Inside Hockey previews the 2012-2013 AHL season this year with team by team previews on all 30 teams. Below is the Midwest Division preview for the American Hockey League.
NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks
2011-12 Season Recap: The Wolves captured the Midwest division last year with 91 points during the regular season and reached the Western Conference semifinals before falling to the San Antonio Rampage.
Key Additions: Defense-man Zach Miskovic and forwards Brett Sterling and Nathan Longpre
Players to Watch: Goalie Eddie Lack, forwards Zach Kassian and Andrew Gordon
Lockout Additions: Forward Zach Kassian
Season Prediction: With top offensive talent on their club this year including former Hershey Bears Andrew Gordon, Steve Pinizzotto and Darren Haydar along with Vancouver Canucks goalie prospect Eddie Lack, the Wolves are a Calder Cup contender and division favorite.
NHL Affiliate: Nashville Predators
2011-12 Season Recap: The Admirals finished behind Chicago in the division and reached the Western Conference semifinals before bowing out at the hands of the Abbotsford Heat.
Key Additions: Goalie Magnus Hellberg
Players to Watch: Defense-man Ryan Ellis and forward Michael Latta
Lockout Additions: Defense-men Ryan Ellis and Jonathon Blum and forward Gabriel Bourque
Season Prediction: With the addition of Hellberg in net and Ryan Ellis on the blue line, expect the Admirals to compete with the Colorado Wolves for the division title.
Grand Rapids Griffins
NHL Affiliate: Detroit Red Wings
2011-12 Season Recap: The minor league affiliate of the Red Wings finished in fourth place in the Midwest Division with 77 points, failing to reach the playoffs.
Key Additions: Defense-men Nathan Paetsch and Triston Grant
Players to Watch: Defense-men Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith
Lockout Additions: Defense-man Brendan Smith
Season Prediction: Grand Rapids has some young talent on paper, but won’t be able to compete in the Midwest division.
NHL Affiliate: St. Louis Blues
2011-12 Season Recap: The Rivermen finished fourth in the Midwest Division last season, recording 39 wins and 82 regular season points.
Key Additions: Goalie Mike McKenna and defense-men Scott Ford and Taylor Chorney
Players to Watch: Defense-man Ian Cole and forward Jaden Schwartz
Lockout Additions: Defense-man Ian Cole
Season Prediction: With the addition of Mike McKenna in net for Peoria, the Rivermen could sneak into the playoffs, but will likely face a first round exit in the postseason.
NHL Affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks
2011-12 Season Recap: The IceHogs finished in the cellar of the Midwest division last season, recording 79 points.
Key Additions: Forward Martin St. Pierre
Players to Watch: Defense-man Nick Leddy and forward Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger
Lockout Additions: Defense-man Nick Leddy and forward Ben Smith
Season Prediction: Although Rockford acquired some NHL talent due to the lockout, it appears to be another tough season for the bottom dwellers of the Midwest division.