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Syracuse Crunch Preview: Boris Katchouk wins AHL Player of the Month and Utica relocates to Abbotsford

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Vancouver and New Jersey (reportedly) relocate their AHL teams.

NHL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes
Sep 19, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Boris Katchouk (41) celebrates with center Mitchell Stephens (67) after scoring a goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the AHL announced their April winners for Players of the Month. Syracuse Crunch winger Boris Katchouk was the top guy, alongside Manitoba’s Cole Perfetti, and Bakersfield’s Stuart Skinner. In 12 games, Katchouk scored seven goals, picked up 14 assists, for a total of 21 points. On the first line, he helped carry the Crunch to eight wins on the month, vaulting them into third place in the North Division.

Katchouk has been really good all year, but finally got the pucks to bounce his way as he exploded offensively. His play was consistent too as Boris currently owns the longest points streak in the AHL this season with 24 points in 14 games. Yeah, he didn’t just scrape by, he had some big nights along the way.

Full congratulations to Katchouk on the performance and I hope this puts him on the radar for an NHL job for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the near future. In his three seasons in the AHL, Katchouk has put together an offensive game, a defensive reliability (especially on the penalty kill), and shown the consistency to bring it every night. To me, those are the three main ingredients needed for an NHL player from the AHL perspective. For me, what’s next is seeing what he can do in the show.

AHL Relocations

Yesterday evening, the Vancouver Canucks announced that they will be moving their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, to Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. Abbotsford is in the same province as Vancouver and has previously had an AHL team in their city. The Abbotsford Heat were an affiliate of the Calgary Flames before they were moved to Adirondack, they now are the Stockton Heat. Funnily enough, the old Abbotsford Heat used to be called the Utica Devils from 1987-1993. Segue to....

Tony Androckitis has reported that the New Jersey Devils are planning to fill the void in Utica and move their AHL team currently in Binghamton to central New York to presumably become the Utica Devils (again). In a statement on Twitter, Comets President Robert Esche was positive about Vancouver’s time as an affiliate, but was optimistic about the team’s future, indicating they expect to get picked up by another team (which we can see now is New Jersey).

Binghamton come out of this in the worst shape without an NHL team willing to relocate there. When the Devils announced the split, the team seemed to take it really hard. I hope they can get a team back there soon.

As the AHL sets their full focus on the 2021-22 season, some affiliates are still yet to be finalized. Namely the teams that are sharing homes with other franchises. The Florida Panthers are currently rooming right here with the Lightning in Syracuse, the Nashville Predators are sharing a home in Chicago with the Carolina Hurricanes (who made that their Canucks in Utica.

There are three teams that opted out of this season: the Springfield Falcons, Milwaukee Admirals, and Charlotte Checkers. Milwaukee and Nashville seem poised to get together again next season, leaving Springfield and Charlotte for Florida and St. Louis. I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but it kind of really can only end one of two ways, unless St. Louis piggybacks an affiliation for a third season.

I should also mention that Palm Springs will be joining as a brand new franchise alongside the Seattle Kraken.

We don’t yet know what division Abbotsford will be in, whether it’s still the North Division, or they move to the Central or Pacific to fit with the timezones. The Manitoba Moose are usually in the Central so they could join them and play the other Canadian AHL teams in Ontario and Quebec a lot. However, with Palm Springs, all four divisions (based on last season) are full with eight teams, so there’s the possibility for at least a minor realignment this summer.

Games this Week

Game #28: Syracuse Crunch at Utica Comets (Wed, May 5, 7pm)

Game #28: Syracuse Crunch at Utica Comets (Fri, May 7, 7pm)

Game #28: Utica Comets at Syracuse Crunch (Sat, May 8, 7pm)

We’re in the heart of the Crunch-Comets Super Series. It continues with two games in Utica on Wednesday and Friday, followed by Saturday night in Syracuse. The Crunch won the last game over the weekend 5-2, the game included two fights so tensions are probably only going to get higher.

Unfortunately, between that game and this one, the Comets and Rochester Americans had to postpone a game on Monday due to COVID-19 protocols. It’s unclear which team had the scare and if it’s resolved. We’ll just have to wait and see if this game tonight goes ahead or not.

Transactions

I know I’ll have jinxed myself by the time this article goes up, but so far, the Syracuse Crunch have not had to deal with any recalls or reassignments for the good part of a week.

You may have seen the report from our site (via Cap Friendly) that the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed goalie Spencer Martin to a one-year extension worth $800k at the NHL level. That was definitely some good transaction news that should help solidify the goaltending for next year. Maybe we see a tandem of Martin and prospect Hugo Alnefelt? Perhaps Chris Gibson stays in the mix? Part of me is worried Martin has been signed to be the Lightning’s backup for next year since Curtis McElhinney is expiring (and coming off a bad season). [Raw Charge]

“Earlier this week the Tampa Bay Lightning signed a couple of goaltending prospects, Amir Miftakhov and Hugo Alnefelt, to entry level contracts. On Monday, they reportedly signed another youngish netminder. CapFriendly reported that the club had inked Spencer Martin to a deal for next season that would reportedly pay the 25-year-old $800,000 in 2021-22.”

Around the AHL

The Pacific Division plans to have a postseason tournament this Spring, none of the other AHL divisions are doing one. The focus for most is to start 2021-22 on time and at full capacity.

It should be noted that the Professional Hockey Players Association, which represents AHL and ECHL players, is strongly against the Pacific Division playoffs, stating the unnecessary risk put on players following a terrible, difficult year.