AHL notebook: Guzda, Ersson among new goalies to watch

Young goalies often require a longer development period, which often happens in the American Hockey League.

The AHL is where NHL front offices want their top goalie prospects. It offers a heavy workload, high-level offensive opposition, and a sometimes-scrambly style of hockey that will test goalies and force them outside of their comfort zones.

Each season, new goalies flood into the league, hoping to make a mark and get noticed.

Here are five of the most noticeable new goalies in the AHL (in alphabetical order):

Brandon Bussi, Providence (Boston Bruins)

Providence has long been a reliable goaltending supplier for Boston.

Tuukka Rask played with Providence before going on to star with the Bruins. More recently, Jeremy Swayman spent time with Providence before graduating to Boston.

The Bruins signed the undrafted Bussi, 24, to a one-year entry-level contract March 30 after he completed his third NCAA season with Western Michigan.

When the season began, Bussi found himself squeezed out of the goaltending picture in Providence. Veteran Keith Kinkaid was teamed with prospect Kyle Keyser. However, Kinkaid was promoted to Boston after Swayman sustained a lower-body injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1, prompting Providence to recall Bussi from its ECHL affiliate, Maine. Four days later, Keyser was injured in an AHL game, and Bussi took over the workload with Providence.

Through six games, Bussi is 4-0-2 with a league-leading .942 save percentage, and his 2.18 GAA ranks sixth. In his first AHL start, he shut out Bridgeport (New York Islanders), 1-0 on Nov 6. This past weekend his 43 saves helped Providence earn a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers).

Samuel Ersson, Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia)

Ersson was limited to five games in the AHL last season because of a groin injury which required surgery.

He has already doubled his workload from last season. Through 10 games, the 23-year-old is 5-4-1 with a 2.48 GAA and .918 save percentage. He has allowed two or fewer goals in four of his past five starts. Lehigh Valley has won five of its past six games.

Philadelphia selected the goalie in the fifth round (No. 143) of the 2018 NHL Draft, and he spent two seasons with Brynäs of the Swedish Hockey League before coming to North America last season.

Mack Guzda, Charlotte (Florida Panthers)

Florida signed Guzda to a three-year entry-level contract Feb. 7, 2022 amid his standout season with Owen Sound and Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.

An undrafted player, Guzda was named OHL Goaltender of the Month in December and January of last season and finished 25-13-3 in 41 games with a 2.68 GAA and .915 save percentage. He brings ample size (6-foot-5, 215) to the position.

Charlotte is in contention for the Eastern Conference lead, and Guzda, 21, is paired with veteran Alex Lyon in a dependable tandem. Lyon, 29, was with Calder Cup champion Chicago (Carolina Hurricanes) last season and teamed with top prospect Pyotr Kochetkov down the stretch and through the postseason. Through seven games with Charlotte, Guzda is 4-2-1 with a 2.56 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Matthew Murray, Texas (Dallas Stars)

The Stars’ plan was to have Murray learn the pro game with Texas.

Texas signed Murray to a two-year AHL contract July 18. But after Jake Oettinger was injured (lower body) against the New York Rangers on Oct. 29, Dallas management signed Murray to a one-year NHL contract two days later and recalled him from Texas.

The 24-year-old is 3-4-1 with a 2.74 GAA and .896 save percentage through nine games with Texas. Before turning pro, Murray spent five seasons at the University of Massachusetts and won the NCAA national championship in 2021. He won the Hockey East championship three times, most recently last season. He then signed an amateur tryout agreement with Texas on April 5 and was 5-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA and .947 save percentage in six games.

Oskari Salminen, Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets)

The 23-year-old goalie went undrafted, but he attracted plenty of attention last season from NHL teams.

Last season in Finland with Jukurit Mikkeli in Liiga, Salminen played 55 of 60 regular-season games, where he went 29-14-11 record with a 2.07 GAA and a .920 save percentage. His nine shutouts tied him for first in the league, while his 29 wins and 3,194 minutes led the league.

That effort prompted the Jets to sign him to a two-year, entry-level contract May 6, and his North American training has started in the AHL. He is tied for third in the AHL with 10 games, and he has gone 5-3-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save percentage as the team battles for the Western Conference lead.

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