Better Know An Affiliate: Detroit Red Wings

AHL: Grand Rapids Griffins (38-27-7-4, 4th in Central, lost in first round)
TEAM LINEAGE: The Griffins have been the Red Wings’ affiliate for 17 years now, which is the second longest in Red Wings history– the first being the Adirondack Red Wings from 1979 until 1999. Oddly enough, between that 1999-2002 time, the Red Wings shared affiliation with other teams in the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and Manitoba Moose. Prior to that– it was all over the place like the Kansas City Red Wings, Kansas City Blues, Tidewater Wings, Viriginia Wings, Baltimore Clippers, London (UK) Lions, San Diego Gulls, and Cleveland Barons to name a very few.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Red Wings are very cautious with their prospects, but with a new GM in Steve Yzerman and a rebuild happening; maybe some of these guys will get moved up quicker. Filip Zadina could make the team out of camp, but if not– he will be the first call-up for any injury. Though he missed last season due to injury, Evgeny Svechnikov has some high upside to him, which may make him a desirable mark to shuttle to and from Detroit. The dark horse blue liner could be Vili Saarijarvi, who has taken a while to develop through the system and may get some looks this season.

ECHL: Toledo Walleye (40-23-6-3, 2nd in Central, lost in Kelly Cup final)
TEAM LINEAGE: It’ll be the 10th season of affiliation for the Walleye and Red Wings, which the Red Wings third time in the Toledo market, as they had the Storm as a secondary affiliate from 1991 until 1999 and then in 2000 until 2007. There were also stops with the Louisiana IceGators, Jacksonville Bullets, Detroit Falcons, Flint Spirits, and Johnstown Wings to name some of their stops.
NOTABLE GRADUATES: Among the graduates many would know, Luke Glendening was one of the bigger names to move onward, as is Petr Mrazek. Brian Lashoff and Tom McCollum also toiled through the system to get to the pros from Toledo, while players like TJ Hensick have used Toledo as a place to play at the sunset of their career.

ECHL Reveal 2019 All-Star Classic Format and It’s….Something

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A day after they held their 2018 All-Star Classic, the ECHL went ahead and revamped their All-Star Classic for 2019, showing that they’re wasting not time whatsoever to get the hype train going for Toledo next year, despite other markets not being keen on hosting an All-Star Classic due to the painstaking hours off-ice that need to be done in order to put one of those things on.

In any case, the ECHL has revealed that the All-Star Classic will continue to be 3-on-3, but instead of having all four divisions represented– the Eastern and Western conference will have a team of All-Stars, while the Toledo Walleye will have two teams in the All-Star Classic competing against each other. It’s basically the dream that a lot of Canadian hockey fans have when it comes to having two Canadian National teams in the Olympics or World Juniors.

Firstly, to announce this more than 365 days before the event happens seems a little….odd?? You’re just coming off an All-Star Classic and you’re already forgetting about that event and just pushing forward with the plans for next year?? You’d think that they’d want to announce it during the off-season when there is no news and actually have people talk a little bit about this during the dog days of the off-season.

Secondly, what sense does it make to make to kill more roster spots for All-Stars by taking away two whole division spots?? Is it because of the call-ups?? Is it because some guys didn’t want to go?? It just seems silly for a situation like this to happen when you’re trying to display the entire league’s stars– but you end up showing off one team and a select amount of stars on the world stage. It was one thing when the ECHL had the host team play against the full amount of All-Stars, but this seems very odd to split one of those teams up and then have them play against each other.

More over, you just had a game where because of call-ups and some oversight, a lot of the top scorers in the league weren’t in attendance. Call-ups are the nature of the business, but from the on-set– when seven of the top-10 scorers are missing from the game; that’s problematic for an All-Star Classic.

Yes, I’m a curmudgeon when it comes to this because it’s not geared towards me, it’s geared toward the appeal of the community. That said, I would want this to be more entertaining than it is. The ideal of the All-Star Game is really a passe thing because we have an overabundance of access to leagues and games and everything these days– it’s not that big a necessity to have All-Star Games in any sport. I’ve always heldfast in the belief that you do a Comic-Con type of event with players available for signings and a lot more interactive festivities for the fans rather than just a game.

However, I’m just one voice in a crowd of differing opinion. And the opinion seems to be the same old song keeps works, so play on.

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.