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NHL versus AHL prime differences


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  I went to a half a dozen Lake Erie Monsters games and a few Ohio State games last year during the lockout, and saw some pretty damn good hockey on a different level to get my fix. I meant to bring up before what I felt are the biggest differences between the AHL and the NHL from what I have seen.


  The two biggest are, by far:


 Rebound control: goalies are from what I have seen big, quick, near nhl caliber but the biggest difference between the NHL and AHL is the use of the catching glove. An NHL goalie can control the tempo of the game, slow it down by forcing faceoffs, catching the puck to allow his team to get tired players off the ice, ect.. while this happens in the AHL it is no where near as common. Ahl goalies are competent and I saw some amazing saves but they did not seem able to control the tempo of the game.

  Less crisp passing is the number two thing. The players can shoot amazingly well but the passing is horrible. Dump and chase and pushing the puck in along the boards seems to be the prevalent way to move the puck into the zone.


  Speed is near the same, hard to tell a discernible difference, defense seems to be the same or close to it shooting is not bad. It really is the subtle things, passing and puck control that I noticed as being where the AHL is deficient.

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@yave1964  Just from watching the AHL off tv, I've noticed a few of the same things. It's fairly rare to see an exciting goal off a rush, it's mostly a chip in game like you said. I was not really watching for the rebound control, but I can see that being true, it's a skill only the excellent goalies master. It's kinda like making a shot in pool, a lot of people can make the actual shot (or save in this instance), but what kinda shape are you left with?


 The Flyers at times outright SUCK at passing the puck, you would think they are a bunch of beer leaguers at times. It seems like a skill everyone at the NHL level should have mastered, but it's very iffy, even at the top level...so I could imagine a lot AHL'ers would not be very skilled at it. It's a very subtle nuance that only elite players have really mastered. I'd be willing to bet less than half the players in the NHL could lay a nice saucer pass on the tape with accuracy. I'd bet only 10% or less of AHL players could pull that off. 

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I too got to watch some AHL (and even some college games while the NHL was playing twiddle dinks) during the lockout.


I honestly think the overall team speeds are much better in the NHL.

The AHL may have some guys that can really skate and push pucks up ice (and those guys are usually NHL bound), but overall, as teams, I find the pace of moving the pucks up ice to be a bit slower in the American League.


To be expected IMO, because lets not forget, the AHL has more guys that won't ever see the light of day in the NHL AND have guys past their primes just trying to play pro hockey, and thus probably are not as fast as they used to be.


The goon factor is a bit more prevalent in the AHL.

Again, no surprise there as it seems there are guys who are just good enough to make an AHL team with their marginal skills and fisticuffs, whereas those same guys would be 4-5 ATOI guys on an NHL team (if even qualified to sit on an NHL bench, that is).

You also have more guys with less body control, thus more out-of-control checking, all-or-nothing moves towards a puck carrier, or just plain bad hits to the guy with the puck.


To be honest, I couldn't make a clear distinction between career AHL goalies and NHL goalies, other than the obvious fact that NHL goalies will make some spectacular saves on some of the best players in the entire world.

I suppose you could say the same about AHL goalies...but then again, most of the shooters they face are of the young n green, past their prime, or journeyman calibur...though of course, they DO see future NHL stars whilst those young players make their way up to the NHL ranks.


Maybe I just don't know what to look for (some of what @yave1964 described seem pretty interesting....I will be sure to keep an eye out for those, now that I have been made aware), as I have seen even NHL goalies go down to the AHL for stints and look pretty average, yet look amazing once back on an NHL team.


Finally, defenses.

Personally, I see  BIG difference in AHL defenses as opposed to NHL defenses.

NHL defenses, on the whole, are not only quick to close lanes and/or get to the puck carrier, but they seem like they are MUCH more efficient making plays to exit their zones or forcing opposing teams to certain areas of the ice.


In the AHL, it seems the offense has a bit of an advantage as many AHL defensemen can be seen looking like pylons as skaters get around them, or don't look as organized when faced with a rush.


I think the biggest tell on that is when you see a young AHL D-man do ok (or even great when facing AHL rushes) but look absolutely mediocre or downright deer-in-headlights-like when brought up for a stint with his NHL parent club and facing the same situations.


Its the reason why it truly is something special when a young guy like Minnesota's Jonas Brodin can make the transition to playing in the minors so seamlessly to the NHL...and look like he's been playing NHL defense for years.

It's something that you simply do not see on a regular basis.

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26
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