This was a very difficult week for the Amerks without Justin Bailey, Taylor Fedun and Alexander Nylander. Somehow, they were able to gut out overtime wins against the Crunch and the Marlies, taking four points from the three games they played.
Unfortunately Toronto gained three points from the back-to-back home games against Rochester this weekend. Considering the luck they have had when playing three games in as many days, I would consider it a win. The Amerks are still level with the Marlies for the last playoff spot, but Toronto has played two fewer games.
A few fringe players were really able to shine while the organizations brightest stars sparkled elsewhere. Kyle Bonis had his 25 game PTO extended thanks to his strong play. He registered a goal and an assist this weekend. Shockingly Bonis leads the team with a +6 goal differential. Daniel Muzito-Bagenda was also able to break out of his slump with a goal and a helper of his own. They will certainly make things hard on coach Lambert if Grant clears waivers upon the return of Hudson Fasching. It is unclear if and when Bailey or Fedun may be recalled, but Nylander suited up in the weekend finale after returning from the World Junior Championship.
The young prospect made the biggest splash of any Amerk, miles away from Blue Cross Arena. Nylander accumulated five goals and seven assists at the World Junior Championship, putting him in a deadlock for with the tournaments point leader. He also finished with a +7 rating. Hopefully, he can continue that trend in Rochester, because he currently sits at -11 behind only Casey Nelson and Dan Catenacci. He was unable to get on the score sheet against Toronto on Sunday, but he just might be the next Amerk two go on a hot streak.
My next standout player, Nick Baptiste, is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with top 3 +/- ratio. He was the only Amerk to score in both victories this weekend. He also registered an assist on the overtime winner against the Marlies on Sunday. Baptiste has been on a shortlist of consistently great Amerks this season. O’Reilly, Schneider, Ullmark, and Baptiste all had legitimate bids to be AHL All Stars. Unfortunately, the leagues third highest goal scorer (Baptiste 17) and second best assist man (O’Reilly 26) will not be joining their fellow teammates.
Maybe the selection committee feels that Baptiste is not a true AHL player. Personally I have viewed him as a NHL player in waiting for much of the year. I have no doubt that is where his career arc will take him; at this point it is only a matter of time.