Goaltender Ken Appleby will have to settle for an AHL contract again this season. The 24-year-old has signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Admirals, affiliate of the Nashville Predators, the team announced. Appleby spent much of last season on a minor league contract with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, but was signed to an NHL deal at the trade deadline to serve as a depth option for the Winnipeg Jets. Appleby will hope that his play earns him another NHL contract, during this season or next summer.
Appleby continues to be a tough keeper to nail down. A standout with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, Appleby earned a three-year entry level contract with the New Jersey Devils as an undrafted prospect. In his first pro season in 2015-16, Appleby largely played in the ECHL, but put up good numbers and performed well in limited AHL action. The next year, he again dominated in ECHL to begin the year but quickly was called up to play a key role in the AHL and put up good albeit unspectacular numbers. In the final year of his ELC, Appleby’s AHL performance slipped somewhat, but he made three NHL appearances and was stellar, posting a .945 save percentage and 1.45 GAA. Yet, Appleby inexplicably failed to garner NHL attention last summer and, after signing with Manitoba, struggled greatly in the AHL and ended up back down in the ECHL. It’s unclear what to expect from the roller coaster goaltender, but at the very least the Admirals add an experienced netminder who has shown flashes of brilliance.
- New York Rangers prospect Hunter Skinner is shifting his development plan. A fourth-round pick out of the USHL last month, Skinner was expected to play one more year of junior before heading to Western Michigan University. That all changed today when Skinner signed with the OHL’s London Knights, effectively ruling out the NCAA route. London used a fifth-round pick on Skinner in the 2017 OHL Draft and have made good on that gamble by convincing Skinner to change lanes and play major junior. However, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the Michigan native backed out of his WMU commitment. A big right-handed defenseman who is ahead of the game physically but still raw in his skill and IQ, the Rangers reached for Skinner in the fourth round. It’s not a stretch to think that they used that leverage to influence this decision, perhaps preferring to see Skinner play against stronger competition sooner rather than later to start developing those abilities. The Broncos are definitely disappointed to lose a promising prospect, but Skinner is in good hands in London, a premiere NHL feeder program led by Dale and Mark Hunter.
- Speaking of which, former London Knight Will Lochead has signed his first pro contract with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds. Lochead actually began classes at the University of Western Ontario last year and had intended to continue there, but after a breakout season opted to pursue the pro route. The aggressive defenseman recorded a career-high 17 points in 54 games for the Knights and continued to show that he is not afraid to throw his body around and play a fast-tempo game. The Thunderbirds are taking a chance on a young, undrafted player without much production to show for in his junior career, but who brings room for growth and an exciting style.