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 little southern feel as the Carolina Hurricanes take the stage with their affiliations in Charlotte, North Carolina and Estero, Florida
Affiliate Since: 2010-11
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 161 miles
Last Season: 37-36-1-2, 4th in West Division, 11th in Western Conference
While they did have two players in the top-six in points and the AHL leading goal scorer in Zach Boychuk, the defensive side of the puck was the downfall of the Checkers last season. Matthew Corrente was the sturdiest of the blue liners, but mostly due to his own zone coverage being far superb over the rest of the corp– who were more puck-moving oriented. That helped a bit, with both Mark Flood and Michal Jordan chipping in for an already potent offense, but they didn’t give much help to John Muse, who did fairly well in net winning 27 of his 47 appearances on the year.
Muse played well in his first full season in the AHL, not having to go back and forth from the ECHL to the AHL has he done in years before. With a 2.73 GAA and .915 save percentage, Muse was able to keep the starting job over Mike Murphy, who had a dismal 4-11-0 record on the season.
As mentioned from the start, the offense was something that the Checkers were solid at with Boychuk and Chris Terry in the top-six in AHL points, with those two, Aaron Palushaj, Brett Sutter, Viktor Rask, and Justin Shugg putting up 15 or more goals on the season. Rask will be looked at to contribute more in his sophomore season, as he is one of the top offensive prospects for the Hurricanes going forward.
Leading Scorers: Zach Boychuk (36g, 38a), Chris Terry (28g, 41a), Aaron Palushaj (22g, 36a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Boychuk is always on the cusp of a call-up, so odds are this year won’t be any different, though he and Chris Terry will be fighting it out for that call up. Rask still has a few years as there’s a logjam up the middle in Carolina. On the blue line, Keegan Lowe could see a call-up if he can stay consistent in his own zone.
Outlook: While they will have a little more leadership with the addition of Chad LaRose to the line-up, the Checkers are still trying to find their footing with a rather young team. However, the nucleus of Terry, Rask, Brett and Brody Sutter, as well as Boychuk, the big need would be able to protect Muse from facing so many scoring opportunities. That would require their offensive minded defense to be more reserved.
FLORIDA EVERBLADES (Split with Tampa Bay)
Affiliate Since: 2001-02
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 769 miles
Last Season: 37-27-3-5, 4th in the South Division, 9th in the Eastern Conference
The Everblades started off quick and picked up some help in the middle of the season by acquiring Philip-Michael Devos, Rob Kwiet, and Evan Bloodoff, all of whom provided a solid punch for the offensive stats side of things. Kwiet especially helped a defensive corp which was a little non-offensive with Jordan Henry going up and down from the AHL and Florida.
Rising goalie prospect Kristers Gudlevskis started off quick for the Everblades and then shot up through the ranks all the way to the Olympics and then the Tampa Bay Lightning’s roster. That void forced the Everblades to go through a lot of goalies, Trevor Cann getting a lot of the starts with Mac Carruth getting some starts down the stretch
The veteran squad only had two rookies who played the majority of the season, with Kyle Bonis provided a punch on the offensive side and Austin Levi having a consistent year on the blue line, while adding some physical play as well in his own end.
Leading Scorers: Brandon MacLean (22g, 41a), Mathieu Roy (26g, 40a), Kyle Bonis (25g, 20a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: With his play in Florida last year and frequent trips, AJ Jenks will be a prime candidate to go back and forth from Estero to Charlotte. Leading the team in scoring, Jordan Henry and even Mitch Wahl could be AHL candidates as well, but both will have to make sure to make a quick impression in 2014-15 rather than assume that they’ll get a call on their credentials alone.
Outlook: Unlike most split affiliations, the Everblades have been able to co-exist with having the Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning around in their organization. However, the big thing is that Jordan Henry is the only returning player who has been with the team before the 2014 calendar year. With both MacLean and Roy moving on from the Everblades, they are sure to bring in some journeymen and have some trickle down from Charlotte and the Syracuse Crunch in order to fill out the rest and to actually bring some variety to the team.