Following Saturday night’s season ending injury to Robby Fabbri, the Blues announced on Sunday morning that Magnus Paajarvi and Kenny Agostino had been recalled from AHL Chicago.
Paajarvi is a familiar name to Blues fans, having been acquired in 2014 along with two draft picks (one of which became Ivan Barbashev) from Edmonton in exchange for David Perron. He has 23 points in 116 career games in St. Louis, including one goal in three games this season.
Agostino, however, is seeing his first call-up this season after appearing in two games with Calgary last year. He has two points in 10 career NHL games, but his minor league numbers may cause some Blues fans to think he can provide substantial help.
Agostino is currently leading the American Hockey League in scoring. His 60 points are good for 15 more than anyone else in the league, and his 42 assists lead the pack by 11. He was also fourth in the NHL this preseason with six points. He’s played the majority of the year on a line with Magnus Paajarvi and Ivan Barbashev, and all three players are now active with the Blues.
Unfortunately, sustained success in the AHL is rarely a precursor of success at the next level. Indeed, the reverse causal relationship may seem obvious; players who put up strong numbers in the AHL and show NHL potential will be promoted more quickly, leaving longevity to those with less obvious talents.
Every year, the AHL awards the John B. Sollenberger Trophy to its leading scorer. A quick perusal of the recent winners shows historically great AHL players like Chris Bourque and Darren Haydar, but in the last ten years, only Brandon Pirri has had measurable NHL success.
Jason Spezza won the trophy in 2004-05, but was only playing in the AHL due to the NHL lockout. Prior to him, Derek Armstrong’s 2000-01 victory is the next by a player who had even a moderately successful NHL career.
There are, of course, examples that run the other direction. Darryl Hunt, a Worcester hockey stalwart who has covered the AHL IceCats and Sharks and now covers the ECHL Railers, pointed out that Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman has had a great deal of AHL success.
Hoffman put up 102 points in 191 career AHL games before breaking into the NHL full time in his age 25 season. Since making that leap in 2014-15, Hoffman has 144 points in 202 NHL games.
Agostino’s numbers have been much better. He has 160 points in 180 games, and coincidentally, is just now 25. Hoffman was drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, and Agostino was drafted in the same round the following year.
If Kenny Agostino becomes Mike Hoffman, the St. Louis Blues will be thrilled, and the Calgary Flames will be kicking themselves for letting him go. While that’s far from the most likely outcome, it’s at least enough to give the Blues a glimmer of hope that he can carry the huge offensive load that must now be picked up.