Minor League Silly Season: Vegas Leaving Chicago, Richmond Back at It, ECHL in Quebec??

Photo via Vegas Golden Knights website

One of the bigger stories that broke for this week in the NHL/AHL landscape was the note that the Vegas Golden Knights are looking to buy an AHL team in order to move them to the Orleans Arena in Vegas to get their prospects close. It would be in line with what other Western Conference teams have been doing. Currently, the Chicago Wolves are the Knights affiliate, which is quite the ways away from each other. And in reality, that’s probably the only reason why the Knights want to leave.

As an independent team, the Wolves are one of the most successful on and off the ice in the AHL. They want the player’s best and want to win at the box office as well, to which they have been successful despite the cluttered market in the Chicagoland area. However, this news of a chance doesn’t come as a shock to Wolves Chairman Don Levin, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, “The Chicago Wolves will be here next year, we just don’t know who we’ll be affiliated with. There’s no scenario at all the Wolves will be affiliated with Vegas. We knew that before. Our affiliation would be over at the end of the year.”

The issue that arises is the need to Vegas to get an independent team to sell to them. There are some that have contracts coming up like Hershey, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee– but all of them are in good spaces right now and won’t sell because their markets are strong. Rockford has been brought up as a selling mate because they have dropped in their attendance over the last five years. We could definitely see the IceHogs move west before the puck drops next season.


Richmond has been endorsed by the ECHL to get a hockey team with a proposed arena popping up in the Navy Hill district. Richmond has Richmond was a long-standing member of the ECHL from 1990 until 2003 as the Renegades, with the UHL having the RiverDogs 2003 until 2006, and then the Renegades name popped up again, this time in the SPHL from 2006 until 2009.

All this, of course, hinges on getting an arena in the $1.5B project which would see many restaurant and shopping areas, akin to what many cities have done with stadiums and arenas in the past. The team also has an owner ready to go and with an understanding of the ECHL structure in Fred Festa– former owner of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

It would be great to see Richmond back in hockey, though in this landscape, especially in the ECHL with rivals in Norfolk and Wheeling already slotted in. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the project approved and then getting the money to get the team into the new arena.


A few weeks back, the push to bring the ECHL to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec seems to have hit a road block. In an interview with SB Nation’s Montreal Canadiens blog, Dean MacDonald– the lead in bringing an expansion team into Trois-Rivieres– made a point to say that there was a lot of miscommunication between many parties and it seemed that the Mayor of the city was more focused on getting the University team into the fold rather that the ECHL and cohabitation is something they didn’t want to do. Not to mention, they would need the Canadiens to be in the fold in order to make it work.

The last part is pretty easy, as the Habs don’t have an ECHL affiliate right now. That said, the government being very indecisive and kind of throwing the expansion group curveballs doesn’t show a lot of confidence that the city wants a team there. It would be a nice fit and go with the Montreal-Laval connection already, plus adding another Canadian team to the ECHL fold; though you can’t really force yourself into that spot if the city is unwilling to have you.

Not to mention, you have to wonder if the QMJHL will see all this and try to get back into the Trois-Rivieres fold since it seems like a hot ticket to be at. If that Major Junior money gets in there, then the ECHL bid may have a bigger hill to climb.

Minor League Monday: Baby Pens Rolling, Pat Nagle’s Dominance, RiverKings Looking For Crown

AHL

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-It’s about time to talk about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. With only one shootout loss in their last 11 games, the Baby Pens are the class of the AHL so far this year. The interesting part is that there’s not one Penguin in the top-20 in scoring. That said, Daniel Sprong has been great this season with nine goals in 14 games. After major shoulder surgery kept him out most of last season, his first full pro campaign has been off to a good start. Casey DeSmith has also been a great find for the Penguins, going 8-0-1 this season and in the top-five in GAA and save percentage.

-The Chicago Wolves are feeling the expansion crunch. While they have some players still from the St. Louis Blues, the Wolves do have the majority of Vegas Golden Knights prospects– though they are not the top of prospects. Sure, it doesn’t help that both goalies were plucked from Chicago to get into Vegas and they had to scramble to get Kasimir Kaskisuo from Toronto to make sure they had someone to play. The play of quadruple-A player Teemu Pulkkinen has been one of the small bright spots, but unless Maxime Legace or Oscar Dansk come back soon– it could be a huge uphill climb from the basement for the Wolves.

ECHL

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-Pat Nagle is continuing his solid play in the ECHL, but this time it’s with the Toledo Walleye. After signing with the Grand Rapids Griffins this summer, Nagle was assigned to Toledo and since then, hasn’t lost in regulation. With a 10-0-2 record to start the season, Nagle is filling the void that was left when Jake Paterson was not given a qualifying offer. It’s hard to say that Nagle hasn’t been the top ECHL goalie over the past four years, as he is 93-29-17-4 since the start of the 2014-15 season, which includes playoffs.

-In a very top-heavy South Division, the South Carolina Stingrays are possibly the underappreciated team of the top-four. With points in eight of their last 10, the Stingrays have gotten it done in every way possible. The return of Jeff Jakaitis hasn’t been as great as his record shows, while having him post a 5-1-1 record, his GAA and save percentage are among the worst in the league (3.13/.884). However, Steven Whitney and Nick Johnson has created the goals with six a piece, while Joe Devin and Kelly Zajac have provided the set-ups.

SPHL

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-Quietly, the Mississippi RiverKings are putting together a great start to their season. Tied for first in the league, the 7-2-0 RiverKings have gotten contribute from all-around, especially from the newcomer Donald Olivieri, who has three goals in his three games with Mississippi. Both Devin Mantha and Derek Sutliffe lead the team with four goals a piece, while Tyler Green is 5-1-0 and tied for wins in the league.

Minor League Monday: Jankowski Potting Points, Beast Licking Wounds, Mayhem Being Settled

While this blog encompasses the hockey landscape, there needs to one day that is dedicated to the lower levels of hockey on this blog when there isn’t a big story that going around the hockey blogosphere. And if just one day is not enough, you can head over to my friends at TheSinBin.net for your fix on almost every team in minor league hockey.

AHL

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-After being one of the last cuts of the Calgary Flames, Mark Jankowski is making every minute count while with the Stockton Heat. In his first six games, Jankowski has five goals and eight points, putting him tied in goals with another Flames cut, Garnet Hathaway and two points behind Andrew Mangiapane for total points.

-The Vegas Golden Knights goaltending situation is in peril, if you hadn’t heard. It’s in so much disarray that they have taken both of their AHL prospects out of Chicago, Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace, which leaves CJ Motte as their only rostered goalie for now. Luckily, the Wolves don’t play until Wednesday morning, so they have time to go ahead and get a back-up for Motte. Just goes to show you can never have enough goaltending depth.

ECHL

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-This is definitely not the start of the season the Brampton Beast wanted after their record-setting season last year. After getting into their first playoffs in the ECHL era of the team, the Beast are out to an 0-4-1 start. While Brandon Marino is putting up the goals (4g, 2a), the secondary scoring is still in need of a boost. There’s also a need to get more of their defense to help out rookie goalies Marcus Hogberg and Michael McNiven, as the team has given up a league high 24 goals.

-With the additions of always dangerous Mitchell Heard and Michael Kirkpatrick, the Florida Everblades are off to a blazing start. The team is a plus-9 in the goal-differential to the young season (only behind the Allen Americans) and a lot can be attributed to Heard and Kirkpatrick making a big impact, as well as rookies Steven Lorentz and Nelson Armstrong jumping in feet first for the ‘Blades.

SPHL

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-It has been a rough start to the season for the defending champion Macon Mayhem. With this past weekend yielding only one goal for the team while giving up nine in two games, it’s been the typical hangover we see from some champions time and again. The roster does have some of the returning players from that championship team, so it’s not like they aren’t used to pressure. While they can have a bit of hiccup, the short season in the SPHL makes it so they have to get back in the win column quickly before it gets too out of hand.

-Sean Bonar is building off his strong season last year with Fayetteville, but this time with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. A shutout in his first game with Pensacola was a great way to make a good first impression with his team, but the fact he’s getting goal support is even better for the SPHL’s reigning MVP and top goaltender going into a new season. It wasn’t easy, as Bonar faced 36 shots against the reigning champs in Macon, but once the defense tightens up, the Ice Flyers will surely be one of the teams to beat this SPHL season.