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 Minnesota Wild are up on their affiliates between the Midwest and the far Northwest: Des Moines, Iowa; Anchorage, Alaska; and Moline, Illinois.
Affiliate Since: 2001-02 (As Houston Aeros)
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 245 miles
Last Season: 27-36-7-6, 5th in Midwest Division, 15th in Western Conference
In their first year in Des Moines after moving from Houston, the Wild had a season they’d probably rather forget. Not only did they finish last in the Western Conference, 29th in the AHL, but they also scored the least amount of goals in the AHL as a whole. Once rookie Erik Haula was called up to Minnesota, Iowa’s scoring hit a skid and none of the team had over 15 goals.
With Haula in Minnesota, Carson McMillan and Zack Phillips tried their best to compensate offensively, but could muster much of anything in their tenure in Iowa. Jonathon Blum was able to pot the most goals with the extra man with six, while half of Warren Peters’ eight goals came on the power play, as well.
The top goalie job was Darcy Kuemper’s job to lose, but once he was also called up to Minnesota, it was on the shoulders of Johan Gustafsson to top some bleeding, but with only 12 wins in 40 games during his rookie season– he had some growing pains to deal with. John Curry played 17 games in spot duty, but only registered seven wins.
Leading Scorers: Zack Phillips (12g, 21a), Jonathon Blum (7g, 22a), Carson McMillan (12g, 16a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Blum and Mathew Dumba could be battling for the first call-up from Minnesota should they get into some defensive injury trouble, but the big question is what could happen to Kuemper when Josh Harding gets healthy and if he’ll have to get shipped back to Iowa due to a logjam in net.
Outlook: After a disappointing inaugural season in Des Moines, the focus will be on adjusting their style and getting more offense into their game. The workload on Johan Gustafsson or whomever is in net will need to be lessened as well if Iowa wants to have any aspect of success in their second season in their new home.
ALASKA ACES (Split with St. Louis)
Affiliate Since: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 3,175 miles
Last Season: 45-19-3-4, 1st in Mountain Division, 1st in Western Conference
The eventual Kelly Cup champions had quite the dominant year– scoring the most goals, putting up the most points in the league, and pretty much having their run of the Western Conference and league. Peter Sivak and Nick Mazzolini lead the offensive way for the Aces, both being in the top-five in league points. Sivak was tied for second in goals in the ECHL, as well. On special teams, Brendan Connolly and Evan Trupp were the top with the extra man advantage.
Defensively, Brad Richard, Drew MacKenzie, and James Martin held down the fort for the cavalcade of goalies who went through Alaska. While Mark Guggenberger was supposed to take the lead, he left the team– allowing for Gerald Coleman and then Olivier Roy to take advantage and have their time in the starter’s role.
Leading Scorers: Peter Sivak (31g, 52a), Nick Mazzolini (25g, 47a), Evan Trupp (17g, 33a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Should his play with the extra man continue to be solid, Connolly could be getting some looks by some AHL teams, while Ross Ring-Jarvi should also get some looks after a solid return to North America after a year on Norway in 2012-13.
Outlook: This past season will be a hard act to follow, but the Aces have always been a class organization who is able to succeed regardless of the turnover the team may experience. With a dual affiliation this year, the Aces could get a solid windfall of prospects if there’s an overrun of players.
QUAD CITY MALLARDS
Affiliate Since: 2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 330 miles
Last Season: 33-23-10, 5th in the Central Hockey League
The Mallards had a steady season, but nothing that they didn’t have in the past couple of seasons– middling in the standings with a balance of attack in their system. Jeff Lee, Gergo Nagy, Gabriel Levesque, and Thomas Frazee were 20+ goal scorers, while Levesque led the power play charge with seven goals with Lee having 12 assists with the extra man.
On the back line, Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel and Matt Duffy had the goal scoring touch, potting 11 goals each, with Mike Monfredo and Nick Rioux being the two stay-at-homes while providing assists when called on. Ty Rimmer saw a little more playing time than Thomas Heemskerk, but both had solid seasons, being in the top-7 in GAA and save percentage.
Leading Scorers: Jeff Lee (23g, 37a), Gergo Nagy (20g, 34a), Mike Stinziani (19g, 30a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Rookie goalie Parker Milner will be getting his feet wet with the Mallards, but should be getting some AHL looks in the middle part of the season. Dieude-Fauvel could get a few looks as well for his size and adjustment into the North American game.
Outlook: With less teams, the Mallards are all but assured a playoff spot in the CHL, but it should be interesting to see the development of players like Milner and rookie Jannik Christensen will be put on a solid stage to get their professional career started. The veteran presence of Jeff Lee and captain Darren McMillan will be a great help in transitioning the young players into the Mallards room.