In the newest edition of Off-Season Shenanigans, this is gearing up to be a very interesting summer for the Cincinnati Cyclones in terms of the players that are assigned to the team from their AHL affiliate(s). Yes, you read “affiliate(s).”
Which brings us into our first topic, the current affiliation situation for the Cyclones. At this point in time, it is uncertain that Cincinnati will be able to keep both affiliations with the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers for the 2015-16 season. With the ECHL wanting to align themselves with the NHL at 30 teams (providing the NHL doesn’t expand past 30), the day will come when every ECHL team has only one NHL/AHL affiliate. So, eventually, the Cyclones will have to drop either Florida or Nashville. The question here is… who?
Of the 28 ECHL teams: Wichita, Tulsa, and Rapid City are the only teams without NHL/AHL affiliations. Alaska, Cincinnati, Florida, Kalamazoo and South Carolina are the only teams with duo affiliations, or in Kalamazoo’s case, a trio affiliation. With affiliations being a yearly discussion, it is quite possible Cincinnati will only have one affiliation this season. There’s a slight chance they “might” get lucky and be able to keep both, but the odds aren’t pointing that direction.
From the small portion of fans I’ve talked to, Nashville seems to be the fan favorite to keep as an affiliate. But if you want my take on it, I’d honestly lean towards Florida. They have had their struggles at the NHL level but their minor league system is top-notch and will hopefully give the Panthers a new on-ice presence. Have the Panthers taken Cincinnati’s key players at inopportune times? Yes, however, they’ve also come through for the Cyclones and played a pivotal role in the 2014 Kelly Cup Finals run. I can count on one hand how many times the Predators went to the Cyclones for Player Development over the past season.
Now that I’ve probably bored you to death with the affiliation rant, onto the good stuff!
NHL Development Camps are beginning to take place. Florida’s took place last week, beginning on June 29th, and concluding on July 2nd. Three players who donned a Cincinnati uniform through the 2014-2015 campaign attended. Those were in the form of (G) Sam Brittain, (F) Steven Hodges, and (D) Mackenzie Weegar.
Notable addition in Florida: 2015 Kelly Cup Finalis, South Caroina’s leading scorer, (F) Wayne Simpson attended. With 13 goals, 25 assists, for 38 points throughout the Stingrays playoff run, Simpson could have a few spurts in Cincinnati if he signs on with Florida and would most likely start the season in Portland (AHL).
Nashville’s Development Camp will take place on July 7th, and run through July 11th. The Cincinnati class that will be attending: (F) Frederick Gaudreau, (D) Jaynen Rissling, (D) Mikko Vainonen, and (D) Garrett Noonan, and (D) Jonathan Diaby.
Notable addition in Nashville: A name that is somewhat familiar to Cyclones, (G) Brandon Whitney, who appeared in a sparse amount of games for the Wheeling Nailers through 2014-2015 is now in the Nashville system and I fully expect Whitney to start his rookie season in Cincinnati.
With Brandon Whitney most likely going to be sent to Cincinnati, the goaltending situation could heat up as well. Along with Whitney, I also fully expect Florida to send Sam Brittain back to Cincinnati. So, what about Rob Madore? Rob has signed a two-way deal with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He was a terrific asset to the Cincinnati team over the past two seasons. Sad to see him go, but wish nothing but the best for him. Safe to say, I just became a pretty big Toronto Marlies fan.
In case you missed it, a couple of other well-known names in Cincinnati are now free agents and are no longer with the Nashville organization. Forwards Josh Shalla, and Zach Budish did not receive qualifying offers from the Predators. If you’re a Shalla fan, unfortunately, it’s safe to say he most likely won’t be back in a Cincinnati sweater. Budish on the other hand, surprises me. Looking at his numbers, Budish looks like another guy that can dominate the ECHL, but have trouble translating his game to the AHL. Budish tallied 23 points in 30 games in Cincinnati, and only 18 points in 43 games for Milwaukee during the 2014-2015 season.