SYRACUSE, NY – Sacrifice, something every minor league club in professional hockey knows all about. Just like the teams at the National Hockey League level, American Hockey League teams want nothing more than to bring success to its loyal fan base. Unfortunately, when a minor league team’s players play well, there is always the chance they will depart for greener pastures.
Of course, this can be quite the double-edged sword. Minor league hockey, no matter what level, is all about player development. These teams want to see players progress into successful NHL-caliber athletes. Still, it is also imperative to put your own winning product on the ice.
As is the case every season, the Syracuse Crunch will once again see some of their most valuable assets from the prior season make their way to the big club in Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have made plenty of moves this summer, including re-signing some of their players that shined in the AHL last season. Some of these gentlemen, such as Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, and Yanni Gourde, are definitely going to be lacing their skates for Tampa Bay this season. Lightning GM, Steve Yzerman, is very high on Gourde. This is for good reason, as many experts are expecting the 25-year-old forward to have a breakout year. Koekkoek and Dotchin are going to be a part of the youth movement on the Bolts’ blueline that proved to be in need of a major makeover last season.
The verdict is still out players such as Gabriel Dumont, Cory Conacher, and Erik Condra. All three of these men will be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they belong in the NHL. However, it is not likely that all of them will be there when the regular season gets rolling. Of the three, Dumont is the player least likely to be assigned back to Syracuse. He could prove to be a valuable asset on the fourth line and is someone Yzerman may not want to risk being claimed off waivers.
No matter who stays and who goes, it is apparent that there will be some voids that need filling on the Crunch roster this season. Luckily, with every departure, there is always one or more new addition. Syracuse will welcome prospects such as Mathieu Joseph, Mitchell Stephens, and Anthony Cirelli to their roster this season with the hopes of producing more talent worthy of one day pulling that Lightning sweater of their heads.
As we trudge through these dog days of summer, the anticipation for the upcoming AHL season increases. Yes, this Crunch team will have a different look to it. However, with change comes the hope of hoisting up the Calder Cup next summer.