AHL: Rochester Americans (46-23-5-2, 2nd in North, lost in first round) TEAM LINEAGE: This is the second go-round for the Sabres and the Rochester Americans. The Sabres returned to Rochester in 2011, but prior to that– they spent 1979 until 2008 with the Americans in one of the longest affiliations in history. In between Rochester stints, the Sabres put their top young players in Portland with the Pirates, while before their first landing in Rochester, the Hershey Bears and Cincinnati Swords were the top affiliate of the Sabres, though the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the old WHL was the first Sabres affiliate in history. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: While Viktor Olofsson could make the team out of camp on the mid-six at the left wing (though he could be fighing CJ Smith for that spot), Rasmus Asplund could have trouble trying to break through the center depth of the Sabres– not only the ones they have now, but the ones they have coming up, as well. If all goes well for Arttu Ruotsalainen in his transition to North America, he could see some time on the shuttle back and forth.
ECHL: Cincinnati Cyclones (51-13-5-3, 1st in Central, lost in second round) TEAM LINEAGE: While they started in the ECHL, the Cyclones really made their mark in the IHL before coming back to the ECHL in 2002. However, with the Sabres, they’ve only been around two seasons. Prior to that, the Elmira Jackals, BC Icemen, South Carolina Stingrays, St. Thomas Wildcats, Erie Panthers, and Winston-Salem Thunderbirds were some of the secondary affiliates for the Sabres. NOTABLE GRADUATE: One of the more notable graduates of the Cyclones is David Desharnais, who played his first pro season in Cincinnati and put up 106 points in 68 games, while also potting 33 points in 22 playoff games, helping the Cyclones to the 2008 Kelly Cup. Other alums include Byron Froese and Cory Conacher both got their early career going in Cincinnati.
-A big congratulation to Roy Sommer of the San Jose Barracuda for getting his 700th AHL career win this past weekend. Sommer has been a soldier for the San Jose Sharks organization since he came in as an assistant coach in 1996-97. He has coached San Jose’s AHL affiliate since 1998 from Kentucky to Cleveland to Worcester and now San Jose. For a guy who has never coached in the NHL, he should be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he’s done, not only for the wins record in the AHL, but for being 3rd all-time for most games coached in the professional ranks, currently at 1,833– behind only Barry Trotz and Scotty Bowman.
-The hottest team in the Eastern Conference is the Syracuse Crunch. With a six-game winning streak, the Crunch have been able to get back into the North Division playoff picture. Though Cory Conacher is up with the Lightning, Michael Bournival and Matthew Peca have been able to pick up the slack. A balanced attack on offense has been able to help, as well, with 13 players potting at least three goals on the season.
-The North Division could be one of the races to look at as the season goes along. All the teams are sitting at .500 or better to start the season, with only five points separating the fifth spot from the top spot. While the Manchester Monarchs are trying to get some distance with their four-game winning streak, Wheeling is right behind them with three of the top-ten in scoring on their roster (Cody Wydo, Reid Gardner, and Garrett Meurs). Reading, Adirondack, and Brampton are still contenders and who knows what Worcester could be doing as they keep going along.
-Though they are following Toledo in the standings, Cincinnati has a strong scoring presence, with both Shawn O’Donnell (10pts in seven games) and Justin Danforth (9pts in six games) with two of the longest point-scoring streaks in the league. With Eric Knodel helping out on the power play and Anthony Peters holding down the fort in net– the Cyclones are in a prime spot to battle Toledo for top-spot in the Central.
-One of the biggest stories is how the downfall of the affiliation in Norfolk of the ECHL plucked a lot of players from the SPHL. Max Cook (Fayetteville), Nick Miglio (Peoria), and John Rey (Birmingham). As the season goes on, depending on the fate of the Admirals, more names could be going that way. While it’s good for those players and the league to be a developmental asset, the teams may feel the crunch, especially if it’s late in the season and they lose a top guy when they need them the most.