While much has changed in the North Division heading into this year, one thing has remained constant since the start of the season: the class of the division continues to lie in Syracuse & Toronto. Here are our breakdowns for each team heading into Monday’s trade deadline.
Division Record: 14-21-1-2
Leading Scorer: Jim O’Brien, 28 points (13 G, 15 A)
Affiliation: Ottawa Senators
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: LW Daniel Ciampini, C Kyle Flanagan, D Jordan Murray, RW Eric Selleck, C Ethan Werek
Strength(s) of team: Overtime record and shootout wins.
State of the team: The Belleville Senators are engaged in a two-team race to the bottom of the North Division with the Binghamton Devils, but they have a few games in hand. While their overall record is not good, they are 6-1 in games taken to overtime and 5-3 in shootout, good for the second-best extra time win percentage behind the San Diego Gulls. In 59 games played, this team has only scored first 19 times (12-6-0-1). They find themselves in a hole early and often, something extremely difficult to overcome. Belleville is also the most penalized team in the league with 1,021 PIMs and the league’s third-worst penalty kill (77.2%). Unfortunately, there is little-to-no chance they make the playoffs at this point in the season and therefore the Senators should focus on retooling for the fall.
Division Record: 13-19-3-3
Leading Scorer: Jacob MacDonald, 40 points (15 G, 25 A)
Affiliation: New Jersey Devils & Adirondack Thunder
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: C Austin Cangelosi, C Tim Kennedy, D Jacob MacDonald, C Jan Mandat
Strength(s) of team: Christoph Bertschy, Jake Walman, and Blake Spears.
State of the team: For being affiliated with an ECHL team which has produced so many AHL players this season, the Binghamton Devils are missing out on players within their organization which could have improved this team from the very beginning of the season. At this point, they are neck and neck with Belleville for the bottom of the North division, and do just as poorly at home as they do on the road. MacDonald does lead the league in defensive points, goals and power-play goals, but there is not a lot of scoring depth on the team. While having a high-scoring defenseman is certainly an asset, it also means the forwards are under producing. There is not much hope for this team making the playoffs at this point, and therefore there is nothing they could gain from free agency.
Division Record: 18-16-5-1
Leading Scorer: Chris Terry, 48 points (23 G, 25 A)
Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens & Brampton Beast
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: LW Luc-Olivier Blain, LW Jordan Boucher, LW David Broll, D Willie Corrin, D Eric Gelinas, D Stefan Leblanc, C Niki Petti, LW Yannick Veilleux, D Tyson Wilson
Strength(s) of team: Home PK record (87.5%).
State of the team: The organization as a whole is poised to miss the playoffs. While the Canadiens are currently in a rebuilding stage, they need to start getting in young talent to develop and that begins at the AHL level. As evidenced by the number of AHL-contracted players, the Canadiens still need to buy in more on a development level. Being as far out of the playoffs as they are, the Rocket stands to gain little during free agency unless they add tools for next season.
Division Record: 19-13-6-4
Leading Scorer: C.J. Smith, 39 points (14 G, 25 A)
Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres & Cincinnati Cyclones
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: D Conor Allen, C Colin Blackwell, C Justin Danforth, C/LW Sahir Gill, D Barry Goers, C Adam Krause, D Andrew MacWilliam, LW Daniel Muzito Bagenda, D Nathan Paetsch, D Stuart Percy, LW Garret Ross, LW Dalton Smith
Strength(s) of team: Depth from guys on AHL-only contracts and scoring depth as a whole.
State of the team: For a team which has not made the playoffs since the 2013-14 season, the Americans are sitting pretty in a playoff spot. They have shown how to build a playoff-caliber team when you’re not getting many bodies from your parent club. The Americans have eight players with 20+ points on the season, and this depth can do nothing but play to their advantage. However, they are a very hot and cold team. Rochester owns two of the five highest goal totals by an AHL team this season, but is also on a half month home losing streak. If they want to make it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, they need some help in their own zone. Rochester also needs to improve upon deciding games in regulation. It has played in 24 games requiring extra time, four more than the next-highest teams, and a .375 Win PCT in those games. With the scoring depth it has, Rochester does not have to make a move but bringing in someone to help end games in regulation could be a huge help.
Division Record: 24-14-3-2
Leading Scorer: Mathieu Joseph, 38 points (10 G, 28 A)
Affiliation: Tampa Bay Lightning
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: LW Olivier Archambault, C Kevin Lynch, D Reid McNeill
Strength(s) of team: Organizational depth, home record and recent play (8-1-1-0).
State of the team: When you have as successful and as deep of a parental organization as the Crunch do with the Lightning, it’s inevitable they will be successful. While they need to crack down on the number of penalty minutes they take, especially since their home penalty kill is 82.1% only, they also have to figure out their home power-play success. This team sits second in its division but possesses the league’s worst home power play at 12.3%. Adding a power-play specialist could really benefit this team as it stares down playoffs.
Division Record: 29-10-1-0
Leading Scorer: Andreas Johnsson, 52 points (24 G, 52 A)
Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs, Orlando Solar Bears
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: LW Rich Clune, LW Jean Dupuy, LW Mason Marchment
Strength(s) of team: Organizational depth, ability to win games in regulation and penalty kill.
State of the team: Like the Crunch, the Marlies have a very successful parent team which has prided itself on acquiring talented youth over the past few years. The Marlies have the AHL’s best penalty kill, clicking along at an amazing 89.2 %. They also have only taken five games to extra time this season, so their strong record is comes due to their ability to win games in regulation. The best thing this team could do is acquire a power-play specialist at the trade deadline to help improve its 16.2 % conversion rate, but they stand a good chance at making it out of the first round of the playoffs especially with the goaltending duo of Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard. Even if they were to lose bodies to the Maple Leafs for playoffs, Kasimir Kaskisuo has developed into a fantastic goaltender in his stint with the Chicago Wolves this season, and the Orlando Solar Bears have good players to pick from as well so they can fill from within the organization.
Division Record: 24-11-1-3
Leading Scorer: Reid Boucher, 45 points (24 G, 21 A)
Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks & Kalamazoo Wings
Rostered players on AHL-only contracts: LW Mason Marchment, D Mason Marchment, F Tony Cameranesi, RW Andrew Cherniwchan, D Adam Comrie, RW Alexis D’Aoust, C Cameron Darcy, LW David Dziurzynski, C Wacey Hamilton, D Jaime Sifers, LW Brendan Woods
Strength(s) of team: Starting goaltender and special teams.
State of the team: Thatcher Demko is widely touted as being the future of the Canucks’ crease, and he’s really shown this to be true this season posting a 2.47 GAA and 0.921 SV%. While Demko is the starting goalie, his backup, Richard Bachman, is 10-9-4-0. Luckily for the Comets, they should be able to confidently ride Demko in the playoffs. The biggest immediate place the Comets can improve is in scoring, as its goal differential is only 3 (166 Goals For vs. 163 Goals Against). Utica has a comfortable lead over Laval for the fourth and final North playoff spot, but with its recent record of 4-5-0-1, the Comets need to up their offensive firepower. Utica’s power play (19.1%) and penalty kill (86 %) are sixth and third in the league, respectively, as they look to make a playoff push. This team will likely stick with its current roster and look to overcome any mental block it’s currently facing.