There’s some good news for Minnesota Wild fans today.
Michael Russo of The Star-Tribune reports the team’s top prospect, Mikael Granlund, will return to action with the AHL Houston Aeros on Friday night after missing 12 games with an ankle injury.
Granlund and fellow top prospect Jonas Brodin were each injured in the same game against Oklahoma City, Edmonton’s affiliate, just over a month ago. While Granlund is back, Brodin’s injury was more significant and he’s still a month or two away from returning to action.
Granlund was the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft and a player the team is hoping to see emerge as a top offensive player for them.
The Ottawa Senators franchise probably would have been happy whichever way their AHL affiliate the Binghamton Senators won the 2011 Calder Cup. It must be that much more thrilling, then, that they won it thanks to some of the franchise’s most promising prospects, riding a strong third period to a 3-2 win and 4-2 series victory Tuesday night.
This marks the Binghamton Senators’ first-ever Calder Cup victory. Senators prospects who played especially well included players who might be recognizable from their sporadic cups of coffee at the NHL level. Goalie Robin Lehner made 33 saves on his way to the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, the AHL’s equivalent to the Conn Smythe. Noteworthy prospects Jared Cowen and Bobby Butler reportedly had solid series outputs in their own rights, according to the Canadian Press.
While the franchise itself might hope this is a stepping stone for their players of the future, the team probably rallied around ailing assistant coach Steve Stirling, who underwent heart surgery last weekend.
Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst gave Lehner, who replaced Barry Brust as the Sens starting goalie in the first round of the playoffs, the bulk of credit for the Calder Cup win.
“We don’t win it unless Robin’s between the pipes,” Kleinendorst said. “I’m not saying that Brust wouldn’t have been able to get it done, but there’s no question that Robin was the difference.”
Kleinendorst was at a loss for words for the second time in three days after the win. The head coach was in the waiting room while his assistant coach Steve Stirling had quadruple bypass surgery Sunday.
“This is surreal,” Kleinendorst said. “It’s hard to explain it, but in a different way.”
Ryan Keller ended up scoring the game-winning goal against Matt Hackett (nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett), capping an AHL playoffs record with 10 wins on the road in 2011. Surely the Senators will bask in the glory of this Calder Cup win, but in the back of their minds, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were hoping that this is a sign of better things to come on the NHL level.
The Binghamton Senators won Game 6 of the Calder Cup Final against the Houston Aeros to win the series and claim their first title in Binghamton’s 29-year AHL history. The Baby Sens were led by 4 of the top 5 scorers in the Calder Cup playoffs with Ryan Potulny, Ryan Keller, Kaspars Daugavins, and Zack Smith all collecting 20+ points. In addition, Bobby Butler was sent down from Ottawa to participate in the playoffs and netted 13 goals including the game-tying goal in the 3rd period on the power play tonight.
The offense was great all postseason, but the brightest star was the guy keeping the pucks out of the net. Baby Sens and hotshot goaltending prospect Robin Lehner won the Jack Butterfield Trophy as AHL playoff MVP. The 6’3” Swedish prospect appeared in eight games for the big club this year posting a 1-4-0 record 3.52 goals against average and .888 save percentage. But while the jump proved to be too much this season, the future is certainly bright for the 19-year-old.
Before the Calder Cup Final, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray hopes the success at the AHL level translates to the NHL:
“A few years back, we weren’t very competitive in the minors. We were disappointed that we didn’t have the personnel to really be what we are now turning out to be. (Getting to the final) is really good for the organization. Hopefully, we’ll win the Calder Cup. That will be a terrific experience for all of these players as they move forward.”
Yeah, the Final went pretty well. With prospects like Butler, Lehner, and Potulny proving they can perform when the spotlight is the brightest, the Sens look like they have a couple of forwards and a goaltender who are poised to make the jump to the NHL. Mix in defensive prospects Jared Cowen (injured) and David Rundblad (Swedish Elite League) and it looks like help is on the way in Ottawa.