While a lot of attention is directed at the NHL off season and all of it's wheeling and dealing antics the AHL tends to be rarely talked about so many fans are unaware of who the minor league clubs have added to their rosters. This past summer the Bulldogs added several solid prospects to their roster, as well as several AHL veterans to help bolster a team that posted an AHL worst 29-41-1-5 record last season.
Christian Thomas - Right Wing: Thomas was the player the Canadiens organization received in return for long time prospect Danny Kristo over the summer. Losing Kristo stung a bit at first but a quick glance at Thomas's stats indicate a player with a knack for finding the back of the net. While playing for the Connecticut Whale last season Thomas was tied for 7th amongst rookies in goals scored and 21st overall amongst rookies in points. Prior to that he posted 3 straight seasons with at least 30 goals(topping out at 54 in 2010) while playing for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL. Thomas will bring some scoring experience to a team that severely lacked any sort of offensive punch last season and is poised to be a call up when needed for the big club (And that need may be early with Gionta still hurt).
Erik Nystrom - Left Wing: Nystrom is a product of the Habs ridiculously good 2012 draft class and has been playing consistently over in Sweden. Though he is not signed to an official deal yet(Nystrom is on a 25 game PTO) he has been highly impressive in the rookie development camp and even the other night against the Sabres, where he ripped a wicked shot in the top corner.
Sven Andrighetto - Right/Left Wing: Andrighetto(ANDRIGHETTOOOO) was taken 86th overall in the Habs 2013 draft and boasts some impressive statistics coming into his first professional season. Playing for Rouyn-Noranda Andrighetto posted back to back 30 goal seasons and had the best point totals out of all Habs prospects playing in the world junior tournament. Overall in his junior career he posted an impressive 172 points in just 115 games so he will certainly be a rookie to keep an eye on this upcoming season.
Stefan Fournier - Right Wing: Stefan Fournier was the captain of the powerhouse Halifax Mooseheads team that dominated the CHL en route to a Memorial Cup championship in 2013. He exemplifies the character mantra that Marc Bergevin has brought to the Canadiens organization as not only can he score goals(20+ in 3 straight seasons) but he also sticks up for his teammates when the situation arises.
Stefan Fournier Creates the Moment - Game 2 - QMJHL Finals (via Halifax Mooseheads)
Darren Dietz - Defensemen: Dietz is a former 5th round pick for the Habs, and now that his time is up for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, he is headed to Hamilton to ply his trade. In his most recent season in Saskatoon, Dietz posted fantastic offensive numbers for a blueliner with 24 goals(tops for D-men in the WHL) and 58 points. Though he doesn't possess a slapshot cannon like P.K Subban, it's clear that Dietz has a knack for scoring goals.
Magnus Nygren - Defensemen: Out of all the new prospects headed to Hamilton this year Nygren interests me the most for a number of reasons. Selected 113th overall in 2011 by the Montreal Canadiens Nygren appeared to be a fringe prospect at that period of his career as he was playing limited minutes as a one-dimensional defensemen(Think Marc-Andre Bergeron). However something must have clicked before the 2012-2013 season because Nygren came ready to play and showcased exactly what he was capable of en route to the Borje Salming Trophy as the top defensemen in the SHL(Formerly Elitserien). Nygren is a most known for his booming slapshots from the blueline and according to our own Andrew Berkshire he was beating goalies with shots from beyond the blueline at rookie camp. A team can never have too many offensively skilled defensemen on their roster and having both Nathan Beaulieu and Magnus Nygren manning a powerplay together is a scary thought for opposing goalies.
Martin St. Pierre - Center: As far as AHL vets go St.Pierre is about as consistently good as it gets, in 7 full AHL seasons he has never posted below 55 points in a single season. In those seven seasons he also has never posted less than 30 assists meaning the Bulldogs may have found themselves a solid playmaking center who can ease the burden on some of the younger prospects and possibly spark their offensive potential. While St.Pierre is unlikely to stick with the big club his veteran presence and scoring touch will be well received on a team that lacked a true leader last season.
Nick Tarnasky - Center: Might as well come out and say it...Tarnasky is not an offensively gifted hockey player by any means as he has only topped 15 points three times in his professional career. However if there is something Tarnasky is good at its being an effective enforcer at the AHL level, as demonstrated by his 44 fights over the last 3 seasons. I realize that signing goons is mostly a wasteful endeavor but when compared to a guy like Zack Stortini, Tarnasky looks like a far better signing. (Also Character or some such thing)
Of course in the off season the team also resigned goaltending tandem Robert Mayer and Dustin Tokarski which should help stabilize the team and hopefully steal some games as well. All in all the amount of youthful prospects in Hamilton this upcoming season is a cause for excitement. With a roster of talented young guns like Michael Bournival,Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Louis Leblanc,Greg Pateryn and Gabriel Dumont in addition to these new signings the Bulldogs could easily surprise a lot of people in the AHL this upcoming season.