For the first time since 2009, the AHL will have franchises with more than one NHL affiliate…albeit a select few teams.
With the Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals, and Springfield Thunderbirds opting out of the 2021 AHL season (slated to start February 5), the NHL parent clubs — Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues — were left without a place to deposit their prospects this year.
That is, until three AHL clubs became open to the idea of dual affiliations.
As Florida, Nashville, and St. Louis were left without their planned AHL partnerships for 2021, they reached agreements with the Syracuse Crunch, Chicago Wolves, and Utica Comets (respectively) to serve as their interim AHL affiliates for the 2021 NHL regular season.
Let’s take a look at each club and see which skaters are currently assigned to these fortunate AHL franchises.
Syracuse was on the cusp of a playoff berth after an abrupt end to the 2019-20 season saw the Crunch land fifth in the North Division. And, although they did go 6-1-1 in the final eight games of the year, Syracuse could have easily missed the playoffs had they hit an end of season slump. In his fifth season as Crunch head coach, Benoit Groulx will have talent from both Tampa Bay and Florida at his disposal.
TAMPA BAY AND FLORIDA TAXI SQUADS
The Lightning assigned forwards Tyler Johnson & Gemel Smith, defenseman Luke Schenn, and goaltender Chris Gibson to its opening night taxi squad.
The Panthers placed forwards Mason Marchment & Aleksi Heponiemi, defenseman Brady Keeper, and goaltender Philippe Desrosiers on its taxi squad to start the season.
Tampa Bay: Alex Barre-Boulet, Ross Colton, Sean Day, Jack Finley, Gage Goncalves, Alex Green, Jimmy Huntington, Boris Katchouk, Spencer Martin, Boo Nieves, Taylor Raddysh, Dmitry Semykin, Daneil Walcott and Luke Witkowski (nine forwards, four defensemen, one goaltender)
Florida: Rodrigo Abols, Henry Bowlby, Grigori Denisenko, Max Gildon, John Ludvig, Jake Massie, Serron Noel, Chase Priskie, Cole Schwindt, and Scott Wilson (five forwards, four defensemen, and no goaltenders)
The Wolves are fresh out of a working relationship with the Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago’s fourth NHL affiliation since joining the AHL in 2001. Severing ties with Vegas also meant the departure of head coach Rocky Thompson, who took an assistant coaching position with the San Jose Sharks. Establishing a new primary partnership with the Carolina Hurricanes (along with Nashville as a secondary affiliate this season), former Charlotte Checkers head coach Ryan Warsofsky now takes the reins as Chicago’s bench boss.
CAROLINA AND NASHVILLE TAXI SQUADS
The Hurricanes assigned forwards Morgan Geekie, Steven Lorentz, & Max McCormick; defensemen Jake Bean & Joakim Ryan; and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, maxing out its taxi squad at six players.
The Predators placed forwards Mathieu Olivier, Cole Smith, and Eeli Tolvanen; defenseman Alexandre Carrier; and goaltender Connor Ingram to its taxi squad on January 13. On January 18, Carrier was sent to AHL Chicago and Olivier was called up to Nashville.
Carolina: Antoine Bibeau, Dominik Bokk, Jeremy Bracco, David Cotton, Jason Cotton, Seth Jarvis, Joey Keane, Maxime Lajoie, Stelio Mattheos, Jamieson Rees, Sheldon Rempal, Drew Shore, Spencer Smallman, and Ryan Suzuki (11 forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender)
Nashville: Michael Carcone, Alexandre Carrier, Jeremy Davies, Luke Evangelista, Brandon Fortunato, Patrick Harper, Ben Harpur, Tanner Jeannot, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Tyler Lewington, Sean Malone, Michael McCarron, Tommy Novak, Rem Pitlick, Anthony Richard, Philip Tomasino, and Josh Wilkins (11 forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender)
Boasting the furthest NHL-AHL affiliation in distance (2,918 miles or 4,696 km from Vancouver to Utica), the Comets now have the benefit of a second, stateside NHL affiliate in the St. Louis Blues. Aside from a Calder Cup Finals appearance in 2014-15, Utica has missed the postseason three times and only made it to the first round twice in six seasons (not counting a postseason-less 2019-20). Trent Cull looks to regroup with two pools of prospects in his fourth season coaching the Comets.
VANCOUVER AND ST. LOUIS TAXI SQUADS
The Canucks assigned forwards Justin Bailey & Marc Michaelis; defensemen Guillaume Brisebois, Brogan Rafferty, & Jack Rathbone; and goaltender Michael DiPietro to its taxi squad. Forwards Loui Erickson and Nils Hoglander were on the original taxi squad roster (announced January 13), but were called up to Vancouver the same day.
The Blues placed forwards Jacob De La Rose, Jordan Kyrou, Mackenzie MacEachern & Austin Poganski; defenseman Niko Mikkola, and goaltender Joel Hofer on its taxi squad. MacEachern and Kyrou were then called up to the Blues on January 13.
Vancouver: Sven Baertschi, Mitch Eliot, Jonah Gadjovich, Tyler Graovac, Lukas Jasek, Jake Kielly, Kole Lind, Will Lockwood, Ashton Sautner, Arturs Silovs, John Teves, and Jett Woo (seven forwards, four defensemen, and two goaltenders)
St. Louis: Sam Anas, Evan Fitzpatrick, Jon Gillies, Dakota Joshua, Tanner Kaspick, Hugh McGing, Curtis McKenzie, Jake Neighbours, Scott Perunovich, Evan Polei, Mitch Reinke, Steven Santini, Nolan Stevens, Tyler Tucker, Nathan Walker, and Jake Walman (nine forwards, five defensemen, and two goaltenders)
UPDATE, Jan. 17, 9:30 am MT
Reports from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet state that Vancouver is negotiating with a second AHL team to send prospects to without crossing the US-Canada border.
@FriedgeHNIC reports Canucks working w Manitoba Moose to take a couple of Vancouver prospects on loan, keeping them available on this side of the border. Smart. Big if they can pull it off.
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) January 17, 2021
Full Press AHL will keep an eye on this developing story and give updates when more information is made available.