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, the Columbus Blue Jackets are up as we travel to Springfield, Massachusetts and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Affiliate Since: 2010-11
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 687 miles
Last Season: 47-23-1-5, 1st in Northeast Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference
It was a solid season for the Falcons, who recorded their first 100-point season in franchise history since 1995-96. The downside of it all was the fact they were ousted in the first round by Providence, which put quite a damper on the season as a whole.
There was promise going into the playoffs, as late-season acquisition Carter Camper posted 20 points in his 19 games in Springfield. Another guy who wasn’t with the Falcons all season was Jack Skille, who put up 13 goals and 24 points in 22 games with Springfield, though he was called up and down from Columbus most of the year. Staying through most of the season, Michael Chaput and Sean Collins were the guys who produced the most offense, which wasn’t much– as the scoring was spread around.
Tim Erixon started to come into his own last season with a 38-point season in 40 games, improving his point total by nine point. The corps was strong in Springfield and very well-balanced with Patrick McNeill, Cody Goloubef, and Frederic St. Denis provided offense, while also not shurking their responsibilities in their own end. Of those four, 15 power play goals were scored of the 65 PPGs the Falcons scored.
The split tandem of Mike McKenna and Jeremy Smith held down the Falcons fort, providing veteran goalkeeping that most of the other teams didn’t have too much of. That said, both faced under 1,000 shots in their games played, facing an average of 27 shots a game and having fairly high save percentages. Towards the end of the road, Anton Forsberg came over from Sweden and won three of his four appearances with the Falcons.
Leading Scorers: Michael Chaput (19g, 26a), Sean Collins (16g, 25a), Tim Erixon (5g, 33a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Erixon and St. Denis will probably be the two guys who would be on the transit back and forth to Columbus, as defense could be an issue with Columbus during the season, even to see some different looks. Collins and Chaput could also get a few looks, even with newcomer Marko Dano coming into the fold next year
Outlook: With a possible full season of Dano up front and Forsberg in net, the Falcons may deal with a bit of a dip in the standings, but should be able to adjust nicely with the talent they have in their line-up. The addition of Jaime Sifers to the line-up will give the young line-up an older voice in the room and to help them adjust to the game and travel for the guys who are coming in for their first season or from overseas.
KALAMAZOO WINGS (Spilt with Vancouver)
Affiliate Since: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 259 miles
Last Season: 42-22-3-5, 1st in North Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference
The Wings were a fairly defensively sound team and a lot of that came from rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who had 23 wins and was top eight in the ECHL in both GAA and save percentage. Back-up Joel Martin provide solid relief going 19-9-1 in his efforts. The goalies got help from Elgin Reed and Dustin Cloutier, who were very solid in their own zone, with Reed provide plenty of offense, too– registering 33 assists and 39 points on the campaign.
Another offensive defenseman was Sam Ftorek, who was second on the team in points with 47, while Matt Caria was first in points with 58 points– 24 of those points being goals. Justin Taylor was the only other 20 or more goal scorer for the Wings, while David Pacan, Chris Lawrence, and Yanni Gourde put in 15 or more, showing the true distribution of the puck the Wings had on the season. Gourde, however, left the team in January to sign in the AHL; so who knows how much more he could have contributed if he had stayed.
Leading Scorers: Matt Caria (24g, 34a), Sam Ftorek (13g, 34a), David Pacan (13g, 32a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: With their offensive upside, expect Caria and Taylor to get looks from AHL teams, though it may not be with the NHL team they’re with. Also, expect Eric Kattelus to get a call-up from the Wings AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, as he has in the past. Kattelus has had decent seasons with the Wings and had good showings with the Wolves, too.
Outlook: With the loss of Binnington due to St. Louis no longer affiliating with Kalamazoo, it’ll be Joel Martin’s team– and with the showing he had in his limited time; the Wings should be solid in net. Ftorek’s leadership and ability to still be a force at almost 40 will be a nice bonus for Caria in his second season, while Ben Wilson should get more time on the blue line with a bit of a change over for the Wings.