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2019-20 AHL PREVIEW: Pacific Division


(Header image designed and created by Doug Waite)

Everything appears status quo in the Pacific Division, as the top teams still look strong, the bottom-feeders don't seem to have improved all that much, and the Calder Cup stayed west of the Rockies for a second straight year.

2018-19 Regular Season: 22-39-7, 51 points, 7th in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: DNQ

Notable Subtractions: N/A

Notable Additions: N/A

Looking Back: Things have only gone downhill since the move from Oklahoma City three years ago, with the team's point totals sinking from 77 to 65 to 51 during their time as the Condors...Last season might have been rock bottom, with franchise-worsts in wins (22), goals for (179), goals against (248), and winning percentage (.375)...At least rookie defenseman Erik Cernak impressed with 36 points in his debut season, though he did also set a new team record with 140 PIMs.

Looking Forward: Goaltending might keep the Condors afloat this year, as they boast arguably three starting-calibre netminders. Unfortunately the rest of the roster is littered with players who barely belong in the AHL, and there will be a rookie head coach behind the bench in Dominique Ducharme. Add it all up, and hockey fans in Bakersfield will surely be waiting at least another year for their first taste of playoff hockey.

2018-19 Regular Season: 32-30-6, 70 points, 5th in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: DNQ

Notable Subtractions: N/A

Notable Additions: N/A

Looking Back: Put together one of the worst AHL campaigns ever in 2017-18, but took a solid step forward last year, improving by 10 wins and 19 points...Ultimately fell short of a playoff berth by 13 points, however, so there's still a long way to go...A lot of the problems started between the pipes, where the three goalies who appeared for the Eagles over the course of the season combined for a putrid .891 save percentage, by far the lowest mark in the league.

Looking Forward: Kirklan Lycar's attempts to bolster his AHL franchise last season did result in a major improvement, but ultimately failed to produce a return to the playoffs. With a relatively thin roster, and no significant upgrades in net, it could be another disappointing season for the Eagles. Maybe it's time for the GM himself to lace 'em up?

2018-19 Regular Season: 25-33-10, 60 points, 6th in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: DNQ

Notable Subtractions: N/A

Notable Additions: N/A

Looking Back: Finally made the playoffs for the first time in 2017-18 before plummeting back to 29th overall last season, their first in Idaho...Maybe the move from Reading to Boise was bad luck...Whatever else might be said about this franchise, they can't be accused of disloyalty to their players: Five skaters on the roster last season had played over 200 games exclusively for the Steelheads/Royals, with the top four on that list (Joseph Cramarossa, Scott Kosmachuk, Hubert Labrie, and Logan Shaw) coming aboard as part of the EHE Inaugural Draft back in January 2015.

Looking Forward: Is it possible that the Steelheads could do worse than the 25 wins they managed last season? Considering their overall lack of depth or veteran leadership, and the fact they will roll into this year relying on a troupe of ECHL-calibre goalies, all signs point to yes.

2018-19 Regular Season: 41-22-5, 87 points, 2nd in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference Semifinals

Notable Subtractions: D Scott Mayfield (Graduated), F Kyle Rau (Trade-PIT), F Felix Girard (RFA-Not Qualified), F Pontus Aberg (Graduated)

Notable Additions: G Ilya Samsonov (Trade-CGY), F Filip Zadina (Draft-3rd OV 2018), D Niko Mikkola (Draft-154th OV 2018), F Cooper Marody (Draft-83rd OV 2018)

Looking Back: Had another impressive showing in just their second year of existence, bumping their winning percentage from .572 to .640 and matching the 87 points they managed in their inaugural season...Also improved on their playoff performance from 2017-18 (a first-round loss to Missouri), advancing to the second round before bowing out to the eventual Calder Cup champions...Were mediocre at controlling 5-on-5 play, but made up for it with outstanding special teams, finishing with the seventh-ranked powerplay and fourth-ranked penalty kill...Also helped their cause by being the AHL's most disciplined team, averaging just 10.3 PIM per game.

Looking Forward: With their top two scorers departing, taking a combined 47 goals and 116 points with them, the Rush will need to find new ways of generating offense. Inserting a sniper like Filip Zadina isn't a bad place to start, and GM Doug Waite has a track record of getting the most out of his teams. Even if they probably can't be called a Calder Cup favourite, the smart money says they'll land on the right side of the postseason cutoff. And after that, anything could happen.

2018-19 Regular Season: 38-22-8, 84 points, 3rd in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference Quarterfinals

Notable Subtractions: N/A

Notable Additions: N/A

Looking Back: From California to Alaska and back again, the Gulls at long last broke their franchise's playoff goose egg in 2018-19, grabbing a spot in the postseason for the first time ever...Along the way, rookie winger Anders Bjork ran away with the AHL goal-scoring crown, with his 41 snipes giving him 8 more than the next closest player...The American youngster also helped the Gulls set a new franchise high with 214 goals scored--a far cry from the all-time league worst of 151 they set back in 2016-17.

Looking Forward: The focus in the Kings organization remains firmly on the NHL team, but their AHL outfit looks much impoved this year with plenty of high-end veterans on hand. Fans in San Diego probably shouldn't get their hopes up that last season's playoff appearance will move the needle in the front office, but there's more than enough talent here to make the Gulls a dangerous outfit.

2018-19 Regular Season: 45-21-2, 92 points, 1st in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: Won Calder Cup

Notable Subtractions: F Austin Czarnik (Graduated), F Frank Vatrano (Graduated), D Travis Dermott (Trade-MTL), F Scott Laughton (Graduated)

Notable Additions: F Christian Fischer (Trade-MTL), D Quinn Hughes (Draft-5th OV 2018), C Adam Gaudette (Trade-BOS)

Looking Back: Saw their win total drop off by five from the previous year but were again statistically dominant on a per-game basis, finishing first in the league in goals against (2.28), shots for (35.28—a league record), and shots against (25.59)...Made a charge for their second straight MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy by going 11-3-1 to close out the season, but ultimately fell short by .002 of a winning percentage point...Of the twenty players who dressed for the clinching game of the 2018 Calder Cup Final, only six were still with the team when they hoisted the trophy again in 2019.

Looking Forward: Although most of the core that brought home two championships has now moved on, there's still plenty to like at the AHL level in San Jose. With decent depth, high-end players at every position, and championship pedigree sprinkled throughout the organization, the Barracuda certainly have a chance to accomplish the unprecedented Calder Cup three-peat.

2018-19 Regular Season: 38-23-7, 83 points, 4th in Pacific Division

2019 Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference Quarterfinals

Notable Subtractions: N/A

Notable Additions: F Ryan Poehling (Trade-SJ), F Nick Paul (Trade-CHI), D Dennis Gilbert (UFA)

Looking Back: One of only two teams that has improved their winning percentage for four straight seasons (the other being the IceHogs/Wolves franchise)...Also set new team records last season in both wins (38) and points (83), and posted their first-ever positive goal differential (+19)...Despite the steady improvement, the Heat remain the lowest-scoring team in league history with 865 total goals, and have yet to crack 200 in a single season...Made the playoffs for the second season in a row, but were again swept in the first round.

Looking Forward: It's been slow but steady improvement in Stockton over the last four years, thanks in no small part to the commitment of team management. The next step is to find success in the postseason, where the franchise has yet to win a series, or indeed, a single game. Given their talent and trajectory it's likely they'll accomplish that goal, and perhaps much more, in 2020.

Doug Waite

RC 4 Life. #utahbound

2019-20 AHL PREVIEW: Pacific Division

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