The Saturday deadline to reach a new CBA came and went for the owners and players, sending the NHL into the third work stoppage under commissioner Gary Bettman. No one really knows how long this one will last, but it’s probably time to settle in for at least the next couple of months.
Because of that, it’s going to be a good idea for everyone to get more acquainted with the AHL affiliates of their favorite squads. Most fans have at least a general knowledge of what’s going on down there, but if you don’t, consider this your introduction, or a “primer” of sorts to prep you for the upcoming AHL campaign, which will not be locked out.
First thing’s first: in the AHL they play for the Calder Cup. That’s not to be confused with the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the best rookie in the NHL. The Norfolk Admirals took home the Calder this year, becoming the new affiliate for the Anaheim Ducks after the season. It was the first title in their history.
The rest of the NHL/AHL relationships are as follows:
Anaheim Ducks – Norfolk Admirals
Boston Bruins – Providence Bruins
Buffalo Sabres – Rochester Americans
Calgary Flames – Abbotsford Heat
Carolina Hurricanes – Charlotte Checkers
Chicago Blackhawks – Rockford Icehogs
Colorado Avalanche – Lake Erie Monsters
Columbus Blue Jackets – Springfield Falcons
Dallas Stars – Texas Stars
Detroit Red Wings – Grand Rapids Griffins
Edmonton Oilers – Oklahoma City Barons
Florida Panthers – San Antonio Rampage
Los Angeles Kings – Manchester Monarchs
Minnesota Wild – Houston Aeros
Montreal Canadiens – Hamilton Bulldogs
Nashville Predators – Milwaukee Admirals
New Jersey Devils – Albany Devils
New York Islanders – Bridgeport Sound Tigers
New York Rangers – Connecticut Whale
Ottawa Senators – Binghamton Senators
Philadelphia Flyers – Adirondack Phantoms
Phoenix Coyotes – Portland Pirates
Pittsburgh Penguins – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
San Jose Sharks – Worcester Sharks
St. Louis Blues – Peoria Rivermen
Tampa Bay Lightning – Syracuse Crunch
Toronto Maple Leafs – Toronto Marlies
Vancouver Canucks – Chicago Wolves
Washington Capitals – Hershey Bears
Winnipeg Jets – St. John’s Icecaps
As far as some premier talent to watch this year in the American Hockey League, there should be plenty to keep an eye on. But aside from the NHLers joining the folks down there, there’s already some pretty exciting players to watch. You have Cory Conacher out of Norfolk, who led the league in goals, was second in points, and was not only the league’s Rookie of the Year, but the Les Cunningham Award for league MVP as well. Chris Bourque, now in the Bruins organization, led the league with 93 points.
There’s some very strong goaltending to be seen throughout the AHL, as well. Ben Scrivens was the top statistical goaltender in the league last year, and was believed to have had a shot at grabbing the starting job for the Maple Leafs. He’ll have to settle for the starting job for the Marlies. Yann Denis, in the Oilers organization, won the Aldege Bastien Award as the AHL’s top goaltender.
Some of the top teams overall during the regular season included the Admirals, Icecaps, and Sound Tigers in the Eastern Conference and the Barons, Marlies, and Wolves out west. But whatever those standings looked like last year are sure to get an overhaul, with some of the talent joining the ranks of the AHL this year.
Several NHL clubs sent some of their young stars down to the AHL to give them a place to play during the lockout. The Barons will feature the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, with the Phantoms benefiting from Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier heading to Adirondack. Jeff Skinner and Adam Henrique are among the other names joining their clubs’ affiliates.
As big of a loser as the NHL is looking like they will be because of another lockout, the AHL could emerge a big winner. These games are always a ton of fun to watch and attend, and now should gain more focus with the top level at a standstill. Hopefully the AHL can grab some extra attention and win over a few fans permanently, as we all try to get our hockey fix.