Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

2022 AHL Preview

Decided to wing it this year and do a full 32 team AHL Preview. Stripped down from other years, just blurbs on teams and when these teams play the Penguins. Let’s start in the Pacific Division and work our way eastward. The Penguins don’t play any of these teams and probably never will.

As an added twist, I provided finishing order for each division as well. Let’s come back in April and see how wrong I was! I also identify a divisional dark horse. I’m more confident with this then I am with finishing order, for obvious reasons.

Pacific Division

Coachella Valley Firebirds: The Leagues newest team playing in the bloated, ten team Pacific Division and won’t play an actual home game until December. Should have some names fairly familiar to the Penguins as Seattle’s AHL players were with Charlotte in a split affiliation last year. Dan Bylsma is the coach, a name really familiar here, so who knows how good they can be.

Calgary Wranglers: Moved from Stockton to Calgary. Are a really good, deep team who pushed eventual winner Chicago in the Calder Cup Playoffs last year. Should, hypothetically, pick up where they left off and contend again this season.

Colorado Eagles: Surprisingly (or maybe not so) stayed put in the Pacific Division and didn’t (like I expected) move to the Central Division, where I think they would have a better shot at (conceivably) winning the division, because I don’t see it happening to them this year in the Pacific.

Tucson Roadrunners: The other team I was expecting to jump with Colorado over to the Central, was one of the eight teams to miss playoffs so it’s been a long summer for them. Only way is up, but the Pacific is a vipers pit, so good luck.

San Jose Barracuda: Have a brand new arena that is very, very nice, at least from the pictures and stories I have read on it. Are the 2024 All Star hosts. Still projected to be mediocre to bad, but at least it’s sunny all the time in San Jose and rarely rains.

Ontario Reign: Will probably contend with Calgary or some other surprise team in the Pacific for the division crown. With healthy doses of Tucson, San Jose and an unknown Coachella Valley side, it’s easy to see why.

San Diego Gulls: Retooled with some decent signings in the offseason and have sure fire AHL Hall of Fame head coach Roy Sommer running things this season. Don’t expect the Gulls to be a doormat for other teams this season. We may have a dark horse team on our hands here.

Henderson Silver Knights: Quiet offseason which, by all accounts is probably fine but other teams improved, reloaded or flat out got better. Will it be enough?

Bakersfield Condors: See Henderson above, of the five California teams aren’t the first best, probably aren’t the second best and likely not the third. Somewhere in between fourth and last, likely. Could be a long year.

Abbotsford Canucks: Lotsa trips to Calgary are on deck for the Canucks, which probably means lots of L’s. Couple that with a super division that is the 10 team, mega chungus Pacific Division, and you are probably clinching a playoff berth on the final weekend of the regular season this year.

Central Division

Chicago Wolves: I don’t think they repeat. They got raided in the offseason, but will probably still contend.

Iowa Wild: Missed playoffs last year but I don’t see that happening this season. Could play dark horse but Bill Guerin is still GM of Minnesota, so maybe you can manage to mess up a free lunch after all.

Grand Rapids Griffins: Didn’t make playoffs last year and by all accounts, could repeat that impressive feat again this season.

Manitoba Moose: Just have to play better than the two worst teams in the division and they are a playoff team. Simple, right? I think they are better than Grand Rapids and marginally better than say Rockford and Texas, so they could be a safe bet to return to the playoffs again.

Milwaukee Admirals: Had a pretty solid offseason signings wise. Primed to make a run in the Central, considering other teams lack of bigger name signings and some teams getting picked apart in the summer.

Rockford IceHogs: Should improve over last season and are probably a better dark horse candidate than Iowa.

Texas Stars: Should show better than their fifth place finish last season. I have them as a top three team, mixed in somewhere with Milwaukee and one of either Rockford or Chicago.

Central Division

Note: Pens play everyone in this division at least once, with those games identified in bold.

Rochester Americans: Bland offseason for Rochester. Should be OK though, just not a division contender.

WBS: @ 1/25, vs. 3/17

Belleville Senators: Decent upgrades for Belleville. Could contend as the dark horse divisional winner. We remain Troy Mann stans on this blog.

WBS: @ 12/21, vs. 2/25

Cleveland Monsters: Going through the lists of who got who in this division, there isn’t a lot of there there with a lot of teams. Cleveland is one of them. Could either be a boom or bust, and with the Monsters putrid showing last year, leaning towards the latter.

WBS: vs. 10/26, vs. 12/9, @ 3/4, @ 3/5

Toronto Marlies: I mean I don’t think that the Marlies will miss the playoffs this upcoming season, like they did last year. Decent enough signings to push them to a possible top five finish.

WBS: @ 12/20, vs. 3/8

Syracuse Crunch: I like their upgrades at all positions. They will be a hard team to play against, as history has shown.

WBS: vs. 1/18, @ 2/24, @ 3/18, vs. 4/1

Utica Comets: I see them as a playoff team, just not one which tore through opponents and won the division going away type like last year.

WBS: @ 10/17, vs. 3/11

Laval Rocket: Had them pegged as the division winner last year and that didn’t pan out but they were the last North Division team standing last year so what the hell and let’s pick them to finish first again this season.

WBS: vs.10/21, @ 12/23

Atlantic Division

Hershey Bears: Loaded up like the Bears always do. And not just big names, but really solid depth signings when the inevitable call ups happen. I think they contend for the division this season.

WBS: @ 10/29, vs. 11/5, @ 11/6, vs. 11/18, @ 11/29, @ 12/4, vs. 12/16, vs. 12/17, vs. 12/27, @ 1/11, vs. 2/15, @ 3/1

Charlotte Checkers: Now on an island all their own with Seattle packing up shop and moving their AHLers to sunny California. Sole Florida affiliate now. I think they are a playoff team, but the confidence level on this call is low.

WBS: @ 11/21, @ 11/23, vs. 1/4, vs. 1/6, @ 1/14, @ 1/15, vs. 4/5, vs. 4/15

Springfield Thunderbirds: Calder Cup runners up got raided a bit with Sam Anas defecting for in division rival Hershey, though should still contend. We waited for the bottom to fall out last season and that never came. Does it this season?

WBS: vs. 11/12, @ 11/26, vs. 11/1, @ 11/3

Hartford Wolf Pack: The most improved team in the division and I think in the entire league. Big off-season get in CJ Smith from Chicago, if he doesn’t stick with the Rangers he’s a point machine at this level. Wolf Pack are a dark horse division contender and a team who will do a complete 180 and should compete all season long.

WBS: @ 10/22, vs. 11/11, vs. 1/7, @ 2/4, vs. 3/26, @ 4/14

Bridgeport Islanders: Shocked us all as the 6 seed ousting the 3 seed Providence Bruins in last years playoffs. I think the Islanders are a solid choice to show better than the 6 seed again this season, but when you play division heavies like Hartford and Springfield 100 times in a season and sprinkle in visits with perennial heavies like Hershey and the Pens, trouble can befell Bridgeport in a hurry.

WBS: @ 11/19, vs. 12/3, @ 1/21, vs. 1/28, vs. 2/19, @ 4/8

Lehigh Valley Phantoms: Laughingstock of the division last season with all that firepower. How in the hell did Ian Laperriere keep his job? Phantoms are back to give it another go, retooled. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or will they contend in the division like we all expected them to last year?

WBS: vs. 10/15, @ 10/28, vs. 11/25, @ 12/31, vs. 1/20, @ 1/27, @ 2/18, vs. 2/22, vs. 3/10, @ 3/19, vs. 3/25, @ 3/31

Providence Bruins: So as I am putting these things together I am going on the individual team websites to see who signed. Uh, I think the Bruins are still on summer vacation (kinda like me) because all I saw was one signing and that’s all. Boston signed a bunch of guys but they either either draftees or have been with the team prior. So that probably means that the P-Bruins win the Calder Cup this year.

WBS: @ 10/23, vs. 12/30, @ 2/10, vs. 2/11, vs. 3/29, @ 4/7

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins: Do I think they improved? Slightly. Do I think they got worse? Slightly. JD Forrest took this team to a 4 seed last season and they ousted their biggest rival in Hershey. The remaining core for the most part is there. I think they upgraded slightly in goal (Tokarski) on defense (resigning Reinke, inking Jon Lizotte and Xavier Ouellet) but downgraded in the grit / toughness department with the loss of Jordy Bellerive to Lehigh Valley. Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare should be around for the most part and you hope they don’t hit a sophomore slump. Will give Hershey fits and what I really want to see is how they stack up against Hartford out of the gate on Oct 22.

My very wrong predictions:

1) Ontario
2) Colorado
3) Calgary
4) San Diego
5) Bakersfield
6) Coachella Valley
7) Abbotsford

8) San Jose
9) Tucson
10) Henderson

1) Milwaukee
2) Chicago
3) Texas
4) Rockford
5) Iowa

6) Manitoba
7) Grand Rapids

1) Laval
2) Syracuse
3) Utica
4) Belleville
5) Rochester

6) Toronto
7) Cleveland

1) Hartford
2) Hershey
3) Springfield
4) Wilkes-Barre
5) Bridgeport
6) Charlotte

7) Lehigh Valley
8) Providence

If you have a team going tomorrow, best of luck. I will be back here again Friday morning with the first Weekend Setup of the season previewing Lehigh Valley and Utica. More then.

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