Monday, January 18, 2010

Manchester Mondays: All Star Edition

What are you looking for in this week's AHL prospects report - first round draft picks? all star notes? stats? We have it all.

The AHL - one of the top feeder systems to the NHL - will be holding its annual All Star Game tomorrow night in Portland, Maine. That's where the Pirates play, the Buffalo Sabres AHL affiliate.

In advance of tomorrow's game the AHL will put on a Skills Competition later this afternoon, featuring events such as the fastest skater, the hardest shot and accuracy shooting. The event will start at 5pm PST and can be seen on several of the Fox Sports stations carried on DirecTV.

As for the game itself - well, it's scheduled to start at 3pm PST Tuesday afternoon and can be seen on the NHL Network (DirecTV channel 215). The Kings AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, will be represented on a variety of levels. Monarchs head coach Mark Morris and assistant Scott Pellerin will head the PlanetUSA team (for those unfamiliar, the AHL uses a PlanetUSA vs. Team Canada format for the All Star Game) and two players made the rosters - goaltender Jonathan Bernier (Team Canada) and defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov (PlanetUSA - which is actually a mix of U.S. and non-North American players...I know, don't ask).

Bernier was the Kings first round draft pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He's played four games with the big club, including picking up a win versus Anaheim when the two teams opened in London a few years ago. For the last two seasons he's played in Manchester, where he currently leads the AHL in most of the goaltending stats.

Voynov was selected by the Kings in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He joined Manchester last year after winning two straight bronze medals for Russia at the World Junior Championships (2008 & 2009). This season he leads all Monarchs defenseman with 8 goals and 16 assists. His offensive outburst also has him tied for second in the race for the overall team points lead.

In addition to Bernier, Team Canada's roster boasts five other NHL first-round draft picks - including Logan Couture and Tyler Ennis of the host Portland Pirates, the top two rookie scorers in the league. Meanwhile, the PlanetUSA roster features five former first-round NHL draft picks of its own - including John Carlson of the Hershey Bears, who was a big hero at the just completed World Junior Championships (read about it by clicking here).

Today's final note on the All Star Game is an interesting stat via an AHL press release: "Of the 492 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 94 percent have competed in the National Hockey League," including Dustin Brown, Dan Boyle, Zdeno Chara, Miikka Kiprusoff, Ryan Miller, Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Sharp and Eric Staal.

Needless to say, there will be an overwhelming amount of future NHL stars - some even superstars - competing in the AHL All Star Game festivities today and tomorrow.

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Other Manchester notes:

The Monarchs are still in first place, leading the Atlantic division with 57 points after 44 games played. However, they're just a few points ahead of the Worcester Sharks and the Lowell Devils.

The top two players on the team (statistically speaking) to not be selected to this year's All Star Game would be Corey Elkins and Bud Holloway. Elkins was signed by the Kings as a free agent in March '09, after playing four years at Ohio State University. He's played three games with the Kings this season and is currently leading the Monarchs in goals (13) and points (29).

Holloway split time last season between the Monarchs and the Ontario Reign (ECHL), where he led the team in points in the playoffs. Originally taken in the 3rd round of the 2006 NHL Draft, he was also a teammate of Thomas Hickey (Kings first round pick in 2007, Dean Lombardi's first draft with the team) when both played for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Bud is right behind Elkins in goals (12) and assists (24) after 40 games with the Monarchs this season.

Skills Competition Monday. All Star Game Tuesday. Then, the Monarchs return to action Friday night when they visit the Hartford Wolfpack.


EXTRA: There was a nice article on Jonathan Bernier that appeared this weekend on You can access it now by clicking here.

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