AHL Preview: East Division

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.

Norfolk Admirals

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.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

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.

Hershey Bears

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.

Syracuse Crunch

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.

Binghamton Senators

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.

You can follow Matthew on twitter @m_speck and email him at mspeck21@yahoo.com with any questions or comments.


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