The Syracuse Crunch have signed QMJHL leading scorer Peter Abbandonato to a two-year AHL contract. While the word has been out there for at least a few days of this signing, it was made official today. A former 2nd round pick in the QMJHL Entry Draft by the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Abbandonato was never drafted by an NHL team. Abbandonato has played in 264 career QMJHL games with 82 goals and 267 points over four seasons.
Abbandonato is definitely what you’d call a late bloomer. Listed at 5’11” and 192 pounds, he has a decent size. He is a left shooting centerman, though his future in the pros could be on the wing. He’s much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer.
He joined Rouyn-Noranda for the 2015-16 season and scored seven goals and 25 points in 64 games. He added 11 points in 20 playoff games with four goals. The Huskies won the QMJHL championship and proceeded to the Memorial Cup. In five Memorial Cup games, Abbandonato was scoreless.
Abbandonato did not show enough in his draft season and went undrafted in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He followed up his rookie season with 19 goals and 56 points in 64 games and 14 more points in the playoffs. Once again, he went undrafted. Going back to Rouyn-Noranda - and now wearing an A on his jersey - he put up 27 goals and 48 assists for 75 points in 58 games. He added another nine points in seven playoff games.
Without a contract offer in hand, Abbandonato returned to the QMJHL for an overage season and racked up the points on a very good team. He finished the season with 29 goals, 82 assists, and 111 points in 68 games to lead the QMJHL in assists and points. He led the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to another QMJHL championship and a Memorial Cup championship. He was a QMJHL First All-Star and also won the QMJHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player trophy.
Abbandonato makes the second QMJHL leading scorer in a row to join the Syracuse Crunch after Alex Barre-Boulet was signed prior to last season. Barre-Boulet went on to have a record setting year for the Crunch with 34 goals and 68 points in 74 games as a rookie.
But... we do need to pump the breaks a little bit. I know that it’s very easy to look at Abbandonato and think he’s the next ABB, or the next Yanni Gourde, or the next Jonathan Marcheassault. However, that’s lazy thinking.
It’s not all that uncommon for a player that is an overager to dominate in the CHL. They’re bigger and more experienced than the majority of the 17, 18, and 19 year olds they are playing against. The CHL only allows three overagers to dress for a team. The reality of the situation is that these 20-year old players should be at the stage where they are dominating the league. They’re simply too old for their level, and most of their classmates have moved on by now to USports or the professional ranks.
Also a warning sign is that he was signed to an AHL contract. That means the Lightning will control him for a couple years and have exclusive rights to sign him to an entry level contract during that times. But that’s also a sign that other teams, including the Lightning, did not see enough in him to offer an ELC. Team’s generally only sign players to an ELC when they see a fairly decent chance the player will end up in the NHL.
This isn’t to say that he can’t get there, though. Far from it. He’ll have every opportunity to perform in the professional ranks and prove that his dominance in the QMJHL wasn’t just being an old player in the league. If he can do that, then it’s quite possible that he’ll earn an ELC.
His most likely first step is going to be playing in the ECHL for the Orlando Solar Bears. He’ll need to really show off his skills there and prove he can play against men in a league that tends to be fairly physical. If he can do that, then there could be room for him in the bottom six in Syracuse. He’s got a lot to prove and my hope is that he’ll come into the season with a chip on his shoulder and prove the doubters wrong and earn his way up the depth chart.
Until then, let’s keep expectations realistic on Abbandonato.