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, we show the Vancouver Canucks and their wild travel affiliates in Utica, New York and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Affiliate Since: 2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 2.904 miles
Last Season: 35-32-5-4, 3rd in North Division, 10th in Western Conference
For this first time since 1993, the AHL returned to Utica and after a rough start; the Comets made a late season run that came up short for a playoff attempt. However, for a market that had been underserved in hockey, they came out and supported the new team. With a stable presence, the Comets should serve Utica very well.
Pascal Pelletier had a solid season, just finishing outside the top-ten in league scoring with 22 goals and 62 points on the year, while also putting up 11 power play goals. In Cal O’Reilly’s short tenure of 52 games in Utica, he put up 45 points with only seven goals. That amount is the same amount of power play goals that Benn Ferriero had on the season. The Comets had a strong right side with Ferriero, Alexandre Grenier, Nicklas Jensen, and Brandon DeFazio combining for 68 goals on the year.
Alex Biega lead the defense in scoring, while also tying the team lead for shorthanded goals with two. Rookie Frank Corrado played well enough to get consistent playing time, putting up 17 points in 59 games while learning the professional game. Peter Andersson and Kent Huskins provide some defensive help, while Yann Sauve did not do as well with a team low minus-20.
It was a rookie battle in net, with Joacim Eriksson getting the majority of the playing time over Joe Cannata, with Eriksson finishing with an even 24-24-2 record. Both rookies did have above .907 save percentages, which should be seen for an adjustment period when facing the AHL caliber shooters.
Leading Scorers: Pascal Pelletier (22g, 40a), Cal O’Reilly (7g, 38a), Benn Ferriero (19g, 20a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Odds are that top-prospect Hunter Shinkaruk will be getting the first look on the left side, while Cal O’Reilly and Nicklas Jensen could be on the shuttle back and forth. Shouldn’t be too many defensive changes, since they have a stacked line-up; but Henrik Tommernes could get a chance if he can start off the season hot.
Outlook: The most interesting thing to look at could be what happens with goaltending, as along with Eriksson and Cannata, Jacob Markstrom will be in Utica. If a trade can’t be found, there could be some movement for Cannata to Kalamazoo. Also, rookie Hunter Shinkaruk will be in Utica and probably use it as time to adjust to the professional lifestyle and the demands that come with it. Shinkaruk will be looked at to provide offense with Pelletier going to the KHL. The addition to Kane Lafranchise will help the stability in the defensive end.
KALAMAZOO WINGS (Split with Columbus)
Affiliate Since: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 2,329 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.