AHL Preview: Northeast Division

Inside Hockey previews the 2012-2013 AHL season this year with team by team previews on all 30 teams. Below is the Northeast Division preview for the American Hockey League.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers

NHL Affiliate: New York Islanders

2011-12 Season Recap: Bridgeport had a solid regular season last year, winning the Northeast Division and recording a 41-26-3-6 record. They went into the Calder Cup playoffs as the number three seed in the Eastern Conference, but were quickly eliminated in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Key Additions: Forwards Colin McDonald, Brandon Defazio, Matt Watkins and defense-man Nathan McIver

Players to Watch: Goalie Anders Nilsson and defense-man Travis Hamonic

Lockout Additions: Defense-man Travis Hamonic

Season Prediction: The Sound Tigers added some solid pieces this off-season and the NHL lockout will help Bridgeport this season. Unfortunately for the Sound Tigers, their divisional opponents also added talent. I expect Bridgeport to finish third in the division and be in contention for a playoff spot.

Connecticut Whale

NHL Affiliate: New York Rangers

2011-12 Season Recap: The Whale placed sixth in the Eastern Conference last season with a 86 point regular season. Connecticut battled in the Calder Cup playoffs, but eventually fell to the Norfolk Admirals in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They didn’t have any big name players, but put in a scrappy effort from several key role players that took them far in the postseason.

Key Additions: Defense-man Sean Collins and Forward Brandon Segal

Players to Watch: Forwards J.T. Miller and Ryan Bourque

Lockout Additions: Forwards Chris Kreider and Michael Haley and defense-man Matt Gilroy

Season Prediction: With the addition of some NHL talent, especially speed forward Chris Kreider, the Whale should return to the AHL playoffs and could be in contention for  a division title.

Adirondack Phantoms

NHL Affiliate: Philadelphia Flyers

2011-12 Season Recap: The Adirondack Phantoms, soon to be moved to Allentown, missed the playoffs once again last season, finishing the campaign with a 37-35-2-2 record. Michael Leighton anchored them in goal for most of the year, but there wasn’t enough scoring or sound defensive play to transform this squad a playoff contender last season.

Key Additions: Goalies Cal Heeter and Scott Munroe, defense-man Danny Syvret and forward Zach Fitzgerald

Players to Watch: Goalie Cal Heeter, forwards Ben Holmstrom and Tyler Brown and defense-man Erik Gustaffson

Lockout Additions: Forwards Zach Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier and defense-men Erik Gustaffson and Marc-Andre Bourdon

Season Prediction: The Phantoms added some great forward and defensive depth due to the lockout and should be a dark horse candidate to win the Northeast Division. The big question will be in net, whether Cal Heeter and Scott Munroe can set aside enough shots aside to enable the Phantoms offense to win games. I expect Adirondack to finish second in the division and reach the playoffs.

Springfield Falcons

NHL Affiliate: Columbus Blue Jackets

2011-12 Season Recap: Springfield finished fourth in the Northeast Division last season, posting a 36-34-3-3 regular season record.

Key Additions: Defense-man Tim Erixon and forwards Ryan Craig and Jonathon Audy-Marchessault

Players to Watch: Defense-man Tim Erixon, John Moore and David Savard and forward Matt Calvert

Lockout Additions: Forwards Cody Bass and Cam Atkinson

Season Prediction: This team added some nice talent via trades by the Columbus Blue Jackets this off-season and during free agency, but won’t be able to compete with their division opponents. Expect Springfield at the bottom of the standings.

Albany Devils

NHL Affiliate: New Jersey Devils

2011-12 Season Recap: The Albany Devils struggled mightily last season, finishing last in the Northeast Division, posting a 31-34-6-5 record. They had problems scoring and never had a true team identity.

Key Additions: Forward Phil DeSimone

Players to Watch: Forwards Tim Sestito and Bobby Butler

Lockout Additions:  Defense-man Adam Larsson and forwards Bobby Butler and Adam Henrique

Season Prediction: Although last year is a season Albany would like to forget, the Devils have a chance to go from last to first in one season. Adding future NHL stars in Henrique and Larsson will help the cause in Albany.

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

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