Morin, Kichton, and Hartzell get Player of Month honours

Travis Morin, Brenden Kichton, and Eric Hartzell have taken home AHL Player of the Month nods for their performance in January.

Morin, the AHL’s leading scorer with 65 points (26-39), had his best month of the season to date, putting up ten goals and 11 assists en route to Player of the Month. The 30-year-old Morin has appeared in three games for the Dallas Stars this season, just the fifth, sixth, and seven games of his career in the bigs. A ninth-round pick of the Capitals in 2004 — back when the draft went that long — played his way up to the AHL after completing four years with the NCAA’s MSU-Mankato and two years in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays.

An AHL veteran, Morin has racked up 272 points in regular season action in the AHL. Currently on a two-way deal with a cap hit of $550,000, Morin’s career has consistently seen the forward get to the next level, so he could be given some time to see if he can put it together in the NHL with Dallas next season.

St. John’s IceCaps defenceman Kichton, who received the Rookie of the Month honour, also set a career high for points in a month with 14 in January. The rookie defenceman’s three goals and 11 assists came on the strength of five multi-point contests, with a career-high three-point (1-2) game coming against Providence on Jan. 26.

Drafted in the fifth-round of the 2011 draft by the New York Islanders, Kichton went unsigned and re-entered the draft where he was selected in the seventh-round by the Winnipeg Jets. So far, the selection is paying dividends for the Jets, as Kichton made a good month better by earning a selection to the AHL All-Star team that will take on Farjestad in St. John’s next week.

Finally, Goaltender of the Month was awarded to Eric Hartzell of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Hartzell was signed by the Penguins organization after completing four years at Quinnipiac University. In his final season in the NCAA, Hartzell was awarded ECAC Player of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

January was one to remember for Hartzell, as he went 5-2 with a 1.33 GAA and .944 SV%. As for the season, in 18 games with the Baby Pens, the rookie goaltender has posted a 1.85 GAA and a .925 SV%.

Penguins land Mikkelson, bring in Hartzell

Over the weekend, the Penguins announced deals with Brendan Mikkelson and Eric Hartzell.

Mikkelson, who spent last season in Syracuse with the Crunch, was a second round draft pick of the Anahiem Ducks in 2005. Though he did get a brief shot in the NHL with the Lightning last season — he suited up for four games — he was primarily in the Crunch lineup, suiting up for 13 regular season games, and 13 playoff contests in 2012-13.

At just 26 years old, Mikkelson will be suiting up with his fifth club, previously playing games in the Anaheim, Toronto, Calgary, and Tampa Bay organizations.

Jason Iacona of Chirps From Center Ice had this to say about the signing:

Bombulie suggests he fills the role of Dylan Reese. He figures that Wilkes-Barre could do well to get another defenseman to fill the role Joey Mormina played.

Mikkelson was #35 on the Bombulie / Cignoli Big Board. Described as a “capable depth defenseman, solid in the AHL and can fill in at the NHL level.”

That certainly helps, as eluded to yesterday by Mike O’Brien, the Wilkes-Barre blue line is very young.

Hartzell, 24, has spent the last four seasons with Quinnipiac of the NCAA, and has been re-signed by the Penguins after signing his initial deal with the Penguins at the culmination of Quinnipiac’s season.

Last year, while with the Bobcats, Hartzell backstopped the team in 42 games and posted a 1.57 GAA and .933 SV%.

A Hobey Baker finalist, ECAC Goaltender and Player of the Year, and First All-Star, Hartzell will suit up in Wilkes-Barre next season to begin his professional career.