New Faces Around the Atlantic Division

New Faces Around the Atlantic Division
By Matt Alber
It’s been a very busy offseason around the AHL. Teams are making moves to try to put each of their teams in the best situation to succeed deep into the Calder Cup Playoffs this upcoming season. There have been front office changes as well as one former NHL star taking a GM position with an AHL club.
The Atlantic division is made up of your Worcester Sharks along with the St. John’s IceCaps, Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates, and Providence Bruins. Let’s take a look at some of the new faces in new places throughout the Atlantic.
St. John’s IceCaps
2012 Record: 32-36-3-5 72 pts.; 14th in Eastern Conference. Missed Playoffs
New Faces: RW Blair Riley, LW Ryan Schnell, RW Yasin Cisse, RW Jerome Samson, RW Andrew Gordon
After a conference finals appearance in 2011-12, the IceCaps dropped to 14th in the East during the 2012-13 season. They have spent the majority of the offseason trying to upgrade their offense which was ranked 22nd in the league last year. They brought in winger Jerome Samson who is a five-time 20 goal scorer in the AHL, including a career-high 37 on 2009-10 with the former Albany River Rats. Samson should start on the IceCaps top line right away and will absolutely help the offense. Andrew Gordon scored 19 goals to go along with 13 assists in 54 games for the Chicago Wolves (AHL) last season and should also contribute some goals on one of the top two lines for St. John’s as well.
Additionally they acquired winger Yasin Cisse who had 14 points in 27 games last season for Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL who is more of a two way forward. They also brought in a lot of toughness in Blair Riley and Ryan Schnell to a team that was 12th in the Eastern Conference in penalty minutes. Riley scored 7 goals and 15 points to go along with 165 penalty minutes for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Schnell had 162PIM in 2012-13 between his 22 games with the IceCaps and 12 games with the Colorado Eagles (ECHL).
Manchester Monarchs
2012 Record: 37-32-3-4 81 pts.; 7th in Eastern Conference. Lost in 1st round to Springfield
New Faces: RW Scott Sabourin, LW Maxin Kitsyn, D Derek Forbort, D Nick Ebert, G Chris Gibson
The Monarchs have made the playoffs in the last two seasons but have been eliminated in the first round both times. They have a few solid pieces coming in to join the team this season that should help them build upon their 7th place finish in the Eastern Conference last season. To start, they hired former LA Kings defenseman Rob Blake as the Assistant GM of LA, and GM of Manchester to replace former Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall who moves on to the same position at the Philadelphia Flyers oddly enough. Blake obviously brings a ton of hockey knowledge to the Kings organization and should be a key part of helping to develop some of these players over the next few seasons. The Monarchs only averaged 2.88 goals per game last season and will look to build upon that to make a deeper postseason run this year.
They should have defenseman Derek Forbort (15th overall pick by LA in 2010)in Manchester after his time at the University of North Dakota. He brings size and toughness to the Monarchs blue line and can help chip in on the offense as well. He had four goals and 17 points last season for North Dakota and helped take his team into the NCAA Tournament. Manchester will also have Scott Sabourin in the fold this year. The winger scored 30 goals and 50 points to go along with 142 penalty minutes for the Oshawa Generals (OHL) in 2012-13. The Monarchs signed Russian forward Maxin Kitsyn who spent last season with HK Sarov of the VHL. He only had 12 points in 29 games last season but has the size and speed where he can develop into a solid power forward. Back on defense, the Monarchs signed defenseman Nick Ebert who put up 11 goals and 18 points for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Finally, they’re bringing in goaltender Chris Gibson who was a 2nd round puck of the Kings in the 2011 draft. He had spent the last few years with Chicoutimi of the QMJHL posting a .902 save % and a 3.08GAA in 2012-13.
Portland Pirates
2012 Record: 41-30-3-2 87 pts.; 6th in Eastern Conference. Lost in 1st round to Syracuse
New Faces: LW Tim Kennedy, RW Tobias Rieder, RW Henrik Samuelsson, D Mathieu Brisebois, D James Milindy, Brandon Yip
The Pirates finished up a season that saw them end 6th in the Eastern Conference by bowing out in three straight to eventual Eastern champion Syracuse in the first round. They allowed the 4th most goals in the entire league last season but spent a majority of the offseason upgrading their offense. They went out and signed former Worcester Shark Tim Kennedy who had 13 goals and 37 points in 37 games with Worcester in 2012-13. He could end up making the Phoenix Coyotes out of camp this season but if not he should spend time on the Pirates top line. The Coyotes just recently signed forward Brandon Yip. Yip scored three goals and eight points in 34 games with Nashville last season and should help provide offense for the Pirates if he doesn’t end up in Phoenix. Additionally they will have two solid wingers in Tobias Rieder and Henrik Samuelsson. Rieder scored 27 goals and 56 points for the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) last season to go along with being a very gritty winger.
Henrik Samuelsson has the potential to be a star in the making. In 67 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he scored 33 goals to go along with 80 points and 97 PIM’s. Phoenix’s 1st round pick in 2012 is a prototypical power forward who is very strong on the puck and brings a lot of intensity to the game. Additionally, he is a very smart player and always seems to end up in the right spot on the ice because of his very high hockey IQ. The Pirates will also have two new defensemen. James Milindy and Mathieu Brisebois come over after spending time in the QMJHL. Melindy had four goals and 24 points and also 90 PIM’s in 67 games for the Moncton Wildcats in 2012-13. He brings some offensive skill to Portland to go along with being a great skater. Brisebois is developing as a very solid offensive defenseman. In 64 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, he scored 19 goals and 73 points in 64 games. He is not very physical but is a solid skater with great hands that has the ability to jump into the rush.
Providence Bruins
2012 Record: 50-21-0-5 105 pts.; 1st in Eastern Conference. Lost in 2nd round to Wilkes-Barre Scranton
New Faces: RW Reilly Smith, LW Matt Fraser, D Joe Morrow, RW Nick Johnson, D Mike Moore
The Providence Bruins are returning a large part of what was the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season in 2012-13. They also had a 3-0 series lead over the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in the second round before losing four straight to see their season come to an end. They have made many acquisitions that will see them enter with one of the best teams in 2013-14. The Bruins signed former Worcester Shark Mike Moore. Moore played four seasons for Worcester, lastly in 2011-12. In 2012-13 he had five goals and 16 points in 50 games for Milwaukee (AHL). He is a very physical stay at home defenseman that should help bring toughness to the Bruins blue line.
When the Boston Bruins traded Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, the Bruins received three prospects in Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow. All three are likely to spend a large part of the season in Providence although they may spend some time in Boston as well. Reilly Smith is a very creative offensive player. He scored 14 goals and had 35 points in 45 games for Texas (AHL) to go along with playing 37 games in Dallas with three goals and nine points. He projects as a 2nd line winger in the NHL a couple of years down the road, but should step right in on Providence’s top line this year. Matt Fraser also came over from Dallas and he will remind Bruins fans a lot of Nathan Horton. He plays very physical but can also score some goals. He had 33 goals and 46 points in 62 games for Texas (AHL) last season. The final piece of that trade was defenseman Joe Morrow. Morrow has now been traded twice in four months (Pittsburgh traded him to Dallas as part of Brendan Morrow trade). He is a very aggressive two way defenseman who can play in any situation. He scored five goals and 19 points between his time with Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Texas (AHL) in 2012-13. He is great at jumping into the rush but is also very smart and responsible defensively.
Providence also signed winger Nick Johnson. In 2012-13 he scored three goals and nine points in 12 games for Portland (AHL) and additionally had four goals and six points in 17 games for the Phoenix Coyotes. He is a solid two way player that should help Providence in all situations. He goes to the front of the net where he scores most of his goals, but also has some skill to set up some offensive plays.
Former Worcester Sharks changing places:
I also took a look at some former Worcester Sharks players who will be playing for new teams in 2013-14. A handful of them have signed with other AHL clubs but a few are going over to play in Europe and even a couple in the NHL. Below is the list that I found, let me know if you think I missed any.
D Mike Moore (WOR from 2007-2011) signed with Providence (AHL)
LW Tim Kennedy (WOR from 2011-2013) signed with Portland (AHL)
F Mike Connolly (WOR from 2011-2012) signed with Augsburger (DEL)
F Benn Ferriero (WOR from 2009-2012) signed with Vancouver (NHL)
LW Steven Zalewski (WOR from 2007-2011) signed with Lukko (SM-Liga)
D Denny Urban (WOR from 2012-2013) signed with San Antonio (AHL)
D Mike Brennan (WOR from 2012-2013) signed with Iserlohn (DEL)
LW Kevin Henderson (WOR from 2009-2011) signed with Milwaukee (AHL)
RW Jonathan Cheechoo (WOR from 2010-2011) signed with Medvaescak (KHL)
D Sacha Guimond (WOR from 2012-13) signed with Utica (AHL)
D Mikael Tam (WOR from 2012-2013) signed with Lake Erie (AHL)
G Carter Hutton (WOR from 2010-2011) signed with Nashville (NHL)
The Sharks will look to knock off these other Atlantic Division teams when the 2013-14 season kicks off this fall. Opening night at the DCU Center is slated for October 19th and the full schedule will be out shortly. Be sure to keep checking back in to all offseason long for all of your Sharks news!

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