When defenceman Tim Erixon refused to sign with the Calgary Flames 17 months ago, the Flames made the most of a messy situation by landing sniper Roman Horak.
Erixon was dealt to the New York Rangers. In return, Flames general manager Jay Feaster received Horak and two second-round draft picks in Markus Granlund of Finland and Portland Winterhawks defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon, a teammate of another Calgary prospect, Sven Bartschi.
The 21-year-old Horak is off to a flying start with the Abbotsford Heat this fall. With seven goals in seven games, the young Czech is tied for the AHL goal-scoring lead with Charlotte Checkers forward Drayson Bowman.
Horak was a Rangers fifth-round pick in 2009. He popped up on the Flames radar screen every time then Calgary director of player personnel Duane Sutter or special assistant to the GM Craig Conroy checked in on Flames prospect Ryan Howse with the Chilliwack Bruins. Horak and Howse played on the same line and it was hard not to notice their chemistry and Horak's play.
"[Horak] was a good all-around player who lacked strength, so we thought with time to develop physically he could turn into an NHL prospect," Flames director of amateur scouting Tod Button said. "His hockey sense and work ethic were his best attributes."
In a limited role with the Flames last season - he averaged only about 10 minutes of ice time a game - Horak scored three goals and 11 points in 61 games. With the Heat, he's not even on the first line and yet has been extremely productive in the early going.
Holtby back in form
Hershey Bears 23-year-old goalie Braden Holtby of Lloyminster, Sask., swiftly regained his form after missing two weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
The Washington Capitals playoff hero, who came within a game of leading the Caps to the East final with a 1.95 goals against average and .935 save percentage, checked in with a 35-save, 3-0 shutout win over the Albany Devils on Saturday.
New faces behind the bench
Twelve of the 30 AHL teams have a new head coach. Here are the early returns.
Springfield Falcons (Brad Larsen) 5-1-0-1--11 pts*
Chicago Wolves (Scott Arniel) 5-2-1-0--11 pts
Norfolk Admirals (Trent Yawney) 5-1-0-0--10 pts^
Lake Erie Monsters (Dean Chynoweth) 5-3-0-0--10 pts*
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Scott Pellerin) 4-2-0-0--8 pts*
Hamilton Bulldogs (Sylvain Lefebvre) 3-2-1-0--7 pts*
Binghamton Senators (Luke Richardson) 3-3-1-0--7 pts*
Texas Stars (Willie Desjardins) 3-4-0-0--6 pts*
Adirondack Phantoms (Terry Murray) 3-4-0-0--6 pts
Grand Rapids Griffins (Jeff Blashill) 2-3-1-1--6 pts*
Peoria Rivermen (Dave Allison) 2-4-1-0--5 pts
Milwaukee Admirals (Dean Evason) 2-4-0-0--4 pts*
*Rookie AHL coaches
^Was Norfolk's head coach from 2000-2005
What's going on with the Crunch?
The Syracuse Crunch were finally beaten in regulation time in a regular-season game. Most of the Jon Cooper-coached squad were part of last year's Norfolk Admirals, who finished the 2011-12 regular season with a pro-hockey record 28 consecutive wins.
With the parent club, the Tampa Bay Lightning, deciding to move its AHL affiliate to Syracuse this season, the Crunch emerged out of the gate at 4-0-0-1 before being beaten at home by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-1 on Saturday. The loss ended a regulation-time unbeaten streak that dated back to Feb. 4, when Springfield downed Norfolk 4-2.
How did the Crunch follow up with their first regulation-time loss in almost nine months? They dropped a 4-3 decision in overtime at home to Adirondack on Sunday.
The AHL saw crowds dip in the third weekend to an average attendance of 5,241 through 104 games, a mark that is below the 5,638 average of last season.
Here are the top five and bottom five teams in terms of attendance so far this season.
Top 5 Games Avg. Attendance
Providence 2 9,865
Hershey 4 8,892
Bridgeport 1 7,624
Lake Erie 4 7,038
Rochester 4 6,837
Worcester 4 3,694 (5,400 capacity)
Albany 4 3,456 (6,691)
Oklahoma City 5 3,372 (7,500)
Binghamton 3 3,205 (4,679)
Springfield 6 3,137 (6,789)
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