The NHL is such a difficult league for hockey players to crack and the honest truth is that many do not. So many players find a lot of success in the AHL, but cannot bring it to the NHL because of how much more challenging the league is. Although it is discouraging for players to realize that they do not possess the skills to be full time NHLers, it is important for them to note that making any professional hockey league is a huge accomplishment and dream come true.
In this article, we will be looking at fifteen AHL stars who did not stick in the NHL. For a lot of these players, the reason why they did not make the NHL was simply because certain elements of their games were simply too weak for the league. These will vary from examples such as lack of ability in the defensive zone and for some players simply being too slow for the NHL. It will be an intriguing topic nonetheless.
With that, here are fifteen AHL players who could not stick in the NHL and where they are today.
15 Carter Camper
A few years ago, Carter Camper was once a highly rated prospect for the Boston Bruins and seen as a potential top-6 forward. In the AHL for the Providence Bruins, he proved that he had the skill to be an effective playmaker, but simply could not carry it to the NHL game. In Boston, he played in only three career games and registered a single goal.
After the Bruins traded him in 2014, Carter never had the opportunity to play in another NHL game and has been a pretty reliable scorer in the AHL. Carter recently signed a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets and is expected to play for the Cleveland Monsters this year. At age 29, it remains unlikely he will ever become an NHL regular.
14 Linden Vey
Linden Vey was once considered to be a big prospect for the Los Angeles Kings, but could not reach his potential and never was able to carry out a lengthy NHL career. During his stint with the Vancouver Canucks, he was an NHL regular for two seasons, but did not have much success at all. Last season, he only played four games with the Flames and did not register a point.
Vey is a player who simply could not adapt to the NHL because his skill set did not match with the league’s best. He was strong enough defensively to mark himself as a two-way forward in the league and it caught with him last year when he spent the majority of the year in the AHL. Vey is going to play this season in the KHL with Barys Astana.
13 Ben Street
After an effective collegiate career for the Wisconsin Badgers, Ben Street made a name for himself and landed a contract in the NHL. Since then, Street has yet to make an impact in the NHL, but has had a fairly solid AHL career. Street in the NHL, however, has been lackluster as he has only played 35 games and put up three assists.
It appears all but likely that Street will be a career AHLer because he has yet to find any success in the NHL and is now 30 years old. Street had all the tools to be an effective NHL player, but simply could not keep up with the immense talent around the league. Street will be playing this year with the Grand Rapid Griffins.
12 Tye McGinn
Tye McGinn has had a fairly interesting career because he has been played in the NHL numerous times, but can never seem to stick with a team. McGinn started his career with the Philadelphia Flyers and was often used on their fourth line. However, after that, he never could land a full time NHL job and spent a lot of time in the AHL.
Today, McGinn is flirting with being an NHL player and at age 27, there is still a chance for him. He had a spectacular season with the Syracuse Crunch last season and almost put up a point per game. The time is ticking for McGinn, but if he can have a strong preseason, he very well could be playing on the Lightning this year full time.
11 Jeremy Morin
Jeremy Morin was once seen as a potential top-6 forward for the Chicago Blackhawks because he was a natural scorer with size. Yet, Morin’s development seemed to take a dark turn and he never came close to what many thought he would become. Today, Morin spends the majority of his time in the AHL with rare NHL appearances.
It appears that Morin will never have the chance to be a full time NHLer at this point in his career. He has not played an NHL game since 2015 and has not been a superstar in the AHL. At age 26, Morin is also past the point of being a prospect so it is doubtful many teams would give him the opportunity to play in the NHL again.
10 Rocco Grimaldi
Rocco Grimaldi had a marvelous college career with Notre Dakota, but has yet to be a dominant force in the NHL. However, as the years continue to pass, his chances of becoming an NHL player are dropping dramatically. The Colorado Avalanche have yet to give up on him because he is only 24, but the rate he is going is definitely alarming.
Grimaldi is a top AHL player but any time he has played in the NHL, he has been a ghost on the ice and unreliable. Grimaldi is the type of player that needs to make a team’s top-6 to be effective and honestly, that will never happen. Grimaldi will most likely spend the majority of his career playing in the AHL and dominating there.
9 Anton Lander
Anton Lander is a very special case on this list because he saw some production in his NHL career, but quickly turned for the worst. In Lander’s rookie season, he put up a promising 20 points in 38 games and looked to be a potential third line center for the Oilers. Yet, after that season, he only had three points in 61 games and never recovered from there.
Lander spent the 2016-17 season mainly with the Bakersfield Condors and had brief call ups with the NHL club. Lander had a spectacular year in the AHL where he had 55 points in 42 games, but he decided to move on and play in Europe. Lander never would have become a full time player for the Oilers again because of their strong center depth.
8 David Warsofsky
David Warsofsky is a speedy offensive defenseman who has yet to crack an NHL roster full time, but has shown spurts of being a good player. Yet, it is easy to see that Warsofsky will never make a team’s top-6 permanently because of the fact that he is 27 years old and with the abundance of prospects that are in the league.
Warsofsky has had a fairly successful AHL career and last season was his best year yet. Warsofsky managed to put up 47 points in 58 games and from a defensive standpoint, that is incredible. If Warsofsky was a bit younger, he would most likely have a far better chance to make an NHL team, but sadly, that is not the case.
7 Cory Conacher
When Cory Conacher made the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012, many thought that the Lightning found a new top-6 forward of the future. Conacher managed to register 24 points in 35 games, but was surprisingly traded to the Senators that same season. From there, Conacher never could find his game and eventually became an AHL player.
Conacher’s situation is a bit strange because he had the tools to be an effective sniper in the league, but they quickly disappeared. Conacher made a brief appearance in the NHL with the Lightning again this year, but only put up four points in 11 games. It remains unlikely that Conacher will ever find a full time job in the NHL again.
6 Tommy Cross
The Boston Bruins made a giant mistake when they drafted Tommy Cross 35th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft because he truly never amounted to anything. Cross has been an average AHL defenseman since joining the league, but has also been the captain for a few years. Yet, the Bruins did not want a career AHLer with their high second round pick.
Cross will never be a full time NHL player for the Bruins, but will most likely stay in Providence because he grew up in the area. The Bruins made a huge mistake with this pick because P.K. Subban was still available at that point and we all know how he turned out. Yet, Cross will be a good veteran for their AHL squad.
5 Chris Bourque
Chris Bourque, the son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, has had a spectacular AHL career. Yet, hockey players are not remembered or praised for accomplishments such as these. Bourque has never been able to carry his success in the AHL to the NHL and most likely never will. He has not played in an NHL game since his failed attempt with the Bruins back in 2013.
Bourque had all the tools to become a decent playmaker in the NHL, but simply could not keep up with the talent of the NHL. Today, Bourque is a member of the Hershey Bears and has played eight years with the club, not in order. Bourque will forever be a reliable veteran in the AHL, but a distant memory in the NHL.
4 Michael Bournival
The Montreal Canadiens expected great things from Michael Bournival mainly because he is French Canadian. However, Bournival never was able to carry his success from juniors to the NHL and has been a career AHLer since then. Yet, at age 25, Bournival is still young enough to turn his career around and possibly make a name for himself.
Bournival is not necessarily a bad player at all, but he may not have the tools to be a full time NHL player. He currently is a member of the Syracuse Crunch, but made a brief appearance with the Tampa Bay Lightning last year. If Bournival has a good preseason, he may have the opportunity to play in the NHL this season.
3 Eric Tangradi
Eric Tangradi was once a big prospect for the Pittsburgh Penguins because they saw him as becoming a strong power forward for them. After years of success in their AHL system, Tangradi simply never could do the same in the NHL and was eventually let go by them in 2013. Since then, Tangradi has yet to make many NHL appearances at all.
Today, Tangradi is an integral part of the Grand Rapids Griffins and helped them win the Calder Trophy this past season. The Red Wings are a team that are rebuilding so if Tangradi has a good preseason, he could end up taking a spot on their fourth line. It is not necessarily too late for Tangradi, but the clock is ticking quickly.
2 Rich Clune
When Rich Clune started his career in professional hockey, he was the stereotypical enforcer and a huge force on the ice. Clune still plays with this style today and that is what makes him an effective player in the AHL. Yet, this type of play is not good enough for him to be a full time NHLer anymore and he most likely never will again.
Today, Clune is the captain of Toronto Marlies and is beloved by the city and team. Although Clune will never be a superstar player in the AHL his effort and toughness will always be respected by those who watch him play. Clune will probably play the remainder of his career with the Marlies and have no issue with that at all.
1 T.J. Brennan
T.J. Brennan is such an interesting player to follow because he has emerged into an absolute superstar in the AHL, but never could bring this skill to the NHL. For years, Brennan has been a top scoring defenseman in the AHL, but never had many chances to play in the NHL because of his poor defensive abilities.
Brennan has had a lot of success during his stint with Marlies and even managed to be a point per game player two seasons with the club. Today, Brennan is currently a member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and their top defenseman. With this however, it is unlikely that Brennan will ever make an impact in the NHL.