AHL Logo Ranking: No. 11 – Ontario Reign

Jared Clinton
Ontario Reign logo. (via SportsLogos/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

It’s going to be hard for the Ontario Reign to top what the franchise accomplish in 2014-15 before the move to California. This past season, as the Manchester Monarchs, the franchise won its first ever regular season championship, a fourth division title, the Eastern Conference championship and dominated the final three rounds of the post-season en route to a Calder Cup victory. So, again, it’s going to be hard to live up to expectations.

The thing is, though, the Monarchs might be well positioned to do it all over again. While three of their top 10 scorers won’t be back — defenseman Colin Miller and wingers Zach O’Brien and David Van der Gulik are gone — they’re heading into the 2015-16 season with the potential for a big year from 18-year-old top prospect Adrian Kempe, a great sophomore campaign from Michael Mersch and the AHL debut for Valentin Zykov. That’s not mention the club added veteran Kris Newbury, who scored 18 goals and 48 points this past season in Hershey.

It’s worth wondering, however, if this could be the year the Kings’ farm system loses Jordan Weal to the big club. Weal has been a steady 70-point scorer over the past two seasons and could be ready to make the full time jump to the NHL. If he does, his production will be hard to replace.

The biggest issue for the Reign could be in goal, where Jean-Francois Berube and Patrik Bartosak will be the tandem tasked with taking Ontario back to the promised land. The duo was average last season and without improvement, it’s tough to say whether the roster can again be the dominant force it was in 2014-15. Read more

Leaked image shows potential Islanders black and white third jersey

Jared Clinton
Leaked Islanders third jersey. (via Reddit)

Sorry, Islanders fans: prepare to be underwhelmed.

It was reported yesterday that the New York Islanders would be adopting a black and white alternate jersey for the 2015-16 season and a new leak may offer fans a first glimpse at the new threads. Unfortunately, the jersey isn’t great.

Instead of somehow combining the black and white, the jersey is instead simply giving a few white lines to break up the absence of color. The collar, for instance, has white around the back, the sleeves contain four thin white stripes and the cuffs of the jersey also have white piping. Oh, and the logo is white, with four orange bands on the logo’s stick. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 12 – Charlotte Checkers

Jared Clinton
Charlotte Checkers logo. (via SportsLogos/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

The Checkers weren’t offensively impressive in 2014-15. They scored only 172 goals, the third lowest total in the AHL, and finished third last in the Western Conference.

It won’t help for the Checkers that they lost a number of players, either. Chad LaRose, the team’s second-highest scorer, is still without a deal. They lost Greg Nemisz to retirement. Alex Aleardi is also on his way out. That’s three players from their top 10 scorers. They did, however, add T.J. Hensick who scored 14 goals and 60 points in 2014-15, which would have made him the top point-getter in Charlotte.

The reinforcements look good, but they may not be good enough. Youngsters Sergei Tolchinsky, Lucas Wallmark and Erik Karlsson all project to make the team this season. On the backend, Jake Chelios and Justin Agosta will be entering the fold. The goaltending should also be all right with Drew McIntyre and Rasmus Tirronen. Read more

New York Islanders to go black and white in Brooklyn

Jared Clinton
The New York Islanders celebrate Mikhail Grabovski's goal after a beautiful passing play. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

To go with their big move to Brooklyn, the New York Islanders are going to be unveiling a brand new third jersey and the threads might not feature any of the Islanders’ traditional colors.

In keeping with the color scheme of the other tenant of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the Islanders will be sporting a black and white alternate sweater in 2015-16, doing away with the former silver, blue and orange alternate that was used this past season.

The new sweater is set to be revealed on Sept. 21, according to IslandersPointBlank’s Brian Erni. It will be the third alternate jersey the Islanders have used in the past three seasons. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 13 – Utica Comets

Jared Clinton
Utica Comets logo (via SportsLogos/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

The Utica Comets were so close to capturing their first Calder Cup in just their second season in upstate New York, but they were run over in five games by the mighty Manchester Monarchs. So where do the Comets go from here?

During this off-season, Utica has lost both of its starting goaltenders from 2013-14 — Jacob Markstrom will be in Vancouver, Joacim Eriksson left for Europe — and both of its top scorers. Cal O’Reilly, who led the team with 61 points, is off to Buffalo and Brandon DeFazio landed a deal with Boston. Coming in this year, though, the Comets have snagged Blair Jones, who notched 9 goals, 21 points in 33 AHL games in 2014-15. That’s a nice addition for the club.

Plus, there’s always the youth talent to consider. Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Cole Cassels, Dane Fox and Alexandre Grenier are all a year older. For Cassels and Fox, this will be their first taste of the AHL, but they’ve got the ability to contribute enough to replace the losses the Comets have suffered.

But that still leaves the goaltending issue. In 2014-15, Markstrom was nothing short of incredible, posting a 1.88 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. It’s tough to find a goaltender to replace that kind of puck-stopping in the AHL, but Richard Bachman will have to give it a shot. This past season Bachman posted a 2.38 GAA and .918 SP, but maybe he sees a bump from the quality of players in front of him in Utica. If the Comets want to get back to the Calder Cup final, Bachman might be the key. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 14 – St. John’s IceCaps

Jared Clinton
St. John's IceCaps logo. (via SportsLogos/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

The St. John’s IceCaps are getting a different look thanks to a brand new affiliation with the Montreal Canadiens, and along with the change in affiliate could come a return to the post-season after a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.

In their third season in St. John’s in 2013-14, the IceCaps came three wins away from the franchise’s first Calder Cup, but in 2014-15, the team fell off hard. In a tough Eastern Conference, the IceCaps, then affiliated with the Winnipeg Jets, fell off hard and missed the playoffs by a dozen points. And a team that was offensively gifted in 2013-14 fell apart as they scored more than 70 fewer goals in 2014-15 than they had the year prior.

In 2014-15, the Hamilton Bulldogs, who will become this season’s IceCaps, missed the post-season by six points. That said, they packed significantly more offensive punch and are getting a number of fresh, young faces who could score in droves. Having the young players come in and score will be important, too, as five of their top-10 scorers from 2014-15 are gone. T.J. Hensick, Nick Sorkin, Eric Tangradi, Drayson Bowman and Davis Drewiske have all moved on, but in their place come young players such as Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Tim Bozon, Jeremy Gregoire and Brett Lernout.

The IceCaps will be one of the youngest teams in the league and it could be boom or bust in 2015-16. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 15 – Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Jared Clinton
Lehigh Valley Phantoms logo (via SportsLogos.net/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

It’s been a while since the once dominant Phantoms franchise has found its way into the post-season. Can 2015-16 be the year they make the jump from AHL pretender to Calder Cup contender?

Since 2009-10, the club has failed to make the playoffs and there has been quite a bit of change to the Phantoms roster in time for the new season. Gone are 12 regulars from last season’s lineup, including top-10 scorers Jason Akeson, Blair Jones and Zack Stortini. On the backend, Adam Comrie, Steve Delisle, Oliver Lauridsen and Brett Flemming are all off to new opportunities for the upcoming campaign.

The big names coming in are Chris Conner and Colin McDonald, who scored a combined 87 point in 101 games this past season. That should make up for the production lost this off-season and there’s also some youth that could be on its way to town. Young defenseman Samuel Morin, one of the Flyers’ top prospects, could start his campaign in the AHL, and Tyrell Goulbourne and Pavel Padakin might be able to provide some scoring up front as first-year AHLers.

In goal, the addition of veteran Jason LaBarbera provides some stability in goal, especially with how much Anthony Stolarz struggled this past season. It’ll likely be the combination of 35-year-old LaBarbera and 21-year-old Stolarz defending the net for the Phantoms in 2015-16.

Entering their second season in Lehigh Valley, a playoff berth would be a pleasant surprise for the Phantoms. Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 16 – Springfield Falcons

Jared Clinton
Falcons logo featured

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

As part of the AHL’s big shuffle for the 2015-16 season, the Springfield Falcons lose their affiliation with the Columbus Blue Jackets and a squad that missed the post-season in the Eastern Conference by one point. In their place, the Falcons join up with the Arizona Coyotes and a club that made the post-season by in the Eastern Conference by one point. That’s quite the interesting swap.

Because of the affiliation change, there are obviously going to be a lot of changes to the Falcons lineup, but considering the amount of turnover in the Coyotes’ minor league system, there’s the chance this isn’t even a post-season team anymore. Really, it’s hard to tell what they’ll be.

This off-season alone, the Coyotes’ affiliate lost goaltenders Mark Visentin, Mike McKenna and David Leggio, forwards Justin Hodgman, Alexandre Bolduc, Darian Dziurzynski, Greg Carey, Francis Wathier, Phil Lane and defensemen Evan Oberg, Joel Hanley and Matt Lashoff. That’s more than half of a decent AHL team. That said, reinforcements were brought in.

Most notable of the new faces are Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Dylan Reese, but there’s also the chance that should Anthony Duclair not make the Coyotes roster — which seems like a slim chance, at this point — he could end up in Springfield. This is a young, young roster. Only two players are 30 and not a single goaltender is over the age of 25.

One player who could make an impact, however, is Brendan Shinnimin. The 24-year-old finished second on the Coyotes in scoring with 22 goals and 47 points, but has improved his production steadily each year. He’s not a lock to spend the season in Springfield — he played 12 games for Arizona this past season — but he could breakout offensively this season. Read more