Better Know An Affiliate: Winnipeg Jets

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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 is the last instalment with the Winnipeg Jets and their affiliates in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario, California.

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ST. JOHN’S ICECAPS
Affiliate Since
: 2011-12
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 3,296 miles

Last Season: 46-23-2-5, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

A season after missing the playoffs, the IceCaps made it all the way to the Calder Cup Finals; losing to the Texas Stars in five games, but got a lot of solid help from unlikely sources– especially later on in the season when the cavalry was called upon from the ECHL.

With five 20-goal scorers, the IceCaps really showed their scoring prowess at will. Their power play clicked well, too, with Andrew Gordon and Jerome Samson combining for 21 power play goals, with four others putting up more than five power play goals on the year. On the other side of the special teams, John Alberts led the AHL with six shorthanded markers on the year– doubling the next top shorthanded scorer. Captain Jason Jaffray was the premier set-up man for the IceCaps, putting up 41 assists and 59 points on the year.

Rookie Brendan Kichton had a heck of a season, providing some offense from the back-end with 38 assists on they year, while Will O’Neill had seven of his nine goals on the year come from the power play, while also leading all defensemen in playoff scoring with 16 points. Zach Redmond had a solid year, as well, chalking up 25 points in 40 games while also putting up 14 points in 21 playoff games.

While they used an assortment of goalies, the IceCaps relied heavily on Eddie Pasquale for the first half, putting up 17 wins in 31 games. However, after the second half of the season, Michael Hutchinson took over in a big way, also racking up 17 wins, but in 24 games and then taking all the games in the playoffs, totaling a 1.95 GAA and .938 save percentage in the 21 playoff games.

Leading Scorers: Jason Jaffray (18g, 41a), Andrew Gordon (23g, 34a), Jerome Samson (27g, 29a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: Defensively, Josh Morrissey will be looking to get some NHL time, while Julien Brouillette has some NHL time under his belt and could get a look first should they need a little more experience at the time. Adam Lowry will get a chance in Winnipeg, but could get shipped out with Nikolaj Ehlers possibly filling that role that Lowry leaves.

Outlook: It’d be hard to top the season last year, but with some turnaround; it could be a rough road ahead. Hutchinson has gone up for the short-term to be the back-up in Winnipeg, so there will be a battle in net between Peter Budaj and Juho Olkinoura; with Eric Comrie nipping at their heels. Josh Morrissey and Brenden Kichton are going to be integral portion of the defense, while the leadership of Jaffray and Alberts will be able to speed the transition of JC Lipon, Austen Brassard, and Carl Klingberg to better professional players.

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ONTARIO REIGN (Split with Los Angeles)
Affiliate Since
: 2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 1,942 miles

Last Season: 44-20-3-4, 1st in Pacific Division, 2nd in Western Conference

Much like their AHL affiliate, the Reign were taken out in the first round after finishing 1st in their division and top of their conference. Even with the pick-ups of Rocco Carzo, Tyler Gron, and Jonathan Parker, the offense wasn’t enough for the Reign overall. Rookie Matt White lead the way in scoring, while Chris Crane was able to hop over and help out with White and Derek Couture on the power play.

Matt Register chipped in offensively, as well as being the anchor on the defense; while Olivier Dame-Malka provide muscle on the blueline and for the team overall. Two Winnipeg Jets prospect goalies were center stage for the Reign, with Michael Hutchinson dominating the league with a 22-4-2 record and held one of the top-three GAA in the ECHL well after his promotion to St. John’s. Jussi Olkinuora took over, but only had 14 wins in 27 games with the Reign after being sent down from the AHL.

Leading Scorers: Matt White (22g, 35a), Matt Register (14g, 30a), Mario Lamoureux (20g, 20a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: With the Jets probably using their spots in Ontario for goalies, you could see Eric Comrie, Juho Olkinoura, or Connor Hellebuyck fighting for time there. Also, Gasper Kopitar could get a lot of looks on name recongition alone, but will need to step his game up a little more in order to get more eyes on him.


Outlook:
With the new ECHL, the Reign could very well have themselves a solid season; especially with a lot of familiar names back, though it took a while for them to get signed up. Derek Couture and Everett Sheen will be looked at for knowledge as they are the longest tenured players, while Judd Blackwater and Dylan Hood will be nice additions for variety in the Reign line-up.

Better Know An Affiliate: Washington Capitals

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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 Washington Capitals are up with their affiliates in Hershey, Pennsylvania and Charleston, South Carolina.

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HERSHEY BEARS
Affiliate Since
: 2005-06
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 127 miles

Last Season: 39-27-5-5, 4th in East Division, 9th in Eastern Conference

Missing out by a mere two points last year, the Bears were not in the playoffs for the first time since the Capitals have been the primary affiliate. With some bumps in the road and losing at the wrong time, the Bears could have made up points here and there, but never could recover in the tough Eastern Conference.

It was goal scoring by committee, with seven players scoring more than 15 goals, despite Jeff Taffe being the only one to score 20 goals on the year. Taffe also led in power play goals with 10, while Brandon Segal, Casey Wellman, and Julien Brouillette all tied up with seven. Nicolas Deschamps was crucial on the penalty kill, potting two shorthanded goals and playing a solid defensive game from the left side.

While Brouillette was able to provide offense from the blue line, he had a solid time in his own end as well when he wasn’t in Washington. Both Cam Schilling and Tyson Strachan also helped protect the goaltending, combining for a +27 on the year. However, someone who wasn’t solid on both side was David Kolomatis, who provided much more offensive punch over his defensive side of the puck.

In net, David Leggio got the majority of the start, as Philipp Grubauer was in Washington for a time, as well. Leggio put up 23 wins for the Bears, while Grubauer had three shutouts, a .916 save percentage, but only a .500 win percent at 13-13-2. Leggio had a slightly higher GAA, but was 7th overall for most minutes in the AHL.

Leading Scorers: Jeff Taffe (21g, 26a), Brandon Segal (17g, 27a), Ryan Stoa (16g, 24a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: As I have done before, I checked with someone closer to the teams than I, which is why I enlisted Becca H. of Japers’ Rink for help. According to Becca, Tom Wilson will probably be one of the main guys on the shuttle to and from Hershey to DC, while Nate Schmidt will be the top candidate to be called up on defense. From my eye, Steve Olesky could also get some shuttle time for the season.

Outlook: With the Capitals looking to streamline the coaching aspects, the Bears who will go up and down will be more prepared. That should help with Troy Mann being in his first year as Bears’ head coach, thus a fresh sheet for him and the other first year coaches in the Caps organization. With Grubauer ready for prime-time he should be able to get plenty of starts and see plenty of shots. Stanislav Galiev should be one of the main contributors of the offense, with Joel Broda trying to get his NHL career back on track.

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SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS (Split with Boston)
Affiliate Since
: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 523 miles

Last Season: 43-23-2-4, 1st in South Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference

The main thing for the Stingrays last season was shutting down the opposition. The Stingrays were tied for second when it came to least amount of goals given up last season (173). Veteran Jeff Jakaitis lead the way for the goalie platoon with 24 wins in 40 games with a 2.16 GAA and .924 Sv%, while journeyman Allen York was able to come in to gather eight wins in his 14 appearances with South Carolina. The anchor on the blue line was Luka Vidmar, who transitioned his game to more of a defensive role rather than a more offensive one, which saw his point production drop-off by 13 from the 2012-13 season. Also holding down the blue line was Dylan King, who came over mid-season from San Francisco folding mid-season.

Conversely, only two playoff teams (Utah and Las Vegas) scored less than the Stingrays in the regular season– which is alarming and the reason why the goaltending and defense was heavily relied on. Peter Boyd lead the team in points and kept his point-per-game pace since joining the Stingrays late in 2012-13 from Bakersfield, putting up 63 points in 63 games. Wayne Simpson netted 22 goals and 41 points in his first season, while Dale Mitchell added 22 points after also coming over to the Stingrays when San Francisco folded mid-season.

Leading Scorers: Peter Boyd (25g, 38a), Wayne Simpson (22g, 19a), Patrick Gaul (12g, 19a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: In a split affiliation, the Caps are going to be limited in the number of players they’re able to put into their fold in South Carolina. However, Joe Diamond is probably going to be the most frequent of flyers to and from Hershey, while Michal Cajkovsky will probably need more time with the Stingrays than anything else.

Outlook: The most interesting thing to be determined is how the Stingrays will do with a dual affiliation between Boston and Washington. The amount of players that will be allotted to them will be determined by the end of both NHL and AHL camps. Of course, the goal will to probably keep the goals against as low as 2013-14, while trying to produce more offense with a more consistent line-up. Anything to take the sting away from their brief playoff appearance, which saw them getting swept by the Wheeling Nailers.

Better Know An Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks

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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.

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UTICA COMETS
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.

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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.

Better Know An Affiliate: Toronto Maple Leafs

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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 is a little bit of a short trip, as we profile the affiliates of the Toronto Maple Leafs; located in Toronto, Ontario and Orlando, Florida.

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TORONTO MARLIES
Affiliate Since
: 2005-06
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 2 miles

Last Season: 45-25-2-4, 1st in North Division, 3rd in Western Conference

After a solid season and taking home their third straight North Division title, the Marlies swept the first two series in the playoffs, eventually losing to the Calder Cup champion Texas Stars in a thrilling seven-game series.

Surprisingly enough, the team was lead by defenseman TJ Brennan, who lead the team in points, goals, and power play goals; which allowed him to win the Eddie Shore Award for most outstanding defenseman, which is interesting considering his minus-10; the second worst on the team. Stuart Percy and Korbinan Holzer where a little bit more consistent in their own end and made up for the Brennan mishaps that may have happened.

Up front, Spencer Abbott was the set-up man with 52 assists on the season, while Josh Leivo and Jerry D’Amigo were the two 20-goal scorers on the Marlies roster. The power play was solidly distributed out with Greg McKegg, Carter Ashton, Trevor Smith, Leivo, Brennan, and Abbott all had five or more power play goals on the season.

In net, Drew MacIntyre shouldered most of the load and being second in the AHL in wins with 29 in his 48 appearances. During his spot duty, Garret Sparks went 11-6-1 in 21 games, provided an adequate back-up work; with rookie Christopher Gibson getting into 12 games on the season, but was only able to garner five wins in his tenure last season.

Leading Scorers: TJ Brennan (25g, 47a), Spencer Abbott (17g, 52a), Greg McKegg (19g, 28a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: When given the chance to let someone who is more apt with a team, I outsource it out to them, which is why I turned to the Mysterious and Handsome Stranger of Pension Plan Puppets for his input. I was alerted that Stuart Percy and Tom Nilsson will be the guys who will be shuttled to and from. The big deal that PPP mention was that if Brandon Kozun is able to stick with the team; Greg McKegg, Carter Ashton, and Sam Carrick are going to be the most likely candidates to be called across the way in order to be the next Leaf.

Outlook: With a young goaltending tandem, the Marlies could see themselves dealing with Sparks and Gibson and their learning curves. Also, with Brennan being off the roster, there’s going to be more chances for Leivo and Abbott to step up their offensive game. This will be a season for proving themselves for the likes of Andrew MacWilliam, as he will be under a microscope to see if he’s worth the time being put into them in the minors.

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ORLANDO SOLAR BEARS
Affiliate Since:
2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 1,280 miles

Last Season: 43-24-2-5, 2nd in South Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

After being acquired from Fort Wayne, Mickey Lang contributed big to the Solar Bears with 27 goals and 51 points in 37 games with Orlando, as well as adding 13 power play goals. Jacob Cepis was part of the secondary scoring with 20 goals and 56 points, with rookie Taylor Matson contributing 43 points in only 39 games.

The goaltending was interesting with eight goalies being used including Garret Sparks and Christopher Gibson, but Cory Reichard making the most of it with a 13-4-1 record, despite having a 3.04 GAA. John Curry also put up some numbers with a 10-2-0 record in his tenure with Orlando. On defense, Blake Kessel contributed well with seven goals and 35 points after coming from Bakersfield, with Cody Wild being a solid contributor in his own zone.

Leading Scorers: Jacob Cepis (20g, 36a), Mickey Lang (27g, 24a), Taylor Matson (18g, 25a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: There’s going to be a good look at Cepis from AHL teams, who will be looking to get a lot of scoring in to improve his stock. Defenseman Gleason Fournier will be able to get some looks after he had some AHL experience in him already.

Outlook: With a big turnover, the Solar Bears will be looking at new sources of offense, specifically lead by Cepis. Brock Montgomery coming into the fold will bring something to the Solar Bears, especially with a leadership quality he brought from his time in the WHL. Kent Patterson is coming over from the Central League for his first turn at the ECHL and will be looking to prove himself with higher competition around him.

Better Know An Affiliate: Tampa Bay Lightning

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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 Tampa Bay Lightning are up with their affiliates in Syracuse, New York; Estero, Florida; and Brampton, Ontario.

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SYRACUSE CRUNCH
Affiliate Since
: 2012-13
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 1,269 miles

Last Season: 31-32-4-9, 5th in East Division, 12th in Eastern Conference

A year removed from losing in the Calder Cup, the Crunch were unable to capitalize on that success and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons. Not only that, but this was the first season in Crunch franchise history that they didn’t score at least 200 goals on the season.

Despite a dip from last year, Brett Connolly still lead the team and along with rookie Cedric Paquette, were the only players with 20 or more goals on the Crunch. Vladislav Namestnikov lead the team with seven power play goals. The scoring may have been a little more amped up if Nikita Kucherov didn’t have an explosive start and get called up to Tampa. Kucherov had 13 goals and 24 points in only 17 games in Syracuse.

When Kristers Gudlevskis was able to get a chance late in the season, the goaltending was steady, as he put up a 7-3-2 record after his performance in the Winter Olympics for Latvia. Other than that, Cedrick Desjardins was unable to handle the workload with only nine wins in 35 appearances, losing out when Gudlevskis was able to comeback full-time to Syracuse from his National team commitments and being called up from the ECHL.

With 23 assists, Dmitry Korobov lead the way for the defensemen, but didn’t hold down the fort on his own end. Only when Jean-Philippe Cote returned from his time in Tampa was there any kind of sturdy defense. Rookie Luke Witkowski was able to provide a stay-at-home aspect to the defense, while another rookie Nikita Nesterov added a little bit of defense, while also trying to push the offense ahead.

Leading Scorers: Brett Connolly (21g, 36a), Vladislav Namestnikov (19g, 29a), Cedric Paquette (20g, 24a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: Along with Namestnikov, Jonathan Marchessault could be another guy up the middle to actually get time from Syracuse to Tampa. Winger Yanni Gourde could also see some shuttle time from Syracuse to Tampa on the left side. The dark horse could be Mike Blunden, who could very well be down the depth chart, but play his way into a big position for himself.

Outlook: With a full season of Gudlevskis in net, the Crunch could very well be solid in net. However, the main point is to get some offense, considering that Connolly will probably be up in Tampa for most of the season and will take away a lot of the offense the Crunch had. It will be a huge time for Namestnikov and Marchessault to provide the offense and hopefully they’ll be able to have their game opened up for the season.

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FLORIDA EVERBLADES (Split with Carolina)
Affiliate Since
: 2010-11
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 144 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: 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 Carolina 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 Syracuse and the Charlotte Checkers in order to fill out the rest and to actually bring some variety to the team.

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BRAMPTON BEAST
Affiliate Since
: 2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 1,335 miles

Last Season: 33-26-7, 6th in Central Hockey League

For the first year team for the first Canadian CHL team, the Beast were able to put up a solid performance despite being so far away from everyone else. With three 20-goal scorers in Jason Pitton, Andrew Fournier, and Scott Howes; the scoring was there for the Beast, especially with defenseman Jamie VanderVeeken puttiing up 17 power play points, 15 of those assists.

Outside of VanderVeeken, it was a revolving door for defensemen with Steve Makway, Steve Ward, and Dan Milan doing spot work for the Beast throughout the season. While Kristofer Westblom got the majority of the starts, Grant Rollheiser was able to put up a better save percentage and more shutouts for the Beast overall.

Leading Scorers: Jason Pitton (27g, 28a), Matt Caruana (17g, 34a), Andrew Fournier (29g, 19a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: There could be a lot of looks for Jason Pitton, but the fact is that there’s not much of a leeway for the players in the CHL, as the ECHL usually gets guys suspended from their team. Even so, Pitton will be on the AHL watch with his offensive talent. Brayden Rose is a newcomer and should get a lot of looks if he’s able to get off to a good start in the CHL.

Outlook: With the league in disarray, the Beast could be on their last legs and will be willing to make a big impression in order to catch on with maybe another league should the time call for it. With Rollheiser coming back and most likely getting a lot of the starts next season, they should be solid defensively, which means Pitton and Caruana will have to train their younger players in order to get some more scoring for that team to help out their back line.

Better Know An Affiliate: St. Louis Blues

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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 Gateway to the West in St. Louis and the Blues are our focus, with their affiliates in Chicago, Illinois and back to Anchorage Alaska.

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CHICAGO WOLVES
Affiliate Since
: 2013-14
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 299 miles

Last Season: 45-21-5-5, 1st in Midwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference

After missing the playoffs last year, the Wolves came back in a big way in their first year as the Blues affiliate, being only one of two teams to hit the 100-point plateau. With a balanced attack, the Wolves were able to get themselves out of the first round, but were swept in the second.

The true story for the Wolves was the stellar play of Jake Allen, who led in every goaltending category except saves, where he was 2nd. It’s no wonder that Allen won the Bastien Award for top goaltender on the season.  Allen’s 33 wins was a catalyst for the Wolves play, while back-up Matt Clime did what he could in Allen’s place, but only mustered 11 wins in his 23 appearances.

Rookie Ty Rattie made his presence known by leading the Wolves in goals and points with 31 and 48. Along with Alexandre Bolduc and Dmitrij Jaskin, they led the team with five power play goals. Minor-league journeyman Keith Aucoin also chipped in 32 assits and 43 points in his first year in Chicago. After being sent down, Adam Cracknell put up 12 goals and 25 points in his 28 games with the Wolves.

There was a lot of offensive output from the blue line, especially on special teams where Evan Oberg put up four power play goals on the year to go with his 25 points, while Taylor Chorney had two short-handed goals with his 25 points. Mid-season pick up Mark Cundari contributed 5 goals and 13 points in 24 games with the Wolves.

Leading Scorers: Ty Rattie (31g, 17a), Keith Aucoin (11g, 32a), Alexandre Bolduc (18g, 19a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: Being one of the last cuts, Rattie will be one of the top guys in the league to shuttle to and from their parent club. Also, depending on how the Blues want the defense, Brett Regner could very well be battling for the 6th or 7th defenseman up on the Blues line-up. Colin Fraser should also be brought up towards the end of the season to bring some veteran presence to the Blues line-up.

Outlook: With Jake Allen going to St. Louis, the goaltending won’t be as solid as it was with Jordan Binnington, Matt Clime, and Mike Clemente all vying for time in the cage. The Wolves will need to get the most out of Rattie as long as they have him, while hoping the newcomers like Gergo Nagy can chip in a goal or 20 in order to give support to the goaltending and defense.

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ALASKA ACES (Split with Minnesota)
Affiliate Since
: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 3,723 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.

Better Know An Affiliate: Pittsburgh Penguins

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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, Pittsburgh’s Penguins are up with their affiliate teams in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania and Wheeling, West Virginia.

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WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS
Affiliate Since
: 1999-2000
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 265 miles

Last Season: 42-26-3-5, 2nd in East Division, 6th in Eastern Division

The season for the Baby Pens was something almost similar to last year, with the same amount of wins, the same first and second round opponents, and the same fate as they lost in the Eastern Conference finals. Despite their power play being 28th in the league, the Pens were still successful and got up to the 200-goal mark after a dip last year.

One guy who flourished on the power play, however, was leading scorer Tom Kostopoulos. Kostopoulos put up 13 power play goals in 71 games, which accounted for more than half of his goals on the season, which was 22. There wasn’t much dynamic goal-scoring for the Pens, until Chuck Kobasew came down and put up 11 goals in 12 games from late March and into the playoffs, where he put up eight goals and 14 points in 14 games.

On the back line, Brendan Mikkelson and Simon Despres played solidly, despite Despres missing chunks when he was recalled to Pittsburgh. Luckily, the Pens did have a lot of experience on the blue line, with Nick D’Agostino being the only rookie who put in real time on defense for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The back-up goalies for the Baby Pens did have better numbers than starter Jeff Deslauriers, but Deslauriers’ experience got him the nod for most of the season, despite only putting up 20 wins in 40 games. Veteran nomad Peter Mannino had a 1.56 GAA in 18 appearances, while rookie Eric Hartzell had a .902 save percentage for his troubles in 25 games.

Leading Scorers: Tom Kostopoulos (22g, 25a), Nick Drazenovic (13g, 29a), Andrew Ebbett (13g, 27a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: A serviceable bottom-six forward Jayson Megna could be on the shuttle back and forth to Pittsburgh, especially with a lot of center injuries in the past few years for Pittsburgh, while D’Agostino could very well get a lot of looks with the youth blue line in Pittsburgh.

Outlook: The windfall of goalies could see Jeff Zatkoff in WBS for the season, whether it be for a full season or half a season, which should help out Hartzell in his sophomore campaign. Carter Rowney, with his solid performance in the ECHL, could see plenty of time and may add a scoring punch the Baby Pens were so desperately lacking last season. The returning defensive corps should be able to keep the scores low and it’s just a matter of captain Kostopoulos trying to kick start the offense.

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WHEELING NAILERS (Split with Montreal)
Affiliate Since
: 1998-99
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 60 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 Penguins side, Rowney and Sylvester are primed candidates to shuttle back and forth to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if they don’t make the AHL team outright. If there’s a logjam in WBS of forwards, Matia Marcantuoni could see himself between Wheeling and WBS.

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.