And now, a look at another of the Phantoms’ rivals in their new AHL division–the Springfield Falcons. Once again, I thank Rolf “Loose Cannon” for the detailed write-up:
The new National Hockey League parent club of the Springfield Falcons is now the Arizona Coyotes, who were affiliated with the Portland Pirates last season, of course. Ironically enough, the 2014/15 American Hockey League season saw the Portland Pirates edge the Springfield Falcons (farm team of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets) by exactly one point for the eighth and last Calder Cup playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pirates wound up losing to the eventual champion Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the post-season but not before the series went the maximum five games.
The two regular goaltenders for the Portland Pirates last term have departed and the three candidates for the Springfield Falcons this season, two of whom have never played professional hockey in North America before, all come with their share of question marks. The only netminder with any North American pro experience is Tyler Beskorowany (6’5″ 205 lbs), the 25-year-old Canadian who was the 2nd round pick (# 59 overall) of the Dallas Stars at the 2008 NHL Draft but appeared in more ECHL games (86) than AHL games (63) in his first four years as a professional before heading to Germany last summer. Beskorowany had a good season with EG Duesseldorf (42 ga, 2.53 avg, .923 svpct) but has not appeared in more than thirty AHL games in a single season since his time with the Texas Stars (33 ga, 3.39 avg, .886 svpct) during the 2011/12 campaign.
Marek Langhamer (6’2″ 187 lbs), the 7th round pick (# 184 overall) of the then Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft, spent all of last season in the western Canadian junior league as an overage player. Two winters ago, the 21-year-old appeared in four of the medal-less Czech Republic’s five games at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships. It has been written that Langhamer needs to work on his patience and positional play.
The Arizona Coyotes’ addition of German goaltender Niklas Treutle (6’1″ 185 lbs) this summer was seen as a curious move a great number of hockey fans in Deutschland. After all, though it was true that the 24-year-old had very good numbers for EHC Red Bull Munich (30 ga, 2.06 avg, .923 avg) last term, it is also a fact that, by the time the playoffs began, Treutle had lost both his form and his job as the starter. It needs to be remembered that, going into last season, the native of Nuremberg had never been more than a backup in any of his four previous seasons at the elite league level.
Four years ago, Treutle made a successful senior international debut as Germany defeated an always formidable Russian side 4-1 in an exhibition in December of 2011. Since that victory over the Russia, however, the senior national team of Germany have played no fewer than 75 total games and used 10 different goaltenders in the process but none of those netminders has been named Treutle. National team status and performance in international contests are oftentimes very accurate indicators with respect to which European players can and will succeed at the NHL level — this is why the Germans, themselves, were rather surprised to see that the Arizona Coyotes would want Treutle.
So, it seems as if Beskorowany has the inside track to be first choice for Springfield in the AHL while the Czech rookie Langhamer and the German import Treutle will battle it out to avoid an assignment to the East Coast Hockey League.
NOTE — Louis Domingue (6’3″ 200 lbs), the 5th round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2010 NHL Draft, has just been signed to a new contract within the past week. The 23-year-old native of Quebec appeared in seven NHL games (2.73 avg, .911 svpct) for Arizona as well as 20 AHL games (2.68 avg, .908 svpct) for the Portland Pirates last term in his third full season as a professional. The presence of Domingue could mean that both Langhamer and Treutle will make the trek to South Dakota to play for the new ECHL affiliate, the Rapid City Rush.
The Arizona Coyotes will probably keep the following seven defensemen on its NHL roster — Ekman Larsson, Grossmann, Michalek, Stone, Murphy, Gormely, Dahlbeck.
Thus, the Springfield Falcons should return only three regular defensemen from last season’s edition of the Portland Pirates. Dylan Reese (6’0″ 200 lbs) had a standout year for the Pirates last term (72 ga, 10 go, 40 pts, 42 pen, + 12 def) after arriving from Russian club Amur Khabarovsk. The 31-year-old veteran out of Harvard University has 78 career NHL games (3 go, 17 pts, 40 pen, – 10 def) under his belt in parts of five seasons for the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Arizona Coyotes and should be a leader at both ends of the rink for Springfield this time around.
Philip Samuelsson (6’2″ 194 lbs), the 2nd round pick (# 61 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2009 NHL Draft, started last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins but was acquired in a trade at the beginning of last December. The 23-year-old out of Boston College, whose well-known father Ulf Samuelsson skated in 1,080 NHL games during his playing days, ultimately appeared in a combined total of 73 AHL games (5 go, 19 pts, 51 pen, + 5 def) for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Portland. Samuelsson, who skated in five NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2013/14 season, made four appearances in the NHL on behalf of the Arizona Coyotes last term.
Justin Hache (6’2″ 205 lbs), the 7th round pick (# 208 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft, appeared in 60 AHL games (0 go, 6 pts, 18 pen, – 3 def) for the Portland Pirates during his first full season as a professional while demonstrating some ability as a stay-at-home defenseman.
The addition of Derek Smith (6’1″ 200 lbs), who has appeared in 94 career NHL games (2 go, 14 pts, 24 pen, – 17 def) in parts of five seasons for the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames, could be a signifcant move for Springfield. The 30-year-old veteran from Lake Superior State University has shown in the past that he capable of racking up lots of points at the AHL level — 51 pts (14 go) in 74 games for Binghamton in 2009/10, 54 pts (10 go) in 72 games for the B-Sens in 2010/11 and 22 pts (7 go) in 32 games for the Abbotsford Heat in 2013/14. Smith spent last season with Swiss champion SC Lions Zurich (25 ga, 3 go, 5 pts, 4 pen, + 10 def) but had a hard time getting a place in the team after the arrival of former Swedish NHLer Henrik Tallinder from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack (because of the Nationalliga A’s rule limiting the use of foreign players).
The Falcons’ signing of free agent defenseman Alex Grant (6’3″ 200 lbs), the 4th round pick (# 118 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2007 NHL Draft, should provide some spark to the offense. The 26-year-old blueliner, who spent all of last season with the Binghamton Senators (58 ga, 6 go, 33 pts, 57 pen, – 17 def), has clearly proven that he can move the puck at the AHL level. Grant had what was, by far, his career worst plus/minus rating with the B-Sens last term, though.
Springfield have also acquired some physicality in the person of one Steven Delisle (6’6″ 210 lbs), the 4th round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2008 NHL Draft who spent the first two years of his professional career at the East Coast Hockey League level. The 25-year-old defenseman found himself surplus to requirements in the Philadelphia Flyers organization after skating for the fledgling Lehigh Valley Phantoms (62 ga, 2 go, 15 pts, 133 pen, – 8 def) last season. Some Phantoms supporters see Delisle as a veritable penalty machine, others rate “Diesel” as little more than an orange practice pylon.
Looking to stick on the AHL roster will be James Melindy (6’1″ 195 lbs), the 3rd round pick (# 88 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft who did skate in nine games (0 go, 0 pts, 6 pen, – 5 def) for the Portland Pirates but spent most of last season in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators (47 ga, 2 go, 9 pts, 69 pen, – 21 def). In two full seasons as a professional, the 21-year-old has managed a plus/minus rating of – 55 in a combined 94 AHL & ECHL games. Also hoping for a spot with the Springfield Falcons is undrafted rookie Dakota Mermis (6’0″ 190 lbs), the 21-year-old former Denver University blueliner who spent last season in the Canadian junior system as an overage player.
NOTE — the Arizona Coyotes have signed a pair of veteran defensemen, each with a decent amount of NHL experience, to professional tryout contracts.
Corey Potter (6’3″ 205 lbs), the 4th round pick (# 122 overall) of the New York Rangers at the 2003 NHL Draft, has skated in 129 career NHL games (8 go, 32 pts, 53 pen, – 11 def) for the Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins and, most recently, Calgary Flames. The 31-year-old out of Michigan State University, who earned a gold medal with the United States squad at the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championships over a decade ago, appeared in six NHL games (0 go, 0 pts, 0 pen, – 1 def) and two Stanley Cup playoff games (0 go, 0 pts, 0 pen, 0 def) for Calgary last season but saw most of his action in the AHL with the Adirondack Flames (25 ga, 0 go, 10 pts, 18 pen, + 10 def). Potter is considered to be a long shot to make the Coyotes’ NHL roster but would be an effective two-way performer at the AHL level, no doubt.
Keith Aulie (6’6″ 222 lbs), the 4th round pick (# 116 overall) of the Calgary Flames at the 2007 NHL Draft, has skated in 167 career NHL games (4 go, 14 pts, 196 pen, – 13 def) for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and Edmonton Oilers but has been little more than a spare part. The 26-year-old, who won a gold medal with Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championships, began last season in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons (8 ga, 0 go, 1 as, 0 pen, – 6 def) but was promoted by Edmonton in early November and did not return. Aulie appeared in 31 NHL games (0 go, 1 as, 66 pen, – 3 def) for the Oilers last term but was more often than not a healthy scratch.
(Springfield Falcons will have to be mindful of having too many “veteran” players as only a certain number can dress for any given AHL game)
Exactly which forwards will make the Arizona’s NHL roster is anybody’s guess as the Coyotes do have some highly touted youngsters. A core group of ten ‘veterans’ (Doan, Bodker, Hanzal, Gordon, Richardson, Downie, Vitale, Strome, Chipchura, Rieder) plus smart bomb on skates John Scott (6’8″ 260 lbs) are guaranteed spots. 18-year-old Dylan Strome, the third overall player selected at the 2015 NHL Draft this summer, is probably headed back to juniors for more seasoning but Arizona have a pair of 20-year-olds who both just might survive the cut.
Anthony Duclair (5’11” 185 lbs) skated in 18 NHL games (1 go, 7 pts, + 4 def) for the Broadway Blueshirts at the beginning of last season before being loaned to the Canada’s national junior team and then sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The third round pick (# 80 overall) of the New York Rangers at the 2013 NHL Draft was a key man on the Canada side (7 ga, 4 go, 8 pts, + 11 def) that won the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships last winter. Known for his speed and shooting ability, is is said that Duclair needs to play more of a two-way game and could use some added strength.
Max Domi (5’10” 195 lbs), the 1st round pick (# 12 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2013 NHL Draft, is a highly touted prospect who skated on the same line with Duclair for Canada (7 ga, 5 go, 10 pts, + 10 def) at the 2015 IIHF World Championships last winter. not afraid to mix it up but can be goaded into retaliatory penalties. The son of long-time NHL thug Tie Domi has tremendous stickhandling skills and can be an excellent passer when so inclined. Not surprisingly, the younger Domi is not afraid to mix it up but can be induced into taking retaliatory penalties.
Also in the competition for a place with the Arizona Coyotes will be Craig Cunningham (5’9″ 175 lbs, the undersized fourth round pick (# 97 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2010 NHL Draft. The 24-year-old right wing appeared in a combined total of 51 NHL games (3 go, 7 pts, 4 pen, – 7 def) for both the Bruins as well as the Coyotes and also skated in 21 AHL games (5 go, 15 pts, 8 pen, – 5 def) for the Providence Bruins last season. In his first three terms as a professional, Cunningham never scored less than 20 AHL goals per season for the P-Bruins.
No matter who makes the final NHL roster for Arizona, it is certain that the Springfield Falcons will be well stocked with a cast of young forwards although the attack of the AHL affiliate will probably be led by veteran Dustin Jeffrey (6’1″ 205 lbs), the sixth round pick (# 171 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the NHL Draft. The 27-year-old center has skated in 124 career NHL games (17 go, 31 pts, 10 pen, + 2 def) for Pittsburgh and the Dallas Stars but has been unable to carve out a niche at the highest level. Jeffrey was the seventh-leading scorer in the AHL last season (69 ga, 25 go, 64 pts, 22 pen, + 19 def) despite dividing the 2014/15 campaign between the Utica Comets and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The Springfield Falcons appear to have a quite a number of quality centers at the moment. Brendan Shinnimin (5’10” 184 lbs), the undrafted free agent who appeared in a dozen NHL games (0 go, 1 as, 8 pen, -1 def) for the Arizona Coyotes last season, will probably be the second line center for the Springfield Falcons this time around; The 24-year-old had good offensive numbers in the AHL for the Portland Pirates (64 ga, 22 go, 47 pts, 80 pen, – 1 def) last term and is thought to have a good work rate as well as an ability to be effective at both ends of the rink.
Jordan Martinook (6’0″ 203 lbs), the 2nd round pick (# 58 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft, had a career year in his third full season as a pro last term. The 23-year-old center had a personal best of 43 points in 62 AHL games (15 go, 41 pen, + 9 def) for the Portland Pirates and also skated in eight NHL games (0 go, 1 as, 0 pen, – 3 def) for Arizona last season. Laurent Dauphin (6’0″ 180 lbs), the 2nd round pick (# 39 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2013 NHL Draft, is also a serious candidate to be claiming ice time at center; the 20-year-old got his professional feet wet last spring by appearing in four AHL games (1 go, 0 as, 2 pen, 0 def) for Portland.
Tyler Gaudet (6’3″ 205 lbs), the undrafted free agent who completed a remarkable journey by skating in two NHL games (0 go, 0 pts, 0 pen, – 1 def) for the Arizona Coyotes as a rookie last term, is a defensive specialist who will be used in a checking/penalty-killing role; the 22-year-old appeared in 71 AHL games (8 go, 20 pts, 22 pen, – 5 def) for the Portland Pirates last season.
In the wake of what could be a log jam of quality players at the pivot position, Martinook might very well be moved over to the left wing.
Henrik Samuelsson (6’3″ 208 lbs), the 1st round pick (# 27 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft, might very well be the first line right wing. The 21-year-old, who is, indeed, the younger brother of Philip, had a solid rookie professional season with the Portland Pirates (68 ga, 18 go, 40 pts, 56 pen, + 10 def) and also skated in three NHL games (0 go, 0 pts, 0 pen, – 2 def) for the Arizona Coyotes during the 2014/15 campaign. Samuelsson is a power forward who is very effective along the boards but also has good hands in addition to excellent hockey sense.
Jordan Szwarz (5’11” 200 lbs), the 4th round pick (# 97 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2009 NHL Draft, was finally promoted to the National Hockey League during his fourth season as a pro last winter. The 24-year-old right wing skated in nine NHL games (1 go, 0 as, 2 pen, – 2 def) for the Arizona Coyotes but spent most of his time in the AHL with Portland (45 ga, 9 go, 22 pts, 65 pen, + 3 def). Swarz brings a certain amount of energy and physicality but time is starting to run out in this organization with so many young prospects.
Lucas Lessio (6’1″ 212 lbs), the 2nd round pick (# 56 overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2011 NHL Draft, will see a lot of action on the left wing for the Springfield Falcons. The 22-year-old spent a significant amount of time in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes (26 ga, 2 go, 5 pts, 8 pen, – 10 def) last season and has good career offensive numbers in two years at the AHL level (118 ga, 44 go, 85 pts, 89 pen, – 22 def). The downside is that Lessio’s defensive game could use considerable improvement.
Eric Selleck (6’2″ 220 lbs), the undrafted free agent from the State University of New York at Oswego, is the only other Springfield candidate at forward who is over the age of twenty-four. The 27-year-old left wing, whose best attributes are his size and toughness, did skate in a pair of NHL games (0 go, 1 as, 17 pen, + 2 def) for the Florida Panthers during the 2012/13 campaign. Selleck had a fairly productive term for the Portland Pirates (8 go, 23 pts, 185 pen, + 1 def) last season, it shall be noted.
One very intersting prospect figures to be Matthias Plachta (6’2″ 218 lbs), the undrafted 24-year-old who was signed as a free agent by the Arizona Coyotes this summer. The left winger with size who has represented Germany at the annual IIHF World Championships the past two seasons (13 ga, 3 go, 0 as, 0 pen, – 8 def), is coming off a career year for Deutsche Eishockey Liga champion Adler Mannheim (47 ga, 14 go, 35 pts, 75 pen, + 19 def). Plachta, who has appeared for the senior national team in a total of 38 games (8 go, 11 pts) thus far, plays with a great amount of energy and can be trusted in his own defensive zone, as well, but how fast the German import adjusts to the smaller rinks in North America remains to be seen.
See you at the arena….