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Monday, 15 October 2012

AHL Opening Weekend

The AHL didn't let the NHL's lockout rain on their party as they kicked off their regular season with a bang this weekend. The majority of teams played 2 games on the weekend and there was some phenomenal hockey played. For some fans it was a chance to see their first professional hockey of the season and for others it was an opportunity to see some of their favourite young players back in the AHL. Whatever your reason for watching, the young stars did not disappoint. So instead of talking about the depressing lockout, let's look at some of the players who have gotten off to hot starts and some other notable names. I know it's still early but who knows.

Top Scorer: Cory Conacher 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in 2 games.

Conacher was a member of the 2011-2012 champion Norfolk Admirals who defeated the Toronto Marlies to win their first ever Calder Cup. The 5 foot 8 native from Burlington Ontario was un-drafted in the NHL

but managed to catch the attention of the Tampa Bay Lightning and signed a 2 year 2 way deal with the club. Conacher had an impressive run with the Admirals last season racking up 80 points in 75 games and was named the MVP becoming only the 4th rookie to win the award. He wasted no time getting off to a quick start with the Syracuse Crunch recording 3 points in the season opener against the Rochester Americans and adding 2 more against the Hershey Bears. An interesting side note: Conacher also had 6 penalty minutes against the Bears. While it's still early look for Conacher to have another big season production wise and perhaps earn himself a

call up to the Lightning once the NHL season begins.

Sven Baertschi: 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points in 2 games.

The rookie made a solid first impression with his new team, helping the Abbotsford Heat go 2-0 on opening weekend. The 20 year-old from Sweeden was taken 13th overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2011 draft and has spent the last 2 seasons playing in the WHL. Even though the Heat were able to score 6 goals it's still Baertschi's goal that stands out.
"Those types of goals, you kind of just go, 'wow'. It's a real pleasure to have that talent here in the American League" ~ Heat coach Troy Ward

The Flames rookie has started his AHL career on the right foot, scoring goals and impressing management. Baertschi will be an interesting player to keep an eye on to see his adjustment from the WHL to the AHL

Marcus Foligno: 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points in 2 games.

While he may not be off to as explosive a start as some of his competition, Foligno put up a solid 3 points on the weekend. Foligno is a Buffalo Sabres prospect who would almost certainly be suiting up for the Sabres if they were playing. Instead he's suiting up for the Rochester Americans and gets a further chance to hone his game. Foligno had a goal in each of the Amerks two games and the only goal in their loss to the Marlies. Despite not having the "C" on his chest, Foligno will be one of the veteran players called upon to lead the Amerks while he is a member of their team. So far he's gotten off on the right foot by leading the team in scoring after the first 2 games.

Highlight Reel Goal by Brayden Schenn

Like Foligno, Schenn racked up 3 points in his 2 games this season and both are amongst the top NHL players playing in the AHL during the lockout. In the Adirondack Phantoms 6-3 route over the Portland Pirates, Schenn netted 2 goals including this highlight reel goal, in which he danced around the defender and slipped a nice backhand behind the keeper.

Expect big things from the Phillidaphia Flyers young forward, during his time in the AHL.


Calvin Pickard: 2 games played, 1 win and a shootout loss.

Despite being 1 and 1 on the season Pickard turned some heads with his play on the weekend. The Lake Erie Monsters rookie goaltender stopped 69 out 72 shots on the weekend to lead the AHL in saves. He also posted a .958 save percentage, not bad for the rookie.

Eddie Lack: 2 games played, 2 wins.

If and when Roberto Luongo leaves the Canucks, Lack will become the new Cory Scnieder. Well maybe not to the same extent of having the fans chanting for him to go in instead of their starter, but my point is he'll

become the Canucks new backup goalie. Lack went 2-0 this weekend put up a shutout win against the Rockford IceHogs.

Benefit of the lockout

Not only does the AHL get to lay claim to some young NHL superstars while the big league continues their bickering, they also have a wonderful opportunity to reach more fans. During the first 27 games of the AHL season the average attendance was around 6,200 roughly 600 more people showing up to games than last season.

Stanley Cup rematch in the AHL

Both the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils farm teams squared off for a Stanley Cup rematch of sorts. Manchester Monarchs did not disappoint their parent club picking up a 2-1 victory over the Albany Devils, on way to their 2-0 season start.

There you have it folks the AHL opening weekend in a nutshell. There was some exciting hockey being played and many jaw dropping plays. Who are your early favourites?
Make sure you get out and check out at least 1 of your local AHL teams games this season, it's great hockey and these kids are leaving everything on the line night in and night out to earn that call to the NHL. Come be apart of a prospects journey.

1 comment:

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