The Sin Bin’s AHL Pacific Division writers; Cameron Turner (Texas Stars) and Duck and Hound (Ontario Reign) join AHL Editor Andrew Gallant to break down the Pacific Division and give you their picks for who wins this division.
Cameron Turner (Texas Stars)- The Texas Stars started well in 2016-17, but faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs for just the second time since the team came to Texas in 2009. Goals against doomed Texas last season and the Stars will be looking to plug the leak. Veteran goalie Mike McKenna comes in to help, and young goalie Landon Bow will look to bring ECHL success to the AHL. Bow had 2.08 goals against and .933 save percentage in Idaho last season. I predict a better year in net and a return to postseason hockey for the Stars. I’ll pick Texas to finish fourth in the Pacific.
California will once again feature the best teams in a very competitive division. The defending Pacific Division champion San Jose Barracuda will once again be very good, and I expect the Ontario Reign to be a playoff team as well. For my division winner though, I will take the San Diego Gulls. I really like goaltender Kevin Boyle to make a big impact. He posted 2.27 goals against and .924 save percentage in 19 games for the Gulls last year. It will be a tight race throughout, but in the end, I like San Diego to take the crown, with San Jose second, Ontario third, and Texas fourth.
Duck and Hound (Ontario Reign) – The California teams are looking at a possible shake-up this year. While both the San Diego Gulls and the Ontario Reign have a good amount of returning veterans, they both lost key players that factored in their success over the last two seasons. The Condors are bringing back a good portion of their largely ineffective blueline and don’t have any more top picks to rely on. The Barracuda went on a historic winning streak last season, but won’t see many of those players return. The Heat will be relying heavily on returning players without injecting much youth into their lineup.
The Gulls and the Reign should still be near the top of the division, but closer to third and fourth. The Condors will likely still end up near the bottom, likely as the number 6 team. Look for Stockton to hang out in the middle of the pack at around #5. The Roadrunners are the wild card this year, with a large shake-up in their lineup. Boldly, we pick them to take the Pacific. The Barracuda can either take 2nd or 5th, depending on who shows up for their games.
The AHL season kicks off tonight so stay tuned to The Sin Bin for the latest on the 2017-2018 season! Be sure to follow our writers on Twitter @SinBinStars, @duckandhound and @joelsmann!