The Albany Devils are making progress and making noise in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. At the midway point, the A-Devils stand at 23-9-6-0 (52 points), good enough for second place in the North Division and third in the conference. Compare that with last year’s squad, which was 17-14-7 and one can see the vast improvement across the board.
This club is even placing itself in the conversation with its predecessors from the mid-1990s. Like the 1994-95 Calder Cup winning squad, this Albany team ran off a season-high seven consecutive victories. Plus, they matched an Albany AHL record of eleven straight wins at home. While they ended the first half with a 3-2 overtime loss at home against the Hartford Wolf Pack, Albany still hasn’t lost at home in regulation since November 21. Albany(15-2-2-0) sports an AHL-best .842 winning percentage at home.
Albany boasts the second ranked power play (23.0%), behind the Providence Bruins (24.0%). On the penalty kill, Albany is tops in the league (88.6%). The 84-goals yielded by the Devils, rank third, behind the Ontario Reign (71) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (83).
Seven players have seen time in both Albany and New Jersey this season.
Most valuable player – Mike Sislo
I could’ve opted for Yann Danis, given how he carried the load in the early going but I didn’t want to slight Scott Wedgewood’s heroics of late. The “modern-day” Steve Brule, No. 19 is a difference maker on the A-Devils power play. Sislo has eleven markers with the extra attacker. Sislo’s 16-tallies lead the club and are just four shy of the 20 he notched in 2014-15. Additionally, Sislo ranks second on the squad with 31 points and has registered four game-winning goals on the campaign.
Best defenseman – Seth Helgeson
Although Marc-Andre Gragnani leads all A-Devils blueliners with 15 helpers and Vojtek Mozik paces the team with a plus-20 rating, Helgeson gets the nod. If you appreciate defensive defensemen, you can’t help but love what Helgeson brings to the table. Helgeson has the size, physicality, reach and awareness needed to keep the puck away from the net. Think the same mold of a Cale Hulse, Willie Mitchell, Jason Smith type. Helgeson is a plus-eleven himself and is a huge anchor on the penalty kill.
Top rookie – Matt Lorito
One may argue Joseph Blandisi deserves the nod here. While Blandisi made the jump to New Jersey, Lorito remains a play-making force with Albany. Lorito leads Albany with 23-helpers and 33-points. Plus, Lorito’s 33-points rank tied for eighth in the league.
Unsung hero – Corey Tropp
On loan from the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Tropp has done everything asked of him thus far. No matter the role, Tropp does it all for the A-Devils. Along with his gritty, grinding style, Tropp is fourth on the team with 23-points.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.