January 27, 2012

AHL Journal: Oversights abound at All-Star Game

By Dan Hickling

Do the AHL All-Star selectors always get it right?

Of course not.

Springfield Falcons forward Alexandre Giroux (photo: Dan Hickling)

Each year, there are a few worthies who, for whatever reason(s), were snubbed when the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star rosters are assembled.

Remember last year, when Portland Pirates defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani was denied a trip to the annual classic in Hershey? All he did was end up being voted as the top defenseman in the league.

So it is that this year's assemblage come this Sunday in Atlantic City (and gotta say that Boardwalk Hall is an awesome place to view a hockey game), there will be at least a few worthies among the AHL's seven New England entries who will stay home and cool their skateless heels.

Just who, you might ask. Let's take a look.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Who is going: Center Casey Cizikas, who was named as a replacement for injured defenseman Calvin de Haan

Who else should be going: How about goalie Kevin Poulin? The young Montrealer has been sensational during his five starts in January, winning four (three by shutout) and taking the other to a shootout. His numbers this month? An 0.97 goals-against average with a stunning.967 save percentage.

Connecticut Whale

Who is going: Rookie forward Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and center Mats Zuccarello

Who else should be going: Center Kris Newbury. Consistent with his point production all year, the Whale's leading scorer has also been a pillar of strength during a turbulent (Turbulence, Avery is thy name) month of January.

Manchester Monarchs

Who is going: Goalie Jeff Zatkoff, defenseman Thomas Hickey

Who else should be going: Why not their classy captain, winger Marc-Andre Cliché? Not only does he lead the Monarchs in scoring (29 points) and their forwards in plus/minus (plus-7), Cliché leads the entire AHL in shootout goals (he's a perfect 6-for-6). And we have seen the AHL All-Star Game settled by shootout before.

Portland Pirates

Who is going: Rookie center Andy Miele

Who else should be going: Right wing Brett MacLean, Portland's leading goal scorer (17) and two-time All-Star. He is the AHL's reigning Player of the Month (for December) and for a while, was just about the only finisher the Buccos had before they received an offensive infusion from Phoenix. You could also make a strong case for puck-moving defenseman Nathan Oystrick, second among AHL rearguards in goals (9) and shooting percentage (10.5).

Providence Bruins

Who is going: Rookie center Carter Camper

Who else should be going: Goalie Anton Khoudobin, who on many nights been the P’Bruins’ lone link to respectability. We offer as proof his having faced by far the most shots (1,066, nearly 148 more than runner up Ben Bishop) and made the most saves (980 to Bishop's 850).

Springfield Falcons

Who is going: Rookie winger Cam Atkinson (Greenwich, Conn.)

Who else should be going: Winger Alexandre Giroux, even if it is more for lifetime achievement as the AHL's top active career goal scorer (355 and counting) than for this year's output (15).

Worcester Sharks

Who is going: Goalie Tyson Sexsmith, defenseman Matt Irwin

Who else should be going: Why not Boston's own John McCarthy, who leads the Sharks in scoring (11-16-27), goals and plus/minus (plus-7)?

All of this said, you can't take them all. But it would be fun to try.

Around the AHL

The Springfield Falcons appeared to be set in goal for the near-term, with NHL vet Manny Legace and highly regarded Mark Dekanich on hand to split the net duties. Those plans went awry over the weekend when both were injured, which made the summoning of untested youngsters Allen York and Paul Dainton from the ECHL for this week's three-games-in–four-days grind. … Portland, on the other hand, has become an offensive juggernaut in recent weeks, after having received a host of reinforcements from the parent Phoenix Coyotes. Top-line forwards Patrick O'Sullivan, Cal O'Reilly and Marc-Antoine Pouilliot have all come back to the Bucs, along with young D-men Chris Summers, Max Goncharov and David Rundblad. Rundblad, who came from Ottawa in the Kyle Turris swap, scored three times in his first four games. … The recent wild surge made by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers shows no signs of abating. The Tigers are 8-0-1 in their last nine, and have moved out of the Eastern Conference cellar and into the thick of the playoff hunt. Going the other way is the Whale, who, while still sitting atop the Northeast Division, have yet to win a game in 2012 after nine tries (0-5-4).

Dan Hickling can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.