Scouting the Atlantic Division

Scouting the Atlantic Division
We’ve taken an in-depth look at the Worcester Sharks this offseason and what will be in store for them heading into the 2012-13 season. Now it’s time to break down their most important opponents: the rest of the Atlantic Division.
In addition to Worcester, the Atlantic is comprised of Manchester, Providence, Portland and St. John’s. The Sharks will play the majority of their games against these rivals next season as Worcester looks to get back into the playoff picture for the first time in three years.
Manchester Monarchs
The Monarchs will enter the 2012-13 season after seeing their NHL affiliate, the Los Angeles Kings, hoist the Stanley Cup last June. Manchester lost its assistant Scott Pellerin to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers when he was named their head coach. They’ve lost some important players as well, including their top goal-scorer and points leader, Justin Azevedo, who has bolted to Finland to play in SM-liiga. Also departing was Jeff Zatkoff, who was the Monarchs’ No. 1 goalie last season. He’ll play for Wilkes-Barre Scranton in 2012-13. They’ll have a number of important players returning, however, including 20-goal scorer Brandon Kozun and skilled defenseman Thomas Hickey.
Providence Bruins
Having not made the playoffs in the past several seasons, Providence decided it was time for some changes. The PBruins began this change by introducing new primary and secondary logos.
On the personnel side, Providence has brought in Chris Bourque, son of Boston legend Ray, to bolster their offense. Chris is a local kid, having gone to high school at Cushing Academy and grown up in Boxford, Mass. He’s also a quality goal-scorer, lighting the lamp 27 times with the Hershey Bears last season.
The Bruins have also brought on board enforcer Garnet Exelby, who at one time was one of the toughest middleweight fighters in the NHL. Exelby spent seven years with the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs, but has remained in the minors for the last two seasons with the Rockford IceHogs and the Grand Rapids Griffins. Look for the Sharks’ tough guys to go toe-to-toe with Exelby at some point in the 2012-13 season.
Portland Pirates
The Pirates, an affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, finished last season with a 36-35-5-4 record, missing the playoffs by just two points in the Eastern Conference. The Pirates lost a lot of players this offseason, including AHL All-Star Brett Sterling, who signed with the Chicago Wolves.
Brett MacLean, the team’s top goal-scorer in 2011-12, is in recovery after experiencing a cardiac emergency earlier this month but is expected to be ready for the start of next season. The Pirates also made a few additions, including 5’8’’ forward Chris Conner, who has 88 goals, 139 and 227 points in 275 career AHL games and tough guy Joel Rechlicz who was 2nd in the AHL last season with 267 penalty minutes in just 44 games with Hershey.
St. John’s IceCaps
In their first season of action, the IceCaps finished 2011-12 with a 43-25-5-3 record and as the Atlantic Division champion. The top affiliate of the Jets, the IceCaps had formerly been the Mantiba Moose (1996-2011) but were relocated when the NHL returned to Winnipeg.
Jason King led the team in goals with 22 and will return next season. Spencer Machecek, the team’s leading scorer, remains unsigned as of July 25. Top goaltender Eddie Pasquale will return to St. John’s in 2012-13 after allowing just 2.41 GAA last year.
The Atlantic Division looks like it will be a choppy one again this season with all five teams looking to make a run at a playoff spot. will have updates throughout the offseason as the Sharks prepare for their 7th season of hockey in Worcester…. stay tuned!

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