by PuckStopsHere on 10/28/12 at 08:05 PM ET
With the NHL locked out hockey fans are looking harder at the AHL for their hockey this season. The AHL is always a strong league and it is even stronger this year as many significant NHL players on their entry level contracts are playing there. It is still very early in the season as teams have played 6 to 8 games each, but i thought I would take a first look at the teams that lead in the AHL standings.
First place right now is a three way tie with teams at eleven points. This includes the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricane affiliate), Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliate) and the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliate). None of these teams belong to NHL clubs that qualified for the playoffs in 2011/12. Of these teams only Rochester qualified for the playoffs in the 2011/12 AHL season. This may represet a changing of the guard in the AHL.
Both Charlotte and Springfield have records of 5-1-1 and Rochester has an extra game played to hold a 5-2-1 record.
Springfield has probably been the strongest of these teams so far tis season. They have scored 21 goals and allowed only 12. That is a dominant goal differential. Curtis McElhinney has provided exceptional goaltending posting a 1.51 GAA and a .949 saves percentage. Those numbers would be clear MVP numbers if he can keep them up all season. They have a solid defence built around David Savard, John Moore and Cody Goloubef. Offensively they have not been a power as they have won by keeping their opponents goals down. They are led by Jonathan Audy-Marchessault who has seven points and Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen with six points each. David Savard is probably the player who would most likely be in the NHL if the NHL season was underway.
Charlotte is a stronger offensive team with 29 goals for and 18 against. Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman are the top scorers among their forwards. Their defence is also scoring well as Justin Faulk is tied with Boychuck for the team lead in points and Marc-Andre Gragnani is only a point behind. Dan Ellis has been their top goaltender and has posted very strong numbers in only four games played. Most of their top scorers have NHL experience and it is likely that a start to the NHL season will weaken this bunch.
Rochester has been high scoring with 33 goals for (leading the league) but their 29 goals against (tied for the league lead) is troubling. Their top scorers have NHL experience. Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson are tied for the scoring lead with defenceman TJ Brennan. Mark Mancari is next in scoring. David Leggio has been their goaltender to date but he has not been particularly strong. This team also is likely to have a significantly weakened offence should the HL season begin.
It is early in the AHL season and things are likely to change significantly as the season progresses. This shift will be significant if the NHL season starts up midway through the year. The Springfield Falcons are probably the team of the three currently atop the league that would best weather the loss of NHL players when the lockout ends. Currently they are tied with Charlotte and Rochester who both have several NHL level players leading the way in their scoring.
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