Top AHL Storylines of 2017 So Far
The dog days of the 2016-17 AHL season have set in, but despite the monotony and fatigue that often comes with it (just ask the Albany Devils as they plod through a pair of three games in three days stints in their February schedule) there is quite a bit going that fans of the league should be paying attention to. League President and CEO Dave Andrews touched on a few interesting topics during his most recent press conference, including the possibility of adding a new team next season to serve as an affiliate for the new NHL team in Las Vegas, the possibility of an outdoor game being played somewhere in the East next year because of the rainy weather in the West that has dampened previous ones, and the fact that the league’s unbalanced schedule (Pacific Division plays 68 games and everyone else plays 72) probably won’t change for a while. In addition to that news, here are a few other storylines to follow for the remainder of the season.
New TV Deal
Many AHL games appear on the various Sportsnet channels across the country and can also be found in DirecTV sports packages, but now you can add another network to the list, even if it’s just for a short period of time. TSN2 (The Sports Network) recently announced a deal that will air some AHL games through the remainder of the season.
Team on the Move
If you are a regular follower of the AHL, you are probably familiar with the St. John’s IceCaps, a Montreal Canadiens affiliate. Starting next season, the team is moving to Laval, Quebec in order to be closer to the Canadiens home. In anticipation of the move, the team recently unveiled their new logo and uniforms for 2017-18. The Laval Rockets name and logo pays tribute to Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard. Despite their impending move, the IceCaps are pushing for a playoff spot that would end a five-year drought. Much of their effort is led by forward Chris Terry, whose 41 points (16 goals and 25 assists) are ninth best in the league. Terry projects to be the leading scorer in the AHL if he hadn’t missed several games during his two call ups to Montreal, where he played 14 games, scoring two goals and dishing out two assists.
After scoring seven goals in January, Charlotte Checkers forward Lucas Wallmark was named Rookie of the Month, becoming the first Checkers player to ever win the award. During the first 22 games of the season Wallmark only scored three goals, but he has scored 12 in his last 24 games. With just under 30 games to play, he is within reach of the Checkers record of most goals scored by a rookie (Zac Dalpe’s 23) in a season.
In addition to these storylines, there are several things to keep an eye on as the 2017-18 season approaches. They include new division alignments to accommodate the teams who are changing locations and a possible new franchise. Season schedules will be announced in July instead of the typical late August and dates for the AHL All-Star game and accompanying festivities won’t be announced until it is determined if NHL stars will participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The AHL wants to schedule their All-Star activities during the NHL Olympic break, if there is one.