday’s shutout loss to San Jose. The team in front of Parsons would need to step their game up in front of the rookie goalie, who by all accounts was a bit let down by the entire team in his first AHL start in January against Texas.
“As a goalie when you think too much, bad things can happen,” Parsons said of his mindset going into his second start. ”I just went in with a clear mind and played the way I knew how to play and gave our guys a chance to win tonight.”
Parsons was terrific, stopping 32 shots, as was the team in front of them as the Heat would help Parsons record his first AHL win.
“It was nice to see the guys play significantly harder in front of him than the last time he started,” Huska said of his team as a whole on Saturday night. “He made some really good saves at critical times of the game, so we’re really happy he got his first win here tonight.”
As Stockton transitions from January to February, and two road trips to the Midwest looming, the Heat will need more from their young, up and coming stars like Andersson, Foo and Parsons to get back to the top of the division.
With seven teams in the eight-team division over .500 (and the team that is below .500, Edmonton’s AHL affiliate just one game under), each win is vital to get into the playoffs. The top four teams get into the post season hunt for the Calder Cup, and when a loss or two can drop you from second to sixth, each night requires your best.
The Heat are hoping a win or two, will put them back into the top of the division, where they’ve found themselves for the majority of the season.