Binghamton’s AHL Preview

It’s time to take a look at the Binghamton Senators in the context of their conference and measure expectations (I did the same last year and underestimated how much they would improve).  Even more so than the NHL, the AHL has gone through a lot of changes between seasons as a number of top players have moved: Chad Kolarik (Wilkes-Barre) and T. J. Hensick (Peoria) signed in Sweden, Darren Haydar (Chicago) signed in Germany, Logan Pyett (Connecticut) signed in Russia (Ryan Potulny did as well, but has been released); Tyler Johnson (Tampa) has graduated to the NHL; Kris Newbury moved from Connecticut to Adirondack, Mark Mancari moved from Rochester to Chicago, Martin St. Pierre moved from Rockford to Hamilton, Justin Fontaine moved from Houston to Iowa, David Leggio moved from Rochester to Hershey, Danny Syvret moved from Adirondack to Hartford, and Mike McKenna moved from Peoria to Springfield.

Every team in the league has received an influx of unexpected talent, although the amount added varies from roster to roster.  As fans there’s a tendency to over value ones own prospects.  It’s also worth remembering that dominant prospects don’t stay in the league for long (and therefore don’t impact the results)–dominant AHL players tend to be veterans.

Binghamton plays in the East Division of the Eastern Conference (where half of their games will be played).  Their division consists of: Hershey (Washington), Norfolk (Anaheim), Syracuse (Tampa Bay), and Wilkes-Barre (Pittsburgh).  The B-Sens finished second in their division and fifth in their conference last season.  What follows is a look at the teams in their division featuring the key turnovers on their rosters (rookies are in italics, other roster additions are in green, anyone who spent most of their time in the NHL is in bold; points from last season are in brackets; I’ve ignored roster losses via players who were in the AHL only during the lockout portion of last season):

Binghamton (44-24-8, 2nd division)
Forwards: Mika Zibanejad (20), Mark Stone (38), Shane Prince (35), Cole Schneider (35), Corey Cowick (35), Derek Grant (28), Mike Hoffman (28), Andre Petersson (5), Matt Puempel (OHL 46)
Defense: Chris Wideman (18), Mark Borowiecki (14), Tyler Eckford (13), Cody Ceci (OHL 64), Troy Rutkowski (WHL 66)
Goaltenders: Nathan Lawson (2.19), Andrew Hammond (NCAA 2.47)
Key losses: Robin Lehner (NHL), Stephane Da Costa (NHL), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (NHL), Pat Cannone (Peoria), Hugh Jessiman (KHL), Brett Lebda (FA)

The B-Sens choose to add no new veteran players to their lineup, simply re-signing Lawson and keeping Eckford (who is in the final year of his two-year deal).  All the cavalry added are prospects either drafted or signed by the organisation.  Binghamton hasn’t had a dominant scorer the last two seasons and unless Zibanejad spends most of his time in the AHL it will be scoring by committee again, with the blueline’s contribution very much up in the air.  This edition of the team is similar to the one denuded of NHL prospects back in January, but that squad was only slightly above .500 and any change is reliant on internal development.  Barring major roster changes I think Binghamton will take a step back and finish fourth in the division (with 38 wins or so).

Hershey (36-31-9, 4th division); 10 games vs Binghamton
Forwards: Jeff Taffe (71), Casey Wellman (53), Brandon Segal (44), Michael Latta (38), Garrett Mitchell (30), Peter Leblanc (30), Matt Watkins (30), Jamie Johnson (KHL 22), Derek Whitmore (DEL 23)
Defense: Tomas Kundratek (31), David Kolomatis (28), Chay Genoway (25), Dmitri Orlov (17), Tyson Strachan (4)
Goaltenders: Philipp Grubauer (2.25), David Leggio (2.56)
Key losses: Zach Hamill (Utica), Jon DiSalvatore (DEL), Boyd Kane (KHL), Garrett Stafford (SHL), Dany Sabourin (Austria), Ryan Potulny (FA)
Blog: Sweetest Hockey On Earth covers the Bears

The Bears lost a ton of veterans in the off-season, but have replaced them with others and aren’t reliant on the progress of younger players.  They should improve on last year’s results (the addition of Leggio should help a great deal) and challenge for the division title.

Norfolk (37-34-5, 5th division); 8 games vs Binghamton
Forwards: Peter Holland (39), Devante Smith-Pelly (32), Brad Staubitz (2), Steven Whitney (NCAA 45), Rickard Rakell (OHL 44), Stefan Noesen (OHL 53), Antoine Laganiere (NCAA 29)
Defense: Alex Grant (20), Garnet Exelby (9), Nolan Yonkman (7), Ryan Parent (5)
Goaltenders: Frederik Andersen (2.19), Igor Bobkov (3.13), John Gibson (OHL 2.41)
Key losses: Patrick Maroon (NHL), Sami Vatanen (NHL), Nate Guenin (Lake Erie)
Blog: Vulture’s Row covers the Admirals

In the absence of Vatanen and Lindholm (both currently in Anaheim) this is an offensively challenged blueline and a very young forward group.  Goaltending looks like a strong suit, but will the team score enough?  Without great results from rookies I just can’t see the Admirals doing well and I expect them to be last in the division.

Syracuse (43-22-11, 1st division); 10 games vs Binghamton
Forwards: Brett Connolly (63), Evan Rankin (31), J. T. Brown (28), Vladislav Namestnikov (21), Dana Tyrell (4), Tanner Richard (OHL 62), Nikita Kucherov (QMJHL 63)
Defense: Matt Taormina (24), Dmitry Korobov (22), Jean-Philippe Cote (17), Nikita Nestorov (KHL 0)
Goaltenders: Cedrick Desjardins (2.12), Riku Helenius (2.57)
Key losses: Tyler Johnson (NHL), Ondrej Palat (NHL), Mark Barberio (NHL), RIchard Panik (NHL), Alex Killorn (NHL), Radko Gudas (NHL), Andrej Sustr (NHL), Pierre Cedric-Labrie (NHL), J. T. Wyman (Lake Erie), Dan Sexton (Liiga)
Blog: I could only find an official feed (Lindsay Kramer) for the Crunch, although undoubtedly there are fan sites out there

Another team that’s going young (at the moment 8 players off last year’s roster have graduated to Tampa), although it’s likely that one or both of Sustr and Barberio will be returned to the team along with one of Panik, Palat, or Killorn.  If only one or two (or none) of those players are returned to the roster they will take a step back as all the meaningful replacement has been internal (much like Binghamton).  In the absence of significant additions I think the Crunch will also have scoring issues and I’m not sold on their goaltending.  I do think players will be sent down to balance the lineup out enough for Syracuse to finish third in the division.

Wilkes-Barre (42-30-4, 3rd division); 8 games vs Binghamton
Forwards: Andrew Ebbett (6), Nick Drazenovic (53), Chris Connor (40), Brian Gibbons (30), Paul Thompson (29), Harry Zolnierczyk (19), Tom Kostopoulos (7)
Defense: Simon Despres (7), Brian Dumoulin (24), Brendan Mikkelson (2), Scott Harrington (OHL 19)
Goaltenders: Peter Mannino (2.47), Eric Hartzell (NCAA 1.57), Jeff Deslauriers (ECHL 3.25)
Key losses: Beau Bennett (NHL), Jeff Zatkoff (NHL), Trevor Smith (Toronto), Alex Grant (Norfolk), Riley Holzapfel (SHL), Chad Kolarik (SHL), Dylan Reese (KHL), Brad Thiessen (Liiga)
Blog: another official blog (Jonathan Bombulie)

Like Hershey the Penguins lost a lot of veterans in the off-season, but like their rival they have replaced them with others.  Bennett will likely stay in the big leagues while Zatkoff should be returned at some point (Deslauriers is on a PTO).  Despite all the changes I don’t think Wilkes-Barre has taken a step back and should be at least as effective as they were last season, so they’ll challenge for first in the division, but finish behind the Bears.

To sum up my expectations (given the above lineups, minus one or two changes):

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


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