Greetings from your friendly AHL/ECHL Editor on this lovely Monday afternoon! With so much of my focus being (understandably) on the Colorado Eagles as of late, I wanted to take a moment to shine some light on a couple other happenings going on in the American Hockey League…
IOWA WILDIN’ OUT WITH SIGNINGS ANNOUNCEMENT
The Iowa Wild announced three forward signings today, one of which was a bit of a surprise. Left winger Olivier Archambault and forward Kyle Bauman were not shocking signees by any means, but the addition of 35-year old NHL veteran Cody McLeod was definitely unexpected.
McLeod last played at AHL level in 2007-08 with the Lake Erie Monsters, and has since donned NHL sweaters with the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, and New York Rangers. The Manitoba native will no doubt bring toughness and grit to the Wild out in Des Moines, but with his last full 82-game season coming back in 2015-16, one has to wonder about durability being an issue for the former Avalanche alternate captain. Minnesota could also call upon the bruiser if he’s needed up north, but again, it’s a matter of just staying on the ice at this point in McLeod’s career.
Archambault returns to the Wild organization after bouncing between the AHL and ECHL the past few years, having played two seasons with Iowa back in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Nagging injuries plagued and shortened his time between AHL Syracuse (seven games) and ECHL Orlando (five games) last year. But, when healthy, he’s a solid scoring threat, hovering just above 0.40 PPG in the AHL and just shy of a point-per-game at the ECHL level (0.99). Barring any events that may send him down to the ECHL, Archambault should be a solid third line winger that could potentially push up to the second line given he stays healthy.
After playing his first full pro season with Ontario last year, Bauman has proven himself as a decent third or fourth line presence. In 67 games, he secured five goals and 13 assists while accruing a disciplined 26 PIMs on the year. His minus-17 rating could be explained by the Reign finishing dead last in goals allowed per game (4.03) and league standings (60 points) in 2018-19. Like Archambault, Bauman could get sent down to Allen to play with the Americans should any unforeseen circumstances (injuries, slumps, etc.) arise in the affiliation tree. But, the former Bemidji State University captain has the propensity for leadership, and has an opportunity to showcase that on an Iowa team that made the playoffs for the first time in team history last season.
GULLS ARENA UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT IN 2020
Anaheim Arena Management, the company that owns both the Anaheim Ducks and their host venue (the Honda Center), has been selected by the City of San Diego to run the Pechanga Arena San Diego effective June 1, 2020. The AHL’s San Diego Gulls are the primary tenant of said arena, and with the Gulls team itself already under Ducks ownership, the move puts both the NHL/AHL squads and their respective home venues under one management umbrella.
Anaheim doubling down on their American League affiliate is no big surprise. Following the demise of the ECHL iteration of the Gulls back in 2006, the San Diego market went without hockey for nine years. In 2015, the push for California-based NHL clubs to have their American League affiliates closer in proximity ended up with the Norfolk Admirals franchise moving to San Diego to bring the Gulls back to Pechanga Arena, this time as an AHL sqaud.
Since then, the Gulls have averaged 8,969 in attendance over the last four seasons, leading the league with a 9,305 attendance average in 2017-18 and 9,021 in 2018-19. The Gulls have also made the playoffs three out of their four years of existence, making the Pacific Division Finals all three times and the Western Conference Finals last season.
In minor league hockey, consistency is key. To have ownership continuity for both the Ducks and Gulls creates stability not only for the organization, but also for the professional hockey teams in California. Moves like this continue to solidify the American Hockey League’s decision four years ago to go all-in on a westward exodus to The Golden State, paving the way for AHL clubs to land in Tuscon (2016) and Colorado (2018) as well. And, with the announcement of the Oak View Group bringing a new arena and AHL expansion franchise to Palm Springs in 2021, the more firm a foundation the AHL has in its Pacific Division teams, the better.
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