The Stockton Heat were one of the top teams in the American Hockey League in 2019-20, finishing eighth in points percentage. A lot of the credit has to go to their depth players, including a defensive core that relied heavily on AHL signees.
Will any of these AHL-contracted players be brought back for 2020-21?
So far, the Heat have signed three defenders to AHL deals: Greg Moro, Koletrane Wilson and Noah King. Additionally, the Flames have added Emilio Pettersen, Connor Mackey and Colton Poolman to contracts, while previously signed prospects Dmitry Zavgorodniy and Carl-Johan Lerby are likely joining Stockton. Suddenly, Stockton looks pretty full.
Does it make sense to bring many of the AHL bodies back?
D Corey Schueneman
A 24-year-old left shot defender, Schueneman joined the Heat at the end of the 2018-19 season after finishing his senior year at Western Michigan University (where he was captain). He played the majority of 2019-20 with the Heat, suiting up 44 times in the team’s 55 games while playing just four times for the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks. He had 21 points for Stockton.
Schueneman was basically Stockton’s seventh guy this past season but he got into a lot of games due to injuries, call-ups, and by basically being the best available option. On a blueline that won’t have a lot of holdovers, Schueneman likely won’t get an NHL deal because he didn’t blow the doors off the AHL but he could be extremely useful depth and a good piece of continuity for them to have. He’s a strong contender for an AHL deal, if he wants one.
D Zac Leslie
A 26-year-old past draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings, this left side defender had his best-ever AHL offensive season with 28 points for Stockton. Like Schueneman, he was useful depth and played well when he suited up. Due to his age he’d be a bit more of a challenge to sign to an NHL deal – he’s probably what he’s going to be at this point – and Schueneman might be more apt to sign an AHL deal given his smaller AHL track record. Put differently: Leslie has a big AHL resume and will have some options.
D Rob Hamilton
A Calgary kid, Hamilton is a 26-year-old is basically a right shot version of Leslie with lower offensive output. He had 18 points in 2019-20, a fairly big dip from the 29 he produced in the prior season. Hamilton’s age, production and the number of other likely AHL bodies will make it a bit of a stretch for him to get another AHL deal.
LW Mason Morelli
Morelli (24) bounced between Stockton and Kansas City last season. He was a useful tweener, but had just eight points in 31 games for the Heat.
C Alex Gallant
Gallant (27) played 43 games for the Heat, primarily in a supporting role. He had eight points. He could be a useful veteran presence on a team lean on pro experience, but it’s unlikely that he’ll work himself higher up the rotation next season.
The depth players
C Mitch Hults (25), D Zach Osburn (23), RW Matthew Gaudreau (25) and D Terrance Amorosa (25) combined for 21 AHL games and two AHL points. They likely won’t be re-upped, unless they’re all fine with between AHL/ECHL tweeners again.