Archive for June, 2016

Free Agents around the AHL

June 25, 2016

The calendar says it’s officially summer, and the free agent solstice is nigh as well.  So, here is a look at some significant free agents from this past season’s AHL rosters.  Contract information comes from and, and please note, this is a purely subjective list, limited by the holes in my personal knowledge and judgement…

Albany:  Brandon Burlon (D), Yann Danis (G), Marc-Andre Gragnani (D), Dan Kelly (D), Matt Lorito (F, AHL contract), Corbin McPherson (D, AHL contract), Jim O’Brien (F), Brian O’Neill (F), Rod Pelley (F, AHL contract), Mike Sislo (F), David Warsofsky (D)

Bakersfield:  Matthew Ford (F, AHL contract), Ryan Hamilton (F), Brad Hunt (D), Rob Klinkhammer (F), Andrew Miller (F)

Binghamton:  Jason Akeson (F), Mark Fraser (D), Michael Kostka (D), Phil Varone (F)

T.J. Brennan (

T.J. Brennan (

Bridgeport:  Marc-Andre Cliché (F), Kevin Czuczman (D), Justin Florek (F), Mike Halmo (F), Joe Whitney (F)

Charlotte:  T.J. Hensick

Chicago:  Chris Butler (D), Pat Cannone (F), Peter Harrold (D), Zach O’Brien (F, AHL contract), Scooter Vaughn (D), Jeremy Welsh (F)

Grand Rapids:  Tom McCollum (G), Andy Miele (F), Nathan Paetsch (D, AHL contract)

Hershey:  Eric Burgdoerfer (D, AHL contract), Carter Camper (F), Sean Collins (F), Mark Dekanich (G, AHL contract), Dustin Gazley (F, AHL contract), Justin Peters (G), Zach Sill (F)

Iowa:  Tyson Strachan (D)

Lake Erie:  Justin Falk (D), Brad Thiessen (G, AHL contract)

Lehigh Valley:  Adam Comrie (D, AHL contract), Phil DeSimone (F, AHL contract), Davis Drewiske (D)

Manitoba:  John Albert (F, AHL contract), Patrice Cormier (F), Matt Halischuk

Milwaukee:  Patrick Mullen (D), Corey Potter (D)

Ontario:  Sean Backman (F, AHL contract), Kris Newbury (F, AHL contract), Jordan Samuels-Thomas (F, AHL contract), Jeff Schultz (D), Brett Sutter (F)

Portland:  Sena Acolatse (D), Rob Flick (F), Cameron Gaunce (D), Wade Megan (F, AHL contract), Brett Olson (F), Wayne Simpson (F, AHL contract), Garrett Wilson (F)

Providence:  Tommy Cross (D), Brandon DeFazio (F), Matt Irwin (D), Joonas Kemppainen (F), Jeremy Smith (G), Ben Youds (D, AHL contract)

Rockford:  Kyle Cumiskey (D), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (F, AHL contract)

Rochester:  Jerry D’Amigo (F), Matt Donovan (D), Patrick Kaleta (F, AHL contract), Eric O’Dell (F), Colby Robak (D, AHL contract), Chad Ruhwedel (D), Bobby Sanguinetti (D), Tim Schaller (F), Cole Schneider (F)

San Antonio:  Andrew Agozzino (F), Andrew  Bodnarchuk (D), Nick Drazenovic (F, AHL contract), Maxim Noreau (D), Zach Redmond (D), Ben Street (F)

San Jose:  Mark Cundari (D), John McCarthy (F), Trevor Parkes (F, AHL contract), Karl Stollery (D), Matt Tennyson (D), Scott Timmins (F, AHL contract), Gus Young (D, AHL contract)

San Diego:  Korbinian Holzer (D), Anton Khudobin (G), Antoine Langaniere (F, AHL contract), Kyle MacKinnon (F, AHL contract), Chris Mueller (F), Shane O’Brien (D), Joe Piskula (D), Harry Zolnierczyk (F)

St. John’s:  Victor Bartley (D), Gabriel Dumont (F), Bud Holloway (F), Ben Scrivens (G)

Springfield:  Greg Carey (F, AHL contract), Alex Grant (D), Dylan Reese (D), Eric Selleck (F), Brendan Shinnimin (F), Derek Smith (D), Jordan Szwarz (F)

Stockton:  Derek Grant (F), Aaron Johnson (D), Jakub Nakladal (D), Blair Riley (F, AHL contract)

Syracuse:  Mike Angelidis (F), Mike Blunden (F), Jonathan Marchessault (F), Philippe Paradis (F), Jeff Tambellini (F), Matt Taormina (D)

Texas:  Jesse Blacker (D, AHL contract), Brennan Evans (D, AHL contract), Greg Rallo (F, AHL contract)

Toronto:  Mark Arcobello (F), T.J. Brennan (D), Richard Clune (F), Matt Frattin (F), Justin Holl (D, AHL contract), David Kolomatis (D, AHL contract), Ben Smith (F)

Utica:  Darren Archibald (F, AHL contract), Taylor Fedun (D), Alex Friesen (F), Blair Jones (F), Ronalds Kenins (F), Jon Landry (D, AHL contract), John Negrin (D, AHL contract), Danny Syvret (played most of season in Germany, spent time with Comets on PTO)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:  Niclas Andersen (D), Casey DeSmith (G, played on a PTO), Dustin Jeffrey (F), Kael Mouillierat (F), Steve Oleksy (D), Will O’Neill (D), Tom Sestito (F)


A Monster Postseason

June 13, 2016

The AHL has a first-time champion for a sixth straight year, after the Lake Erie Monsters completed a four-game Finals sweep of the Hershey Bears Saturday night, for the Monster franchise’s first Calder Cup title.

The Monsters, who had never won even a playoff series in seven years of existence before this spring, followed the time-honored championship script of getting hot down the stretch of the regular season and carrying that momentum through a dominant playoff run.  Lake Erie went 9-1-1-0 in its last 11 regular-season games and then was 15-2 in the postseason, with their two defeats coming in back-to-back games in the second round against Grand Rapids, after the Monsters had charged to a three-games-to-none lead in that series.  In addition to the sweep in the Finals vs. the Bears, who had ousted the regular-season champion Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference Finals, Lake Erie also swept the defending-champion Ontario Reign in the Western Finals and the Rockford IceHogs in the first round.

(Photo Courtesy of

(Photo Courtesy of

Head Coach Jared Bednar’s Monsters capped the triumph in thrilling fashion, winning the decisive Game Four over Hershey on an overtime goal by forward Oliver Bjorkstrand with 1.9 seconds left in the extra session, in front of a sellout crowd at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena of 19,665, the second-largest attendance ever recorded at an AHL postseason game.  The game-winner was Bjorkstrand’s sixth of the playoffs, which tied a league record, and an all-time Calder Cup best third overtime goal of the rookie’s postseason.

“The way this team came together, the selflessness, we got so tight,” Lake Erie captain Ryan Craig said to the media after the Cup-winning victory.  “We knew we had a talented group right from the start, but you don’t know how long it’s going to take to come together. This group committed, and so many guys played a part of this.”

Indeed, the parent Columbus Blue Jackets have to be ecstatic about how thoroughly their multiple young prospects stepped up to carry the Monsters to their championship.  In addition to Bjorkstrand, whose league-leading ten playoff goals, and penchant for getting them at the most important times, earned him the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the AHL’s playoff MVP, fellow rookies Zach Werenski (an 18-year-old who only joined Lake Erie after the conclusion of his Sophomore season at the University of Michigan), Markus Hannikainen and Sonny Milano all played big postseason roles for the Monsters, and except for the 34-year-old Craig, none of Lake Erie’s top ten playoff scorers is older than 23.

The Monsters were also young in goal, with 22-year-old Swedish import Anton Forsberg and 21-year-old Finnish native Joonas Korpisalo, and an interesting story line played out in that aspect as well.  Korpisalo got the call in Lake Erie’s first eight playoff outings, but after he was pulled late in a 6-1 loss to Grand Rapids in Game Five of the second round, Forsberg took over and went 9-0 the rest of the way, with a microscopic 1.34 goals-against average and a 94.9% save percentage.

It was almost as if the Monsters, collectively, could do no wrong.  They were a good defensive team all year, giving up the third-fewest regular-season goals in the league, but their offense was fair-to-middling until the postseason, when players like Bjorkstrand, Craig (3-10-13) and Lukas Sedlak (9-7-16) took their games to new levels to lead Lake Erie to a league-best 3.47 goals-per-game.

If a number of these Monster names sound familiar to Wolf Pack fans, that is because the seeds of this playoff triumph were largely sown in Springfield, where the Blue Jackets’ affiliation resided for five years before moving to Cleveland this past season.  Ironically, the previous year’s Springfield club, also coached by Bednar, followed an almost completely opposite trajectory from that of the Lake Erie champion.  The 2014-15 Falcons were one of the better teams in the league in the first half and were sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings in mid-January, before losing Forsberg to an injury and stumbling down the stretch, ultimately missing out on the playoffs by a margin of one point.

There was one Wolf Pack connection to the Calder Cup-champion squad, albeit a tenuous one.  Thirteenth-year pro defenseman Steve Eminger, who had 1-7-8 in 13 postseason games for Lake Erie, played four games for the Connecticut Whale in 2012-13, his last of three seasons in the New York Ranger organization.

So congratulations to the Monsters, and to the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins, as we flip the switch into full off-season mode.