Lorito and Puempel Named 2018 AHL All-Star Classic Participants
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The American Hockey League announced on Thursday that the Grand Rapids Griffins’ two leading scorers, forwards Matt Lorito and Matt Puempel, have been selected to play for the Central Division All-Star Team at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino, to be held Jan. 28-29 in Utica, N.Y.
Each of the AHL’s four divisions will be represented by 12 players. Rosters were determined by committees of AHL coaches, and all 30 AHL teams are represented by at least one All-Star.
Lorito, in his third year as a professional, has earned his second All-Star bid in as many seasons in Grand Rapids, joining Gustav Nyquist (2012-2013) as the only Griffins forwards to earn back-to-back AHL selections. The 27-year-old ranks among the team’s leaders with 10 goals (3rd), 15 assists (2nd) and 91 shots (2nd), and his 25 points are the most by a player in a Griffins uniform this season. The 5-foot-9, 171-pound winger leads the Griffins with 14 points on the power play, while his five power play goals tie for 13th in the league and his nine power play assists tie for 17th. Grand Rapids’ lethal man-advantage attack places third in the Western Conference and fourth overall at 20.7 percent.
In the last seven games, Lorito has totaled eight points (3-5—8). He banked his first pro hat trick in a win against Chicago on Oct. 27.
During his first season in Grand Rapids in 2016-17, Lorito led the team in points (56) and assists (34) in 61 games. He went on to produce 13 points (7-6—13) while skating in all 19 Calder Cup Playoff games and helped the Griffins win their second Calder Cup in franchise history. Lorito, an Oakville, Ontario, native, made his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings at the end of last season – becoming the 165th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL – and contributed one assist in two games.
A four-year player for the Brown Bears (ECAC), Lorito led the Albany Devils in points (54) and assists (36) as a rookie in 2015-16.
Puempel, 24, has tallied 27 points (13-14—27) in 27 AHL games this season, including 24 points (12-12—24) in 22 games with the Griffins since the Red Wings acquired him via trade from the New York Rangers on Oct. 21. He skated in five contests with the Hartford Wolf Pack prior to the trade and posted three points (1-2—3).
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward’s 24 points and 12 goals are both the second-most by a Griffin this season while his 12 assists are third. Leaguewide, he ties for 17th with 13 goals.
A native of Essex, Ontario, Puempel is currently riding a career-high four-game goal streak and has amassed 11 points (7-4—11) in his last nine games.
The 24th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, Puempel has logged 79 career games in the NHL between Ottawa (2014-16) and New York (2016-17). He’s combined to post 15 points (10-5—15) and 28 penalty minutes with the Senators and Rangers, including scoring his first NHL hat trick on Dec. 29, 2016 at Arizona.
In his fifth full season as a professional, Puempel has recorded 138 points (73-65—138) in 197 AHL games between Binghamton (2011-15), Hartford (2016-17) and Grand Rapids. In his last full campaign in the AHL, which came in 2013-14, he tied for sixth on the circuit with 30 goals while adding 48 points.
Puempel was named the Ontario Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year and to the Canadian Major Junior All-Rookie Team in 2010 after leading all first-year OHL skaters with 64 points.
Complete rosters for the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic can be found here.
The 2018 AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 28 (8 p.m.) will pit the All-Stars from the two Eastern Conference divisions against those from the two Western Conference divisions in seven skills events.
In the 2018 AHL All-Star Challenge on Jan. 29 (7 p.m.), the four teams will participate in a round-robin tournament featuring six games of 10 minutes each, played entirely at 3-on-3. The two teams with the best records at the end of the round-robin will face off for the championship, a six-minute game also played at 3-on-3. The Central Division has claimed each of the last two All-Star Challenges.