SUN Hockey Pool

Who's top of the AHL class?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

If Todd Richards was filling out a report card right now for the Edmonton Oilers, four players would receive glowing grades.

In terms of having NHL potential, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins head coach believes Robert Nilsson, Tom Gilbert, Kyle Brodziak and Marc Pouliot are at the top of the class.

"I really like Tom Gilbert," said Richards, who has coached all four kids on the farm this season. "He skates very well, sees the ice and is a strong kid.

"In the new NHL, you need defencemen that can skate."

Out with a concussion for the last 12 games, Gilbert has returned to practise with the Oilers but no firm date has been given for his return to the roster.

In just four games this year, the 24-year-old American has a goal and is plus three in Edmonton.

Nilsson has a goal in three Edmonton games.

"He has some unbelievable skill," continued Richards.

"He has very good hands, can pass the puck really well. His vision is very good. One thing that I found - and I have only had him here a short time - is he is a little bit of a roamer, meaning he is a left winger and sometimes he is over on the right side of the ice in the neutral zone and it is just getting him to play in the areas of the ice he needs to play."

Pouliot's inclusion on the list is obvious. In 37 NHL games this year, he has 10 points and is reliable in his own end with a plus-two rating. Brodziak seems to be improving in Edmonton after being invaluable in the AHL.

"I do hold a special place for Kyle Brodziak," added Richards. "He has been a great player for me all year. He may be my MVP."

In 49 AHL games for the Penguins this season Brodziak has 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists).


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