GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 46-22-6-2 (100 pts) — 1st in Midwest Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Won in 1st round over Toronto 3-2; Won in 2nd round over Rockford 4-1; Lost in 3rd round to Utica 4-2

Key Addition: Stay-at-home defenseman Matt Corrente will bring added AHL experience to a fairly young blueline. Along with Nathan Paetsch, Corrente also has some NHL experience and should be a valuable mentor to the next crop of potential Red Wings defensemen.

Key Loss: The only significant loss due to transactions was Kevin Porter, who was tied for third on the Griffins in assists with 23 in 2014-15. Despite his shortcomings in his own zone, Porter’s set-up ability will be among the losses that the Griffins will have to deal with in the Red Wings calling players up to the NHL.

What to Watch For: While it’s only his second season, there’s a lot of pressure on Anthony Mantha to develop quickly. A disappointing campaign last year has Mantha put on notice by the Red Wings brass. With the AHL’s top goal-scorer Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro destined for the Red Wings roster, the bulk of the responsibility will fall into the hands of Andy Miele, who led the Griffins in points last year.

CHICAGO WOLVES

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 40-29-6-1 (87 pts) — 3rd in Midwest Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Lost in 1st round to Utica 3-2

Key Addition: Coming off his second 20-goal season in the AHL, Danny Kristo will be called upon to pick up where the Wolves will be lacking this season. While his goals went down from 25 in 2013-14 to 22 in 2014-15, Kristo increased his point production from 43 to 46 in Hartford over the past two campaigns.

Key Loss: The Wolves will be hard-pressed to replace Shane Harper’s 32 goals from last year, but they’ll have to try. Harper also led the team in scoring with 50 points and power play goals with 11.

What to Watch For: With Ty Rattie most likely targeted as a midseason call-up and Harper’s departure, the Wolves will try to fill that role with new acquisitions Evan Trupp (16g, 24a) and Kristo to make up for that scoring lull alongside Pat Cannone, who was second in team scoring last year with 47 points. Goaltending should be a battle with incumbent Jordan Binnington (25-15-4) fighting for time with the new acquisition in Pheonix Copley. Copley comes over from the Hershey Bears where he was a 17-4-3 record last season.

ROCKFORD ICEHOGS

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 46-23-5-2 (99 pts) — 2nd in Midwest Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Won in 1st round over Texas 3-0; Lost in 2nd round to Grand Rapids 4-1

Key Addition: After coming into his own in his senior season at Michigan Tech, Tanner Kero will look to add to the scoring in Rockford. With five goals in six regular season contest, Kero will add a little jump to the IceHogs line-up

Key Loss: While providing solid two-way play, Stephen Johns’ departure will take away from both the defensive and offensive production for the IceHogs. Johns was a plus-30 on the season with 21 points in 51 games. In the playoffs, Johns led the IceHogs with three goals and seven points.

What to Watch For: Team MVP Michael Leighton will return to Rockford and try to not only help the IceHogs back to the playoffs, but also tutor Mark Visentin, who returns to hockey after a season-long hiatus. The combination of Marko Dano and Tanner Kero will give a shot to the arm for the IceHogs’ offense, which lost last season acquisition Spencer Abbott to the Swedish League.

MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 33-28-8-7 (81 pts) — 5th in Midwest Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Did Not Qualify

Key Addition: After setting the KHL single-season goal-scoring record, Steve Moses moves back over to North America after playing three seasons with Finland-based Jokerit. Moses had 36 goals last season and was tied for 7th in points in the KHL with 57.

Key Loss: One of the sturdier defensemen, Joe Piskula has gone to San Diego for the season. With a plus-20 last year, Piskula’s stay-at-home style allowed the likes of Taylor Aronson and Anthony Bitetto more able to move the puck up the ice more freely.

What to Watch For: With the top scorers from last season making the NHL roster (Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson), Colton Sissons will be one of the main offensive producers along with Moses and Kevin Fiala. Pontus Aberg could be a surprise up front this season, as he looks to build off his 16-goal campaign last year. In net, Marek Mazanec will get the main duty there but Juuse Saros will make some waves in order to get his fair share of crease time.

MANITOBA MOOSE

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 32-33-9-2 (75 pts) — 5th in Atlantic Division (as St. John’s IceCaps)

2015 Calder Cup Result: Did Not Qualify

Key Addition: While he couldn’t reach his full potential in Toronto, Andrew MacWilliam will bring experience and size to the Moose blueline. The 6’ 2” Calgary native has a big shot that he doesn’t use enough, but should get plenty of chance to unleash it on the top power play unit.

Key Loss: Last year’s leading scorer Will O’Neill won’t be in back for the first full season back in Manitoba for the Moose. O’Neill had 38 assists and 48 points last season, while eight of his 10 goals came on the power play.

What to Watch For: The hype over the return of the Moose will be in full swing, but the team will have to temper the excitement to make sure they keep their eyes on the goal of winning the Calder Cup. Connor Hellebuyck will be a key cog this year, especially after a bronze medal in the World Hockey Champions this spring. Eric Comrie will be pushing Hellebuyck for time in the net, but the youngster will most likely be watching what happens and performing spot duty in his first full season. With the departure of O’Neill, the scoring will have to come from rookie Chase De Leo and Joel Armia. In his first pro season, Josh Morrissey will be one to look at along with Brenden Kichton and MacWilliam to anchor the blueline.

IOWA WILD

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 23-49-2-2 (50 pts) — 5th in West Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Did Not Qualify

Key Addition: For a young, unstable defense, the pick-up of Maxime Fortunus will be solid for the blueline. Fortunus is two seasons removed from captaining the Texas Stars to a Calder Cup and should be an invaluable source of knowledge for not only the defense, but the team as a whole.

Key Loss: Jonathan Blum moves away from North America to play in the KHL this season, which leaves Iowa without their second leading scorer from last season. Blum tallied 12 goals from the point, eight of them coming on the power play.

What to Watch For: After using 51 players last season, which includes six different goalies, things can only go up for the Wild this year. While the future of leading scorer Tyler Graovac is up in the air, Iowa secured Tanner Eberle out of the WHL (33g, 23a) and Christoph Bertschy from Switzerland (14g, 16a) to make up for Graovac’s loss. Goaltending will be a question this year, as Leland Irving looks to be the starter after two years over in Europe, ending last year with a 2-8-1 record in the KHL.

CHARLOTTE CHECKERS

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 31-38-6-1 (69 pts) — 4th in West Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Did Not Qualify

Key Addition: Coming over from Austria, Derek Ryan provides plenty of offensive upside. With 105 goals over the past four years overseas, Ryan will boost the offensive weak depth that the Checkers have.

Key Loss: While it would be more for his leadership than anything else, Chad LaRose will be missed for his special teams play as well. LaRose, in his first season back after a full year sabbatical from the game, tallied seven power play goals and two shorthanded markers over the year and was the second leading scorer on the Checkers with 38 points.

What to Watch For: Drew MacIntyre’s presence will be valuable this season for not only stopping pucks, but to mentor rookie Rasmus Tirronen in his first pro season after playing three seasons at Merrimack College. The Checkers will look for Justin Shugg (21g, 22a) to lead the offense again along with Derek Ryan. The Checkers hope that Brock McGinn (15g, 12a) and Phil Di Giuseppe (11g, 19a) can build off their strong rookie seasons. The defense took a hit losing captain Michal Jordan to the NHL, but Rasmus Rissanen should anchor the blueline quite well with Trevor Carrick (7g, 25a) providing the offense from the point.

LAKE ERIE MONSTERS

2014-15 Regular Season Record: 35-29-8-4 (82 pts) — 4th in Midwest Division

2015 Calder Cup Result: Did Not Qualify

Key Addition: Despite being out the balance of the season with a broken arm, Alex Broadhurst has shown sparks of offensive upside. With Rockford last season, Broadhurst had 14 points in 29 games while also being able work in tight areas with his quick hands and feet.

Key Loss: While he only played in 39 contests, Marko Dano’s contribution to the team with his speed and skill will be sorely missed. Dano counted for 11 goals in that time and had plenty of upside. While he may not have stayed with the team this year, his production was valuable to the team that didn’t yield a 20-goal scorer last season.

What to Watch For: The key for the Monsters will be in net again, as Anton Forsberg looks to regain the stats from last year that saw him register a 20-8-1 record in his rookie venture. Having top prospect Sonny Milano for a full season should do the Monsters a world of good, as Milano registered five assists in his 10 games towards the end the season. The Monsters will also look to Austin Madaisky to continue his superb offensive numbers from the point as he had 35 points in 53 games.

1 COMMENT

  1. Bitetto and Watson are starting the season in Nashville. Sissons will be the captain in Milwaukee. The Admirals will have more firepower, depth and better defense versus last season. The will make the playoffs.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here