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 Canadiens of Montreal are up with their affiliates in Hamilton, Ontario and Wheeling, West Virginia.
Affiliate Since: 2002-03
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 377 miles
Last Season: 33-35-1-7, 5th in North Division, 13th in Western Conference
There wasn’t too much to write home about for the Hamilton Bulldogs last season, who seemed to have some hiccups when goalie Dustin Tokarski was called-up by Montreal during the season. Tokarski was a rock, with 20 wins in 41 games; while Robert Mayer only posted 10 wins in his 29 appearances. With Tokarski not being there to help, it seemed that the defense was a little lost with Mayer in net.
Outside of Greg Pateryn and Morgan Ellis, the defense was a little shaky in their own end. Pateryn was a solid offensive force when called upon; leading the team in the power play goals with seven. However, the rest of the defense didn’t really provide much offense outside of Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu, who had 20 assists and 27 points in 57 games. The blueline is still a little young and defensemen take longer to mature, so it should be babysteps for the core of the Bulldogs.
Offensively, there was not a 20-goal scorer for the Bulldogs, for whatever that is worth. However, it seems that this continues the defensive trend that the Bulldogs have had with under 200 goals-for for the past three season. Martin St. Pierre lead the way with 38 assists and 48 points in 71 games, while Gabriel Dumont lead the team in goals with 19, while picking up 111 PIMs and six power play goals. Rookie Sven Andrighetto had a stellar season for the Bulldogs with 44 points, to be second in the team for points.
Leading Scorers: Martin St. Pierre (10g, 38a), Sven Andrighetto (17g, 27a), Mike Blunden (18g, 19a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: One of the main focuses could be the battle for the sixth and seventh defensive spot in Montreal. Expect to see Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, or even Magnus Nygren getting a call for those spots, with Morgan Ellis and Davis Drewiske as outliers in that call-up. With more time, Andrighetto could get a late-season call-up should he continue to progress.
Outlook: The big issue for the Bulldogs is whether or not Dustin Tokarski is at their disposal for most of the season. With a clog in net in Montreal, the fortune of the Bulldogs will be that of having Tokarski. If not, the pick-up of Joey MacDonald should help the goaltending aspect if Tokarski is up in Montreal full-time. Also to be looked at is the arriving newcomers the likes of Tim Bozon, Jake Dowell, and Joe Finley to the fold.
WHEELING NAILERS (Split with Pittsburgh)
Affiliate Since: 2010-11
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 655 miles
Last Season: 39-27-1-5, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 7th in Eastern Conference
Youth was served well in the Wheeling, with three of the top-five in team scoring being rookies to the Nailers in 2013-14. Sahir Gill, Carter Rowney, and Cody Sylvester stood out in a big way for the Nailers with Rowney and Sylvester getting an extended look in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Defenseman Mike Ratchuk was superb on the power play, putting in a team leading six goals with the extra-man from the blueline, while another rookie– Max MacKay— was second in PPGs with five.
Another rookie starred in net, with Mike Condon being top-six in the league in wins, save percentage, and GAA, while putting up 23 wins in 39 games, leading the way for the Nailers to help upset the South Carolina Stingrays in the first round of the playoffs.
Leading Scorers: Sahir Gill (13g, 41a), Zack Torquato (14g, 38a), Mike Ratchuk (15g, 29a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: For the Canadiens side, Mike Condon got called upon for a small workload in Hamilton last year, which could be the same for this coming season as well. Myles Harvey saw time in Hamilton, but could be held back just a little bit and only used sparingly if called up again.
Outlook: Usually a dual affiliation is pretty tough to deal with, especially in the ECHL with guys getting called from every direction, but the Nailers have been able to survive with it. Should they have a good luck where very few guys get called up, then they’ll be setting a little better than last year. Not to mention having guys who are another year more experienced doesn’t hurt either so long as they don’t have a sophomore slump.