Bakersfield Condors (formerly Oklahoma City Oil Barons)
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 41-27-5-3 (90 pts) — 3rd in West Division
2015 Calder Cup Playoffs Result: Lost in 2nd round 4-3 (lost game 7 1-0) to Utica Commets
Key Addition: Braden Christoffer wasn’t drafted by the major Junior leagues. He did, however, earn himself a spot with the Regina Pats after a stand-out year in the AJHL. His junior numbers continued to climb and he has been a stand out among the rookies this year (a hard feat with the likes of McDavid, Dreiseitl and Nurse in the same group).
Key Loss: Curtis Hamilton wasn’t the team leader in points, plus/minus, or any other fancy stat. He did have 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 60 games and a +1 rating. That plus rating? A little hard to find on the Oil Barons.
What to Watch for: Marc-Olivier Roy signed with the Condors directly after the Oilers didn’t sign him & every team in the 2015 draft passed over him. He was a second round pick in 2013, after having a great junior season. Since then, however, his production declined to the point of making him radioactive. If he rebounds in the AHL, he could be a force for the Condors.
Ontario Reign (Formerly Manchester Monarchs)
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 50-71-6-3 (109 pts) — 1st in AHL
2015 Calder Cup Playoffs Result: Won Calder Cup
Key Addition: Adrian Kempe only played 3 regular season games with the Monarchs before the playoffs began. In the playoffs, he had 8 goals & 1 assist (9 points) and impressed a lot of people. This year the Reign should have him all season.
Key Loss: JF Berube was claimed off of waivers by the Islanders on the 6th, removing a key piece of the team that won the Calder Cup. Also notable was Colin Miller who is a promising young defenseman that had his coming out season in 2014-15. He was rumored to be in the mix to fight for a spot on the King’s blueline before he was traded.
What to Watch for: J.F. Berube was credited with keeping the Monarch’s at the top of the league last season before he was injured. Patrik Bartosak stepped right up and took the Monarchs the rest of the way to the title. With Berube gone, it will be Bartosak’s net with an aging Peter Budaj to back him up. We’ll see if he can handle a full season at number 1.
San Antonio Rampage (Formerly Lake Erie Monsters)
The Rampage were around last season, but they changed affiliates over the summer, so the team is more closely aligned with the former affiliate of their new NHL team
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 35-29-8-4 (82 pts) — 4th in Midwest Division
Key Addition: Chris Bigras starts his pro-career as the top rated defenseman on the Rampage. Bigras has been consistently increasing his output with Owen Sound of the OHL and has been on the Canadian Junior team for the past three years. The Avalanche are looking to see if his 71 points in 62 games can translate to the pro level.
Key Loss: Stefan Elliot was a second round draft pick & was noted for being one the best puck moving defenseman in the Avalanche’s prospect pool. Elliot was second on the team in points last year with 40 (19 goals, 21 assists), outstripping the nearest defenseman by 10 points. He was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason.
What to Watch for: The Rampage split the preseason in two close games with the Texas Stars, giving no indication of how the new squad is working together. They started their training camp with no players returning from Lake Erie and only added 8 from the Monsters when they were assigned by Colorado. Not as sweeping a change as the Barracuda, but still significant.
San Diego Gulls (Formerly Norfolk Admirals)
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 27-39-6-4 (64 pts) — Last in East Division, second to last in the league
Key Addition: Eric Knodel was drafted by the Maple Leafs, but got shuffled out when the management changed and a house cleaning was done. He’s not a highly touted prospect, but with the Gulls bringing back most of last year’s team, he is the most key addition.
Key Loss: Emerson Etem just missed being able to consistently play in his home state, close to his hometown. Etem may not have been able to stick with the Ducks (hence him being traded), but he did do a lot for the Admirals. The team will need to figure out how to replace his energy & production.
What to Watch for: Can the Gulls translate the change of scenery and division into a winning season? The Ducks prospect pool has been garnering more respect recently and being in a division with the Calder Cup Champions could push them to achieve more.
San Jose Baracuda (Formerly Worchester Sharks)
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 41-29-4-2 (88 pts) — 3rd in Atlantic Division
2015 Calder Cup Playoffs Result: Swept out of first round by Hershey
Key Addition: The whole team? The Barracuda have only retained 2 forwards and 2 defensemen from last year’s team. In a complete rebuild that their parent club was supposed to go through, any one of the new players could step up to make a name for themselves.
Key Loss: When you’re swept out of the first round, including losing the last game 10-4, key losses become inconsequential. The team is getting a new start in a new location, with hopefully better results.
What to Watch for: The effect of being just down the hall from their parent NHL team. Literally. It has already been speculated that it will give the team an edge because the training & coaching staff will work closer with the developing players. However, the ease of calling up & sending down players could result in a yo-yo affect that hurts team chemistry. The Sharks have already recalled 8 players and the season hasn’t even started.
Stockton Heat (Formerly Adirondack Flames)
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 35-33-6-2 (78 pts) — 4th in North Division
Key Addition: Jon Gilles is a highly thought of goaltending prospect out of the NCAA system. He is forgoing his senior year to turn pro, and is not expected to need a season in the ECHL. If not for 3 experienced netminders ahead of him, he might be considered to make the Flames’ NHL squad. As it is, Gilles is projected to spend a couple of seasons in the AHL before making a push to the big league, but it could be sooner if the Flames’ goaltending situation changes.
Key Loss: Mark Cundari led the Adirondack Flames in points last season & brought a lot of both AHL & NHL experience to the team. Cundari will be playing with the Barracuda this season.
What to Watch for: Goaltending is currently the noted strength of the Flames’ prospect pool. An outstanding netminder can cover a variety of sins. If the Heat can get solid efforts from Gilles and Ortio, it can go far to balance their lack of noted elite scoring talent. The lack also opens the door for a young forward to make a name for himself.
Texas Stars (formerly Texas Stars)
The only team in the new division that didn’t go through large offseason changes
2014-15 Regular Season Record: 40-22-13-1 (94 pts) — 2nd in West Division
2015 Calder Cup Playoffs Result: Swept out of 1st round by Rockford
Key Addition: Remi Elie is a 2nd round draft pick from 2013 who has been steadily increasing his output in the junior leagues. In the OHL playoffs last season, he had 23 points (4 goals, 19 assists) in 19 games.
Key Loss: Their division. The Texas Stars were the second best in the weakest division. The only team that made it to the second round was the San Antonio Rampage, because they played OKC (one of them had to advance). The new division isolates the Texas teams, forcing them to play more of their games outside the division. The Midwest Division was the strongest last season, and is now the closest to the Stars.
What to Watch for: That new division layout could be a killer for the Stars. Or it could propel them to be better. It’s a toss-up