As we get ready for the the 2014-15 season, it may be time to get yourself reacquainted with your team’s minor league affiliates and what could be in store for your team should they need a call-up or two. I’ll go through them team by team in hopes that this enlightens some people to their affiliate teams. Today, we start with the Anaheim Ducks and their affiliates in Norfolk, Virginia and West Valley City, Utah.
Affiliate Since: 2012-13
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 2,702 miles
Last Season: (40-26-3-7, 3rd in East Division, 8th in Eastern Conference)
After missing the playoffs in 2012-13, the Admirals got back on track last season with the breakout play of John Gibson, who then moved onto the parent Anaheim Ducks for the playoffs. The rookie netminder was top-10 in goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts in only 45 appearances in the AHL.
The late season acquisition of Andre Petersson helped the offense, as Petersson netted 16 points in the final 18 games, as well as six points in 10 playoff games. Emerson Etem had a very successful AHL campaign, putting up 24 goals and 54 points in 50 games, which was a big rebound from his dismal 16 point campaign in 2012-13, while Devante Smith-Pelly and Max Friberg added additional scoring, despite the Admirals putting up the least amount of goals of any of the playoff teams in the AHL (201).
Defensively, the captain Garnet Exelby was the rock for the corps, putting up only 18 assists, but staying solid in his own end. Jesse Blacker took over the offensive weight on the blue line after being acquired from Toronto, putting up 5 goals and 23 points in his 50 games in Norfolk.
The Admirals were in a tight race for the last playoff spot, which they took full advantage of as they upset the Eastern Conferece top-seed Manchester Monarchs in four games, but then losing to the eventual Eastern Conference champion St. John’s Ice Caps.
Leading Scorers: Emerson Etem (24g, 30a), Devante Smith-Pelly (27g, 16a), Max Friberg (17g, 23a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Both Smith-Pelly and Etem will be battling out for the last right wing spot on the Ducks against Jacob Silfverberg and Tim Jackman, while Stefan Noesen could very well be the dark horse coming out of that camp. All three of them will be in deep to get the next call-up from the Ducks.
Outlook: The Admirals will have a whole new look. Not only has Gibson gone to Anaheim, but head coach Trent Yawney is going to the Ducks as well to be an assistant coach. Jarrod Skalde will take over the coaching duties, while the goaltending duties will have Igor Bobkov and Jason LaBarbera battling for time there. When it comes to scoring, the team will be dealing with the loss of Petersson to the KHL, plus the call-ups of their top scoring threats in Etem and Smith-Pelly; the load could fall on Friberg to provide the majority of offense. With the departure of Exelby to Europe, it could be a tough year for Skalde and the Admirals with a pretty much whole new roster.
Affiliate Since: 2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 679 miles
Last Season: (38-24-3-6, 3rd in Western Division/Conference)
For his first season in Utah, David Vallorani was quite impressive, leading in all offensive scoring categories with 24 goals and 35 assists. One of the major categories Vallorani didn’t lead in was power play goals– which Jamie MacQueen had nine to Vallorani’s seven. MacQueen spent most of his frantic 2013-14 season in Utah and had an impressive 19 goals and 32 points in only 36 appearances with the Grizzlies. Danick Paquette impressed with his scoring, as well as his fisticuffs, putting up 23 goals, 49 points, and 277 PIMs last season, the second leading scorer for the Grizzlies.
In net, Igor Bobkov played amazing for the Grizzlies, being top five in GAA and save percentage on the season, while Aaron Dell came into Utah from the Central League’s Allen Americans to win 19 games in 29 appearances for the Grizzlies. The goalies did get some help from the likes of Martin Lee, Channing Boe, and Teigan Zahn, all of whom were very solid in their own end, while also contributing offensively on the blue line. Zahn, like Paquette, also showed a bit of a physical side to him, as well.
While they were assured a playoff spot when the San Francisco Bulls folded, they were disposed of quickly by the Bakersfield Condors in only five games– giving them a while to contemplate what’s going to happen for 2014-15.
Leading Scorers: David Vallorani (24g, 35a), Danick Paquette (23g, 26a), Mathieu Aubin (16g, 28a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: While, at the moment, most of the Grizzlies are under ECHL contract– should Dell return to the team, he could see himself getting a lot of call-ups to the AHL in one way or another. It’ll be interesting to see how many players the Ducks fill the Grizzlies with, especially with the possibility of having top prospects closer to the homebase.
Outlook: The Grizzlies lost a couple of key cogs with Vallorani going to Italy, Zahn going to the Colorado Eagles, Bobkov moving up to Norfolk, and Lee going to the Cincinnati Cyclones; but they still got Paquette, Aubin, Boe, and Matthew Pelech re-signed for the coming year; which should provide some kind of veteran presence for the new Grizzlies coming into play. The key issue will be if Dell returns between the pipes. The addition of former University of Vermont captain H.T. Lenz, former University of New Hampshire captain Connor Hardowa, and Rochester Institute of Technology leading scorer Michael Colavecchia— the new wave of Grizzlies could be a spark for an otherwise dormant offense last season.
This season is also the 20th season for the Grizzlies in Utah, which means there’s going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance for the team and could be a little added pressure to succeed, especially with an expanded Western Conference.