Inside Hockey previews the 2012-2013 AHL season this year with team by team previews on all 30 teams. Below is the East Division preview for the American Hockey League.
NHL Affiliate: Anaheim Ducks
2011-12 Season Recap: The Admirals finished off an amazing season last year, defeating the Toronto Marlies in the Calder Cup finals, following a 113 point regular season. They changed affiliations in the off-season and will now represent the Anaheim Ducks in the AHL this season.
Key Additions: Defense-man Jordan Hendry
Players to Watch: Forwards Devante Smith-Pelly and Patrick Maroon
Lockout Additions: Forwards Patrick Maroon, Devante Smith-Pelly, Luca Caputi, Brandon McMillan and Kyle Palmieri
Season Prediction: Norfolk looks to return to the Calder Cup finals to defend their championship and have a great shot at a repeat. The Admirals added some quality NHL talent along with a few key AHL players.
NHL Affiliate: Pittsburgh Penguins
2011-12 Season Recap: Wilkes-Barre Scranton had a solid regular season last year, registering 95 points during the regular season, but eventually fell in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the St. John’s IceCaps.
Key Additions: Forwards Trevor Smith, Riley Holzapfel and goalie Jeff Zatkoff
Players to Watch: Forward Eric Tangradi and defense-man Simon Despres
Lockout Additions: Forward Eric Tangradi
Season Prediction: Without a lot of returning players the Penguins will surely be contender in the East Division of the Eastern Conference. Don’t be shocked if Wilkes-Barre Scranton finishes second in the division behind the Norfolk Admirals.
NHL Affiliate: Washington Capitals
2011-12 Season Recap: Hershey had an up and down campaign last season, finishing the season as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with 88 points, but fell to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
Key Additions: Defense-man Garrett Stafford and forwards Jeff Taffe, Zach Hamill, Mathieu Beaudoin and Jon DiSalvatore
Players to Watch: Defense-men Tomas Kundratek, Cameron Schilling and Dmitry Orlov and forwards Mattias Sjogren, Garrett Mitchell and Stanislav Gailev
Lockout Additions: Defense-man Dmitry Orlov and goalie Braden Holtby
Season Prediction: Although the Bears added some talent for their 75th season, this team will have trouble winning the division. They should be fine offensively, but big questions remain on defense and whether Hershey can stop top offensive clubs.
NHL Affiliate: Tampa Bay Lightning
2011-12 Season Recap: The Crunch, now affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning, finished as the seventh seed with 84 points before falling to St. John’s IceCaps.
Key Additions: Goalie Riku Helenius and defense-man Jared Nightengale
Players to Watch: Forward Cory Conacher and defense-man Keith Aulie
Lockout Additions: Forward Brett Connolly
Season Prediction: The Crunch also have a new affiliate, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and bring to their team standout forward Cory Conacher. I expect another playoff appearance by Syracuse, likely finishing fourth in the division.
NHL Affiliate: Ottawa Senators
2011-12 Season Recap: The Senators had a horrific season last year, finishing in the basement of the East Division with only 65 points.
Key Additions: Defense-men Tyler Eckford and Andre Benoit and forward Hugh Jessiman
Players to Watch: Goalie Ben Bishop, defense-men Jared Cowen and Eric Gryba
Lockout Additions: Goalie Ben Bishop and defense-man Jared Cowen
Season Prediction: Although Binghamton has some nice young talent, the Senators will be bottom dwellers in the East Division for at least one more year.