It's opening weekend for the AHL, and the St. John's IceCaps get things started Saturday night on the road against the Springfield Falcons. Sunday they jettison to face the Connecticut Whale in an afternoon match-up between conference opponents.
Both the Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Whale (New York Rangers) were 36-win clubs last season, but only Connecticut scraped into the playoffs before being bounced in the second round by the future Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals. As for the Falcons, they finished a disappointing eleventh place in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoff for their ninth straight year.
It doesn't make a lot of sense to get too deep into handicapping last seasons results, given the seismic shift in talent this season thanks to the NHL lockout. Instead, it's best to look at the opponents as they currently stand and identify some key prospects who are expected to develop into difference-makers. The flood of young talent pouring into the league has added a hint of interest to each of the thirty teams it comprises and both Springfield and Connecticut have a number of players that fit the bill.
Tim Erixon (D)
||50GP-3-30-33 (Conn. Whale AHL)|
|Ryan Johansen||67GP-9-12-21 (CLB NHL)|
John Moore (D)
||67GP-2-5-7 (CLB NHL)|
|Jon Audy-Marchessault||70GP-24-40-64 (Conn. Whale AHL)|
Austin Madaisky (D)*
||70GP-12-37-50 (Kamloops WHL)|
|Michael Chaput*||57GP-21-42-63 (Shawin. QMJHL)|
|Cam Atkinson||51GP-29-15-44 (Springfield AHL)|
|Chris Kreider*||44GP-23-22-45 (Boston College H-East)|
Dylan McIlrath (D)*
||52GP-3-20-23 (Moose Jaw WHL)|
|J.T. Miller*||61GP-25-37-62 (Plymouth OHL)|
|Ryan Bourque||69GP-6-8-14 (Conn. Whale AHL)|
|Marek Hrivik*||54GP-29-41-70 (Moncton QMJHL)|
|Kyle Jean*||39GP-12-12-24 (Lake Superior CCHA)|
Matt Gilroy (D)
||67GP-3-17-20 (Ott/TBL NHL)|
|Andrew Yogan*||66GP-41-37-78 (Peterborough OHL)|
It should be noted that while Kreider and Atkinson logged most of their time in college or the minor leagues last year, both spent some time in the NHL. You'll remember Kreider as a valuable contributor during the Rangers' 2012 playoff run, where he notched 5 goals in 18 games.
We should also keep in mind that the Falcons will host the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday; the first team to visit Mile One Centre this season. Sunday's meeting won't be a true measuring stick for the IceCaps', but with crazy amounts of roster movement, we won't nitpick too much.
Tomorrow night's puck drop is at 7:00pm EST in Springfield, MA, while Sunday's game in Hartford, CT, is a 3:00PM EST start. To follow both games, go to www.thisisnewfoundlandlabrador.ca and join Brian Rogers with the call. You can also access the radio feed from the IceCaps' official website.
As for Arctic Ice Hockey, we'll have plenty more coverage including GameDay Threads for both games and a Sunday recap of the weekend's action.