by PuckStopsHere on 12/15/12 at 05:25 PM ET
It was about a month ago when I last looked at the AHL standings. At that time the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames affiliate) was leading the league. They have fallen into second place now. The Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate) have taken the lead. Syracuse has 35 points. Their record is 16-9 with three regulation tie points. Abbotsford has a record of 14-11 with six regulation tie points and are tied for second with 34 points. They are tied with the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes affiliate) who have a 16-11 record with two regulation tie points.
At this point Syracuse seems like the team to beat in the AHL. They have fewer games played than Charlotte and more regulation wins than Abbotsford. With 91 goals scored, Syracuse is the top offensive team in the league. They have a balanced attack with several offensive weapons including Tyler Johnson, Brett Connolly, Cory Conacher and Richard Panik. Johnson is a second year AHLer who graduated from the WHL. He was undrafted in part because he is a smaller forward. Brett Connolly was Tampa's first round draft pick in 2010. He scored 15 points in 68 games in his NHL rookie season last year. Conacher is a smaller forward who emerged as one of the top AHL scorers last year, his first full year in the league. Panik was a second round pick in 2009 who is yet to make the jump to the NHL. This is a solid group of prospects and younger small forwards who can score at the minor pro level who might have NHL level ability.
Abbotsford is probably the second strongest AHL team so far this season. Their 51 goals against is the lowest in the league. They are the best defensive team in the AHL. Barry Brust and Danny Taylor have provided strong goaltending. Brust is a career AHLer who played 11 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 2006/07. He is posting a .949 saves percentage and a 1.20 goals against average. Taylor ha played a few more games this season and is posting a .929 saves percentage and a 1.81 GAA. He too has been a career AHLer with one NHL game played back in 2007/08. The top Abbotsford players have been Ben Street, a third year AHLer, Roman Horak, who played 61 games in his rookie year with the Calgary Flames last year, Sven Baertschi, Calgary's first pick in 2011 and a Calder Trophy candidate should a season occur and defenceman TJ Brodie, who has played 57 NHL games for Calgary.
Charlotte is another high scoring team. They are second to Syracuse in goal scored. Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and defenceman Justin Faulk have led the way. Boychuk is a former first round draft pick with 70 NHL games played. Bowman has played 69 NHL games of his own in the pasty three years. Faulk played 66 games in his NHL rookie year last year. This makes Charlotte the top AHL team with the most to lose if the NHL season occurs since all of their top scorers have NHL experience.
This AHL season has been a very good one. There is more talent in the league than ever before due to the NHL lockout. There is an interesting race atop the standings and so far Syracuse leads.
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