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, a Western New York feel with the Buffalo Sabres and their affiliates in Rochester and Elmira, New York.
Affiliate Since: 2011-12
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 76 miles
Last Season: 37-28-6-5, 2nd in North Division, 7th in Western Conference
It was a long season with plenty of travel for the Rochester Americans, one of which included a stop in Davos, Switzerland for the Spengler Cup. Coupled with travel, injuries to the Buffalo roster required plenty of call-ups from Rochester, thus not allowing much to gel. That said, the played well enough to get into the playoffs and almost pulled off a first round upset.
With the vast amount of players, they were able to get plenty of depth scoring with nine players putting up 10 goals or more, but only Luke Adam had over 20 goals with 29 on the season. In his first North American season, Joel Armia had a bit of a learning curve with only 27 points to show in 50 games, but should use it as an adaptive season for him leading into a new year. Kevin Porter was able to step into a secondary goal scoring role, putting up 19 goals in the 2013-14 campaign.
Between the pipes, when they weren’t called up to the big club– Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett were splitting time as a starter for the Amerks. Lieuwen had a heck of a rookie season with 17 wins on the campaign with a .922 Sv% on the season. Hackett was the only non-rookie goalie to play, as Andrey Makarov was the only other goalie to get significant time in the Amerks net with ten games to his name and a .927 Sv% for the season.
Another bright spot for the Amerks was Rasmus Ristolainen’s rookie season. Ristolainen went through a lot of travel playing in Buffalo at the start of the year, then getting sent to Rochester in November. Ristolainen also played for Finland in the World Juniors, bringing home a gold medal. In 34 games for the Amerks, Ristolainen put up six goals and 20 points– which should prove to be a solid step forward for the future.
Leading Scorers: Phil Varone (18g, 43a), Luke Adam (29g, 20a), Johan Larsson (15g, 26a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Up the middle, the Sabres are very deep with Luke Adam and much maligned Mikhail Grigorenko could be the two main pieces that will be called up should injuries strike again this coming season. Nick DesLauriers could also be a candidate on the right side, as well as Larsson– should he not make the roster out of training camp.
Outlook: With less travel thanks to a better division alignment, and hopefully less injuries to deal with, the Amerks will be a little better off for themselves on the season. With their record despite all that went on, the Amerks could be one of the classes of the AHL next season to watch.
Affiliate Since: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 143 miles
Last Season: 24-40-3-5, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference
It couldn’t get much worse for the Jackals, especially when it comes to goal-scoring, as only the Las Vegas Wranglers scored less than the Jackals. With only 176 goals on the season, the Jackals needed plenty of support and were never able to get it and weren’t able to keep it out of their own net with a league worst -76 goal differential on the season.
The only boost was the mid-season acquisition of Mike Vaskivuo from Fort Wayne as he put up 14 goals and 38 points in 42 games with Elmira. The leading goal-scorers for the Jackals didn’t even have over 20 goals, with Rob Bellamy and Danny Hobbs were tied with 17 goals on the year. On the upside, the defense was able to get some offense sparked as Kyle Bushee and Danny New were able to spark some kind of offense starting from their own end.
In net, the Jackals had goalies who had a solid save percentage, but their GAA was astronomical. Scott Greenham (3.21 GAA, .904 Sv%) and Neil Conway (3.10 GAA, .913 Sv%) did what they could in order to keep the Jackals in it, but no aid didn’t help their stats whatsoever.
Leading Scorers: Jordan Piertus (15g, 30a), Rob Bellamy (17g, 21a), Mike Vaskivuo (14g, 24a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: The big movers will probably be those who don’t make the cut from the Amerks camp. Those are to be determined, but the pipeline of prospects the Sabres have should boost the talent of the Jackals and increase the potential for a much better season from 2013-14.
Outlook: With a whole new affiliate, rather than a split affiliation last year; as well as community ownership– it should give a little bit of relief for the Jackals this season; especially with the close ties that they’ll have near Buffalo. Well-travelled enforcer Andrew Conboy will provide leadership and toughness to the new Jackals club, while Patch Alber, Ryan Rashid, and Nick Tuzzolino are the only ones right now who are returning from last year– Alber being the only one who played an entire season in Elmira. There should be some trickle down from Rochester, who already have a logjam on their roster.