2013-14 American Hockey League Season Previews
Coaching Staff:Chadd Cassidy, head coach; Chris Taylor, asst coach; John Wroblewski, asst coach
Affiliates: Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
Prepared by:John Ginder
Record: 43-29-3-1 (90 points)
Conference finish: 2nd in North Division, 7th in Western Conference
Calder Cup Playoffs: Lost in Quarterfinals 3-0 to Toronto Marlies
Friday October 4th against the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Rochester Americans will begin their 57th season in the American Hockey League. The Americans are looking to have some success carried over from last season in which they made the playoffs for the third time in four years. Rochester hasn’t won a Championship since the 1995-96 season.
This years version of the team faces a bit of a challenge this season, as their parent club (Buffalo Sabres) are in a re-build mode. The loss of some key players to other teams is also a disadvantage, but due to the strength of some trades and good draft days, the Amerks are still a talented team that will have some success this season.
- David Leggio (G) Mark Mancari(LW/RW) Evan Rankin (RW) Rick Schofield (C)
- Andrei Makarov (G) Mike Zigomanis (C/W) Colton Gillies (LW) Drew Bagnall (D)
2013-2014 SEASON PREVIEW
One of the toughest things facing the Rochester Americans this season is the loss of goaltender David Leggio. Leggio led the American Hockey Leauge in wins (38), saves (1957), and was fifth in the league in save % (.924). One thing the Americans don’t lack is depth between the pipes but it remains to be seen who is going to be the guy to take over. They have their work cut out for them in a non-lockout season.
The Rochester Americans averaged almost three goals per game (2.94) last season which might be harder to achieve this year due to the loss of most of their top five scorers. There are plenty of players to step in and take over their spots, but it will be a bit more difficult due to what is going on 76 miles west in Buffalo. One player that is returning from last year is Luke Adam. Adam was 4th on the team last year in goals (15) and 5th in assists (22) and will be looked at as the guy to take over this season. The Americans also have a couple of veteran players that can help in the development of some of the younger guys. Mike Zigomanis who has almost 200 games of NHL experience is one of the guys followed by Colton Gillies who has over 150 games of NHL experience.
Phil Varone is another returning player from last years playoff team that is going to be looked to to take over some of the scoring for the Americans. Last season Varone tallied 35 points (11 goals) and will need to do at least that or more this season if the team wants to make another playoff push.
Defensemen Brayden McNabb is going to be looked to anchor the blue line for the Americans pending a mid-season call up by the Sabres due to injuries or poor play from some of the younger defensemen on the team. McNabb led all defensemen on the Americans last season with 36 points (5g – 31a).
Rochester will be without former first rounder Mark Pysyk as he is starting the season with the Sabres. Also missing from the team is T.J. Brennan that was traded by the Sabres in March and has since signed on with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This unit is going to struggle to find its identity this season as will most of the team due to the transition phase the Buffalo Sabres are going through. Many of the players from last season have moved on. Many new players have arrived which is the case yearly in the American Hockey League. It remains to be seen what they will be able to do as this season gets underway.
As it was mentioned earlier, the Americans will be without goalie David Leggio who has moved on. The Sabres are very fortunate to be able to boast about the depth in goal so a finding a replacement won’t be as difficult. Figuring out which goalie to go with will be the challenge which is a nice challenge to have.
Matt Hackett who was acquired by the Sabres last season in the Jason Pominville trade made three starts for the Americans last season winning all three, while posting a .955 sv% and a 1.05 gaa.
Battling Hackett for the starting position will be new comer Andrey Makarov. Makarov played for the Saskatoon Blades last season in the WHL, winning 37 games ending the season with a .919 sv% and a 2.62 gaa. It will be a decent battle with the edge going to Hackett.
Also in the mix are returning goalies Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen.
Potential Call-Up Impact
One of the things that every team in the American Hockey League face is the loss of a top player due to the call-up. This season will be no different. There are a couple of candidates on the Americans but the one player that sticks out the most is defencemen Brayden McNabb. McNabb enjoyed some time with the big club last season playing 25 games with the Sabres while tallying 8 points (1g, 7a). It is only a matter of time until he gets the call again. As in most cases losing a key player can be hard to overcome. McNabb’s time in the American Hockey League is going to be limited and once he makes the team he will be there for good. It will be up to the others in the unit to step up and take over the role McNabb will leave behind.
This is going to be a difficult season for the Americans. Losing several top scoring players is very hard to overcome. Having said that I feel that they will battle for the 7th or 8th spot in the Western Conference again and will make the playoffs again for the third straight season. Chemistry is one of those things that is always hard to achieve for any team in any sport, but with the turnover an AHL roster faces every year it is more difficult. The Americans are going to have to ride their goaltenders as far as they will take them. The end point is what is unknown.
Breakout Prospect Prediction: Luke Adam is a player to watch this season and will likely get back to his 20-goal scoring potential this season.
John Is a contributor with The Hockey Writers covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is also a Senior Writer and Editor at MetsMerizedOnline.