One night after the Rangers opened their season with a win, the teams' AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, followed suit in very similar fashion. In a high-scoring affair, the Wolf Pack beat the St John's Ice Caps (Canadiens' affiliate), 6-3.
Robin Kovacs and Malte Stromwall both made their AHL debuts, and they looked perfectly comfortable on the North American rink. Hartford Head Coach Ken Gernander showed much confidence in them, putting the two Swedes on the top line as well as handing them penalty kill minutes. Early in the game, Stromwall made a great play on the PK to force a turnover, which led to a shorthanded chance for Kovacs.
Kovacs (wearing 96) and Stromwall (21), with Nieves (24), were dominant for most of the game, creating offensive pressure seemingly every shift. Their best shift of the game was this one, with creative puck movement that St John's struggled to keep up with.
Inevitably, their persistence led to production. In the second period, defenseman John Gilmour sent an outlet pass to Boo Nieves, who entered the zone and fed Robin Kovacs for his first career AHL goal.
Later, Nieves would score his first of the year by batting a Malte Stromwall rebound in, giving Stromwall his first AHL point.
On defense, the previously mentioned John Gilmour stood out from the pack. Throughout the entire game his skating and ability to move the puck were on display, such as in Kovacs' goal. He showed poise on the point and an awareness of where to be in both ends of the ice. Defensively, he broke up a handful of rushes with an active stick. To top it off, he earned his first AHL goal at four-on-four. Mat Bodie found Gilmour, who made a sneaky move towards the far post, and immediately put the puck into the net.
For his all-around effort and two points, Gilmour was named the game's Second Star.
Much like the Rangers, the Wolf Pack are coming off an underwhelming 2015-2016 season and will be relying on young talent to change the tide. It paid off for Hartford last night, and it should give some good prospects a real chance at developing into NHLers.