New Divisions, New Rules

The AHL just wrapped up its annual meetings in South Carolina this week…and with it, came a few big changes for the 2014-15 season:

-Yesterday, the divisional alignment for the season was announced, and with Lehigh Valley joining the lineup and Abbotsford moving east to Glens Falls, it’s an interesting setup:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic: Manchester, Portland, Providence, St. John’s, Worcester (no change)

East: Binghamton, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Norfolk, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Northeast: Albany, Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield, Syracuse

WESTERN CONFERENCE

North: Adirondack, Hamilton, Rochester, Toronto, Utica

Midwest: Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Milwaukee, Rockford

West: Charlotte, Iowa, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Texas

The Phantoms move from Adirondack in the Northeast to the East Division, Syracuse moves from the East to the Northeast Division.  Abbotsford leaves the West with Adirondack going to the North.  Lake Erie moves from North to Midwest, and Iowa moves from Midwest to West.  Got all that?

Now, with Albany and Adirondack in different conferences, I’m hoping this means there’s a slight reduction in the season series.  Yeah, who am I kidding, I’ll still see them 20 times…

The playoff format remains the same from last season: Division winners will comprise the top 3 seeds, while the top 5 non division winners earn a spot.

Also from the meetings came some rule changes:

-Overtime periods are extended from 5 minutes to 7 minutes, starting as a 4 on 4 for the first three minutes, then going to 3 on 3 for the rest of the session.  If it gets to a shootout, it’s 3 rounds instead of 5 (like in the NHL).  Teams will change sides before the period begins, and also a full dry scrape of the ice surface will precede the start.

-If a player assesses two major penalties for fighting or three non-fighting majors in a game, they will receive a game misconduct.

-If a player loses his helmet during play and does not leave the ice immediately or put the helmet back on properly, they will receive a minor penalty.

And finally, mark your calendars: This year’s home opener will be on Saturday, October 18th.  With the season beginning on October 11th, it appears Albany will begin the season on the road for the second straight year.

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Free Agency Week 1: Set in the Net

A very interesting first six days of free agency has passed, and there were a few signings that will affect Albany’s roster, including a return by a former River Rat goalie:

-On the first day of free agency on Tuesday, along with Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat, New Jersey signed a familiar face to Albany fans and in turn officially ended the Martin Brodeur era in the process: goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who received a 1 year 2-way contract in his third tour of duty with the Devils organization.  He spent the last five seasons with Florida, winning a total of 40 games primarily in a backup role, and 5 wins in 12 appearances in San Antonio over 2 seasons.  His last appearance in a Devils uniform was back in the 2008-09 season, where he took over the starting job while Brodeur was out due to injury and won 25 games.  He will either backup Cory Schneider in New Jersey or return to Albany for the first time since the end of the Devil/River Rat partnership during the 2005-06 season.

-On Thursday, per CapGeek, three more signings to shore up the defense and the goaltending for next season.

First, a well deserved 1 year 2 way contract for Corbin McPherson.  He had his best season in Albany since arriving late in the 2011-12 season, posting 10 assists and a team leading +16 rating.

And the goaltending situation for next year is all settled, as both Keith Kinkaid and Maxime Clermont signed 1 year deals, both 2 ways.  After a breakout season that saw him win 24 games, Kinkaid is expected to take over the backup role in New Jersey, but will be contending with Clemmensen for the role.

Clermont split last season between Elmira and Orlando, winning 11 games in 27 appearances.  He will most likely stick with an ECHL team and be the first on call if Kinkaid/Clemmensen or Scott Wedgewood go down to injury or callup.

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2014 Free Agent Tracker (as of 7/1/14)

Signed for 2014-15:

Tim Sestito

Jon Merrill

Stefan Matteau

Reid Boucher

Raman Hrabarenka

Graham Black

Scott Wedgewood

Reece Scarlett

Joe Whitney

Darcy Zajac

Ben Johnson

Mike Sislo

Cam Janssen

Adam Larsson

Restricted Free Agents (all given qualifying offers):

Brandon Burlon

Eric Gelinas

David Wohlberg

Scott Timmins

Maxime Clermont

Keith Kinkaid

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Mike Hoeffel

Rod Pelley

Kelly Zajac

Corbin McPherson

Chris McKelvie

Harry Young*

Riley Boychuk*

Moving On:

Harri Pesonen (signed w/Lausanne (SUI) 5/20)

Alexander Urbom (signed w/Severstal (KHL) 6/6)

Mattias Tedenby (signed w/Lev Praha (KHL) 6/9)

*restricted free agents not given qualifying offers

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2014 Entry Draft Wrap

Over Friday evening and Saturday morning/afternoon came the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia (and fans booing anything not Flyer-related…what do you expect in Philly?).  New Jersey had a total of 6 draft selections: 1st round, 30th; 2nd round, 41st; 3rd round, 71st; 5th round, 131st; and 6th round, 152nd and 161st.  Time to meet the newest players in the Devils organization:

1st Round, #30 overall: John Quenneville, C, Brandon (WHL)

The second cousin of Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, the 18-year-old just completed his second full season with the Wheat Kings, scoring 58 points in 61 games (25 G, 33 A) and a +3 rating, and  a team leading 13 points in 9 playoff games.  He also represented Canada in last year’s World Junior Championships, with one goal and one assist in 7 games.

2nd Round, #41 overall: Josh Jacobs, D, Indiana (USHL)

And here comes more defense!  Jacobs just completed his second season with the Ice, finishing with 23 points in 56 games (5 G, 18 A) and a +36 rating.  He is committed to Michigan State starting in 2015-16, but there is a chance he could end up in the OHL with Sarnia.

3rd Round, #71 overall: Connor Chatham, RW, Plymouth (OHL)

The 18-year-old Illinois native just completed his first season with the Whalers, scoring 31 points in 54 games (13 G, 18 A).  He has the size (checking in at 6’3″ and 225 pounds), and is seen as a potential energy type forward.

5th Round, #131 overall: Ryan Rehill, D, Kamloops (WHL)

The classic stay-at-home defenseman type, from what I have read.  Rehill, checking in at 6’3″ and 213 pounds, just finished his second season with the Blazers, with 20 points (4 G, 16 A) and 182 penalty minutes in 72 games.

6th Round, #152 overall: Joey Dudek, C, Kimball Union (NH)

Using the pick acquired from Florida in the Krys Barch/Scott Timmins deal, New Jersey chose Dudek, a prep school forward.  He scored 44 points (9 G, 35 A) in 25 games, and is committed to Boston College starting in the 2015-16 season.

6th Round, #161 overall: Brandon Baddock, LW, Edmonton (WHL)

The final draft selection comes in the form of Baddock, a big forward (6’4″, 206) who just finished his second season with the Oil Kings.  In 56 games he posted 17 points (6 G, 11 A) and amassed 128 penalty minutes, with an additional goal in 13 playoff games.

(Note: Clicking on each name will take you to the In Lou We Trust scouting report.)

Now for some free agency updates:

-Earlier today the Citizens Voice (out of Wilkes-Barre) posted the annual AHL free agency list, including its top 100 available players.  You’ll have to scroll all the way down to #83 for the highest ranked Albany player, Rod Pelley, while Kelly Zajac checks in at #88.

The annual tracker is ready to go for noon on Tuesday, which will include any last minute updates concerning Monday’s RFA qualifying offer deadline.

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News of the Week

Yeah, it’s about time I updated this thing…

-The 2013-14 hockey season officially ended on Wednesday evening in St. John’s, as the Texas Stars took the Calder Cup title by finishing off the IceCaps in overtime, winning the series 4 games to 1.  There was one River Rat connection to the new champs, and it’s actually off ice: broadcaster Owen Newkirk, who was in the booth for the River Rats (during the Carolina days) for 2 seasons.

Meanwhile, in Devils land:

-Two unrestricted free agents returned to the fold, as Mike Sislo signed a 2 year, 2 way deal on Wednesday.  A well deserved contract for the 3rd year pro, who made his NHL debut back in January and lead Albany in goals this past season.

Then early Friday morning it was announced that Cam Janssen had signed a new 1 year, 2 way contract, which made everyone on my Devils Twitter feed curse under their breath.

And a third Devil has left for Europe, as Mattias Tedenby has joined Lev Praha of the KHL.  Not surprised by that move at all, unfortunately.

-Earlier today New Jersey announced their 6 game exhibition schedule…and sadly no games in Albany again this season.  Their only home game on neutral ice comes September 26th against the Islanders at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

-The annual rookie camp will take place July 13-18.  More info on that to come.

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Quick Saturday Morning Updates

Just a couple of notes to pass along:

-Last time I wrote, the AHL Conference Finals were just getting started.  Tomorrow, the Finals begin in Austin, Texas, where the Stars will be taking on St. John’s for all the proverbial marbles.  So how did they get there?

(4) St. John’s eliminated (6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4-2

(1) Texas eliminated (3) Toronto 4-3

Again, oh what could have been.  A few people had told me they thought Albany would be a dark horse in the Eastern Conference, but the IceCaps probably should have got more credit.  It’s going to be an interesting matchup between these two teams.

Side note: unless Texas gets amazing attendance figures this round, Albany will win the playoff attendance wars, averaging just shy of 7300 for the two home games.  Considering this team’s regular season attendance history, this is an awesome feat.  Even though it was just two games.

-And another Devil has moved on, as defenseman Alexander Urbom has signed a 2 year deal with the KHL’s Severstal Cherepovets.  No truth to the rumor that I was doing this upon hearing the news.

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Pre Holiday Updates

After a little, oh, two week break from any writing, time to get this thing updated.

Let’s start with a few signing announcements:

-On Tuesday a pair of 2012 draft picks, both names familiar in Albany, agreed in principle to entry level deals.  The first announcement was for forward Ben Johnson, a 3rd round selection who appeared in 5 games as an amateur tryout at the end of the regular season after finishing his third year with Windsor in the OHL.  The second is fourth round choice Ben Thomson, who participated in Albany’s training camp in September before returning to Kitchener in the OHL.  Thomson split the season between Kitchener and North Bay, scoring 45 points in 55 games and adding 14 points in 22 playoff games for North Bay.  There is a chance Johnson could return to Windsor next season for his overage year.  In Lou We Trust posted a scouting report earlier today on both Bens and also Graham Black.

-We have our first A-Devil moving on, as earlier this week forward Harri Pesonen signed a two year deal in Switzerland, for Lausanne in the NLA.

-As for the Calder Cup…we are down to the final four teams, as the Conference Finals get underway tomorrow in the West and Saturday in the East.  Here are the second round results:

Eastern Conference:

(4) St. John’s eliminated (8) Norfolk 4-2

(6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton eliminated (7) Providence 4-3

Western Conference:

(1)Texas eliminated (4) Grand Rapids 4-2

(3) Toronto swept (2) Chicago 4-0

With the Griffins out, there will once again be a new Calder Cup champion.  All four remaining teams are looking for their first Cup, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton being the closest, finishing as runners up in 2001 (Saint John), 2004 (Milwaukee), and 2008 (Chicago).  Toronto finished as the runner up to Norfolk in 2012.  Texas and St. John’s are looking for their first ever Finals appearance.

And to think, if only things had gone differently in the first round, Albany could have had home ice once again…

-Meanwhile over in Belarus, there is one A-Devil participating in this year’s World Championships.  Raman Hrabarenka (well, Roman Graborenko according to the official roster) has appeared in 7 games for the host country, posting 2 assists.

 

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